You work hard and invest regularly to win new customers. Are you making the most of these relationships? Are you doing what’s needed to prevent competitors from peeling off your customers with the heavy discounts we now see every day? These 10 Tips will help you build a stronger bond with your customers and, in so doing, will help you increase their lifetime revenue value.
1. Keep in Touch.
You’ll keep customers longer – particularly your occasional users — if you can do something relevant or useful to stay on their “radar screen.” E-newsletters that announce new products, offer money-saving tips, or provide invitation-only sales events and birthday coupons keep you top of mind and encourage repeated usage.
2. Follow up.
The best sales people keep track of the customers who buy from them, and then regularly follow up. Companies can adopt this practice as a regular process. Closet Maid dealers, for instance, always call the customer after three days to make sure they are satisfied with the work and ask for referrals. A year later, they call the customer about future work and again ask for referrals.
3. Get their opinion.
There are numerous ways to do this, from simple comment cards to full-blown annual surveys. If you collect email addresses (and everyone should), you can use super-simple web-based tools like surveymonkey.com. Whatever route you take, ask both direct and open-ended questions about your product or service and how they can be improved. And make sure you actually implement some of the suggestions.
4. Loyalty cards.
The average American household belongs to 14 different loyalty programs. There’s a reason: loyalty cards encourage repeat usage. They also provide an important ability to track customer usage and preferences if they are readable through a POS or other system.
5. Traditional coupons.
A simple coupon sent via mail or a discount offered on your website can help keep your current customers coming back. Afraid of lowering your margins? A well-designed offer typically leads to additional purchases that more than offset the offer’s discount. Also consider that, on average, about 3 of 4 consumers are willing to try a new business based on a strong promotional offer. Assume your competitors will try this and incorporate the cost of lost traffic into your ROI calculations.
6. Encourage referrals.
The strongest form of marketing is word of mouth. Most businesses don’t do enough to remind fans that their references are invaluable. And make it worth their effort: If a current customer recommends your product or service to someone else who ends up buying, give them a reward. At the very least, ALWAYS send a thank you note!
7. Trade-ins for a good cause.
Avoid the negatives associated with repetitive “sales events” by taking a different approach: Ask customers to bring in out-grown, gently-worn, or seldom-used goods that can be donated to the needy, and in return give them a discount off any of your products. People love to support a good cause as well as get a good deal.
8. Advertise to customers, not just prospects.
Smart marketers craft their messages to make their existing customers feel good about using their store or service. Highlighting a specific customer’s experience, or how the business went out of it’s way to solve a customer problem, can sound more authentic than the typical testimonial. Showcasing customers on your website or publishing user’s own photos (pet shops have used this to great advantage) can create a strong bond.
9. Offer a freebie.
Every so often, give your clients something extra: a free taste–something exciting they would never have thought of by themselves–and something they neither asked for nor paid for. This strategy of providing ‘unexpected delights’ adds a tangible benefit to your customer experience and can be great fuel for word-of-mouth advertising.
10. Engage them socially (social media that is).
Few small businesses think of this today, and we’re not saying that you need to create an extensive “Fan Page” for your local tree trimming service. Just get in the habit of asking customers if they Facebook, send them an invitation to friend you or your business, and then take a few minutes each week to see what’s important in their lives. If you have the time and following that mandate a more proactive social media presence, by all means go for it – just make sure that you don’t turn people off by over-communicating or spamming.
Not all of these tips will work for all businesses, they all have one thing in common: they proactively guard against customer attrition and keep the business engaged with its customers. These are not a substitute for great customer service (the best way to build customer loyalty), but one or more of these tips can help you sell more to the people you’ve already worked so hard to win. Have a tip or two of your own that stimulates return visits or top-of-mind awareness? Let us know!
Material for this post was adapted from entrepreneur.com.