Living the Dream: Chris Butler

Chris Butler
CEO
Giving Tree Farms
Anderson Valley, CA

When everything seems to be going right, it can be a challenge to think of and prepare for the next setback. As business owners, when things are going great, we often put our growth methods on the back burner, but is that the best decision for our long-term success?

Let’s start by celebrating our achievements thus far. We have gotten to a point where we feel secure in our customer base, and that’s worth a quick hurrah. We have worked hard to create lasting relationships with our regular buyers, taken the time to work on our business’ image and honed in on what it means to supply excellent products. But at this point, if we don’t want the size of our customer base to increase, why would we spend our time, money and energy on customer acquisition? The simple answer: Because customers change.

For all of us, life can take a turn at any moment. People lose their jobs, have kids, get sick or move to other areas. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 6% of the population will move across county lines each year. That 6% will spill over into our business, and even if only a small portion of it pertains to us directly, that’s still a steady customer decline. Additionally, customers continue to grow older, and as some people move into retirement or move on in general, our customer base evolves.

A customer’s opinion can also change and they may not want to work with us anymore. This isn’t always personal, but it sometimes is. It’s natural for customer behavior to change, but we can counteract its effects on our profits. By always striving to obtain more business, we bring in the new as the old fizzles out.

How do we attract new business without paying an arm and a leg?

– Make customers feel appreciated. This can be done by saying thank you with a card around the holidays or by initiating a customer appreciation discount. We like to invite our new and existing clients out to our farm for a tour. Farm tours are vital to our success and are offered every Friday. Our clients can get to know us on a personal level, and it motivates us to keep our farm inspection-ready at all times.

– Be ready and willing to listen to customer feedback. When customers feel heard, they are more likely to return and recommend you to their friends. By staying customer-focused with our marketing and engagement, we can boost our profits and maintain an optimal customer base. When we receive calls from potential buyers, we always greet them with enthusiasm, even when we are sold out of products. In a world full of surprises, we never know when pre-orders or contracts will fall through. Staying communicative with potential buyers keeps our sales pipeline full.

By staying customer-service oriented as your business matures, a business can be kept rolling forward in the right direction. As successful business owners, it’s crucial for us to remain teachable and humble. What worked last year may not be the best this year. We have to evolve with our customers. They’re the life running through our business’ veins. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we love day after day.

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