If you own a small business, one of the first major milestones is getting customers to like and pay for your product or service. But a one-time hit is not what will keep the business afloat. You need repeat customers who want to stick around as much as you want them to. To keep customers coming back time and time again takes a plan, not just a prayer. These important strategies will let your customers know you care about their overall satisfaction and value their time and money. The customer may always be right, but they'll know you're doing right by them too.

Get Down to a Personal Level

Customers want to feel important. Otherwise, why should they choose your company over a competitor's? In this age of computers and robots, a human connection pulls at the heartstrings. As Small Business Computing notes, "When customers receive a more personal customer experience they can develop a hard to break emotional attachment to the business." And Entrepreneur says, "Companies need to see their customers as people not data points."

This can be a money-maker for the business. Along with the repeat customer, you may find this customer willing to spend more with you too. Small Business Computing posted a study from the Journal of Applied Social Psychology that found, "Waiters were able to increase their tips by 23 percent by carrying out a simple act of returning to a table with a second set of mints. This left the customer satisfied enough to leave a bigger tip." The personal care and attention made all the difference.

American Express reminds small business owners to treat everybody as individuals. "In a small shop, you can go as far as keeping notes about a customer's likes, dislikes and family so you can ask about them the next time you see the customer. Something as simple as keeping track of how long they've been your customer—and mentioning it with a thank you—shows you view them as more than just a note in your profit-and-loss report."

Customizing and tailoring to a customer's desires is imperative as well. Entrepreneur notes that "A 2013 Bain & Co. survey found that 25-30 percent of consumers want to customize their purchases. If 25 percent of online sales of footwear were customized, that would equate to a market of $2 billion per year."

Not to mention, allowing a customer to customize gives new ideas to a company that can increase sales from other consumers who also become fond of the product or service addition. Allow your customers to work for you in a sense!

Get Feedback

Your customers' response to your business is everything. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, constructive or potentially destructive, you need to know what's on their minds in order to keep chugging along with the good stuff and make changes where there's room for improvement.

Vertical Response notes, "Asking for feedback about a customer's experience or product quality shows that you're engaged in your business and looking for ways to improve. You should consider sending a satisfaction survey directly to your customers. Not only will you get valuable feedback to help you make improvements to your business, but it keeps your business top of mind with customers." In addition, be sure to keep on top of review sites where customers can leave comments about your business. A social media or communications employee should comb such pages daily and respond promptly to show your company is on the ball and available to help.

Even if you think you're doing a good job getting your customers' point of view, there's always room for more feedback. All perspectives are valid and can only help your business better itself. In fact, as per American Express, "A recent Harvard Management survey found that 80 percent of companies believed they offered above-average customer service. Just 8 percent of customers of those companies agreed. The last thing you want is a good customer who's silently seething over something you don't know about. Be prepared to handle any complaints you find quickly and in good faith."

Feedback keeps a business on its toes and shows the customer you care about their wants and needs. If customers offer advice and it's ignored, they'll find another company to do business with. Simple as that.

Stay Connected

Just because the customer has left the shop, made an online purchase, or utilized your service doesn't mean the transaction is over. You want a repeat customer, not a "one and done" relationship. That's why keeping connected regularly is the way to keep customers engaged.

"Reach out to your customers on a regular basis. Whether it's a newsletter, coupon, or an event invitation, customers want to hear from you about new products, services, discounts or events," notes Vertical Response. Stay on top of your social media pages as well with updates about the business, sales, new products, and even entertaining posts to keep your fans interested in checking in on your pages just for fun.

Small Business Computing adds, "Digital marketing represents a greater chunk of the market now, and the unrelenting popularity of smartphones means that people are more likely to get their information from a mobile device. Collecting customer information lets you continue to nurture the customer relationship long after the first sale."

This means texting special offers and emailing with a smartphone interface in mind to keep your business on your customers' minds even when they're not making a purchase at the moment. Even a call to check in, depending on the nature of your business, is appreciated. Huffington Post reminds us, "Business relationships are just like any other relationship. They require effort to maintain and they must be mutually beneficial. And don't just call about business; ask about vacation plans and the kids. Be willing to give, share and support, not just try to go in for the up-sell." This non-salesy approach puts a customer at ease and they won't dread that every point of contact is a push to purchase. The true relationship builds trust, and when it is time for them to spend money, your company will be the first choice.

Keep things fresh, loyal, unique, and honest. Customers know when they are being taken for granted and when they are truly appreciated. Simple steps like these not only put a smile on the faces of your customers, but they will have them returning again and again – putting a smile on your face too!
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Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.