Acquiring new customers is known as ‘front end’ marketing. Winning new customers is definitely an important way to increase sales, but customer retention or getting your current customers to come back to you is equally important. This concept is known as ‘back end’ marketing. Increasing the number of times your customers buy from you is the easiest way to increase sales, improve profit and grow your business.
Think about it, it can cost up to six times more to win a new customer than it does to have an existing customer purchase from you again. Why is this? Because you have invested time and money to acquire that customer for the first sale, but every additional sale after that involves very little cost. So, for every single sale you make to an existing customer, you actually keep more as profit. If you focus on your current customers you will not need to spend much money on lead generation.
You might think that it is a difficult task to keep your customers coming back, but in fact that is far from the truth. There are five key strategies that you can use to encourage customers to return to you. These strategies include classifying them, asking them to return, providing an awesome service that they cannot refuse, nurturing them and using customer comments effectively.
Before you can set out on this path you need to know what your target customer return rate is. How do you go about doing that? It’s simple. All you need to do is review your records for the past year and estimate how many times your customers purchased something from you. This number will only ever be a ‘guestimate’ unless you are running a sophisticated CRM program, but that estimate is all you really need. The easiest way to estimate the number of purchases is to divide the total number of invoices written for the year by the number of unique customers on your system. Once you have done this, increase this number by 5% and that becomes your initial target customer return rate for the next year.
In many cases, the easiest way to get a customer to come back is to actually ask them to come back. If your customers are delighted with a particular product or service, it will be more than likely that they will want to continue the relationship. Making them feel important and valued will give them the incentive to do just that. Surveys have consistently found that 68% of customers who leave you for your competitor do so because of a perceived indifference. In other words, why would they come back if they don’t feel as though you value them?
Providing awesome service that your customers cannot refuse is another way to keep them coming back to you, again and again. How do you offer an awesome service? You offer a service that goes above and beyond the norm. Creating a team commitment to service can impress your customers enough to keep them returning and referring others to you.
Your commitment could make promises of performance standards [like same-day delivery] or it could explain your business ethics and mission. It could be anything you’d like, even a great telephone or selling technique. If you have a team of people that you work with you cannot just tell them that you want your customers to be given awesome service, you need to train them so that they can deliver it consistently and effectively.
Nurturing your customers will help build relationships which encourage your customers to come back again and again. Think about it, people will be more inclined to buy from businesses that they trust and those that have nurtured them in some way. Another great thing about nurturing the relationships with your customers is that it is a cost-effective way to help your business become even more profitable. You won’t need to break your bank by any means; all you need to do is keep in touch with your customers on a regular basis. The more you keep in touch, the more likely it is that they will remember you and make a return visit and by so doing, increase sales and improve profit in your business.
There are plenty of ways to keep in touch with your customers such as sending regular mailings like newsletters, offers, discounts, coupons, service reminders, thank you notes, special articles of interest and so on. You can also make follow-up phone calls to make sure that they are 100% happy with the product or service that they received. Email marketing is popular among marketers, especially if you use an auto responder service. An auto responder will allow you to create messages or newsletters and set a time and date for those messages to be sent out. They will also reply to your customers, which will minimize the time you need to spend sending out and replying to customer emails – which allows you to focus on more important things, like your business.
Taking advantage of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook can help nurture these relationships as well because you can create that feeling of ‘community’ between you and your customers. Remember, if you go this route it is important to communicate with your customers as often as possible, because you will be showing them that you care about them and that you are there for their needs, that you are offering something that will benefit them.
This leads to customer comments – which is a great way to nurture your customers and to encourage them to return. For example, customer advisory boards can be useful because all of your customers can come together and discuss a particular aspect of the service they received, what they valued, what could be improved and so on. This can make a huge difference because you will be gaining feedback from your customers, and that feedback will tell you what you should improve upon or what they love most about your business, so that you can make that ‘thing they like’ stand out more. If you use any suggestions from your customers, let them know.
All in all, there are lots of ways that you can keep your current customers coming back time and time again. It might seem like there is a lot that you will need to do to keep them coming back, but really there isn’t. All it takes is a little dedication, feedback and communication, and you will be reaching out to your customers in a way that will build relationships. Remember, solid relationships will increase sales, improve profit and help you grow your business because people tend to buy from those that they trust.
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