Getting new customers is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. In fact, it is 5 times more expensive than nurturing existing customers. So why not put more energy into keeping the customers you already have? You know them already. You know what they want. You know what they expect of you.
Or do you?
Your company is facing fierce competitors who build vibrant customer communities and who aggressively compete on price. Which means that you too must invest substantial energy and effort into maintaining your customer base. Providing a great product or service is crucial. But it is rarely enough by itself to keep your customers coming back for more. It’s the authenticity of your customer interactions that matter most, not the frequency.
You need to create genuine customer loyalty.
You want loyal customers. But how can you measure loyalty? Loyal customers are much more likely to make a repeat purchase. In more concrete terms, loyalty can be measured by looking at your customer retention rate. According to research by Bain & Company, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.
It is tempting to concentrate on making new sales or pursuing bigger accounts. But paying attention to your existing customers, no matter how small they may be, is essential to maintain a thriving business. That being said, In order to reach the fabled exponential growth that all SMEs strive to reach, you must succeed in both maintaining existing customer relationships and creating new ones.
The secret to securing repeat business is to follow up in a way that has a positive effect on the customer. Effective follow-up begins right after the sale. Get in touch with customers to say thank you and again to find out whether they are pleased with your product or service. Everything begins with customer feedback. When problems arise, fix them – and then identify the root cause to make sure they never happen again.
But it doesn’t end there. You also have several other effective methods of engaging your customers.
1. Let Customers Know What You Are Doing For Them
This can take the form of a newsletter mailed to your customers, or it can be more informal, like a phone call. Whatever method you use, the key is to dramatically point out to customers what excellent services you are giving them.
If you never let customers know all the things you’re doing for them, they may not notice. So make a phone call to let them know they don’t have to worry about a given chore because you have already taken care of it—completed the paperwork, called the attorney, or double-checked the shipment. One less thing they have to worry about. While you are letting them know about what you are doing for them, this is a perfect opportunity to ask for feedback. What are you doing right? What can be improved? Etc.
What you’re doing here is closing the feedback loop. When you’ve gotten your customer’s feedback, it’s then important to let them know what you are going to do with that feedback. Does the paperwork have an error? We will make changes to our review process. The shipment was delayed? Let’s look into our shipping provider and check alternatives.
2. Take The Time To Write Handwritten Notes To Your Long-Time Customers. And Do It Often.
“I was just sitting down at my desk when your name popped into my head. Are you still having a great time flying all over the country? Let me know if you need another set of luggage. I can stop by with our latest models any time.”
Have you run into an old customer at an event? Follow up with a personal note: ”Great seeing you at the CDC Christmas party. It’s been a while. How about we do lunch soon? I’ll give you a call early in the new year to schedule something.”
In a world where digital communication dominates our personal and professional interactions. There’s something special about a handwritten note. When done correctly (with the right tone to the right customer), it’s shocking in the best possible way. Handwritten notes create that “wow” factor that can turn a neutral customer into a promoter. Or turn a disloyal customer into a loyal one.
3. Keep It Personal
Voicemail and email make it easy to communicate, and they’re important. But don’t treat these methods as the only legitimate way to follow up with your customers. You also want a more personal touch.
Don’t let the secretary barrier stop you. If you’re having trouble getting through, leave a voice-mail message saying that you want to talk to the person directly or that will stop by his or her office at a certain time.
When writing your handwritten thank-you notes, take that little extra bit of time to make it unique. Referencing a past conversation or asking how their family is doing.
Make sure everything is as personal as possible. That being said – it is very important to take the nature of your relationship and cultural norms into consideration! Asking about family may be acceptable for American customers but could be totally inappropriate for Japanese customers.
4. Remember Special Occasions.
Send regular customers birthday cards, anniversary cards, holiday cards or small Christmas gifts—you name it.
Gifts are a great way to follow up. Use your creativity to come up with interesting gift ideas that tie into your business, the customer’s business, or his recent purchase. A great idea is to send something that the customer can actually make use of. A branded necktie is not useful. A Moleskine notebook maybe. Use your imagination, but you don’t need to break the bank.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to show you care. And you’ll be amazed by the effect that this simple and thoughtful gesture has on your customers.
5. Pass On Information
If you read an article or hear about a book or organization that a customer may be interested in, drop them a note. Do not spam them with emails. Make your own judgment call on what you deem to be useful information to them.
Of course, you should also share any of your own materials that a customer may find useful. But don’t hesitate to point them to other resources as well. Your customer will appreciate it, and appreciation begets loyalty.