Keeping the Customers you Already Have

By Chris Wendel                          sbtdc-logo_gif                                       

The process of turning a one-time customer into a repeat long-term buyer is never an easy task. In this world of competitive pricing, web based competition, and multiple buying choices; one has to be savvy to keep customers around.

It’s estimated that the average American company loses 15 to 20 percent of its customers each year, and most companies spend two times the money on acquiring new customers than on a simple program that can help keep the customers they already have. Placing even a small effort into a customer loyalty program can incrementally build a company’s sales.

Stuck with what to do next? Here are some simple steps to build customer allegiance:

  1. Simple manners: Greeting a customer when they walk in the door, and thanking them when they do buy from you are fairly obvious gestures. Yet in today’s hectic world these basic elements of the customer experience are many times over looked.
  2. Know your customers and call them by name. Again this is applied common sense. If your mental Rolodex can’t retain your customers’ names, write them down (along with addresses and other pertinent information), or better yet develop a customer database, and refer to it regularly. Learn to be sincere when addressing your customer by name, not canned in your delivery
  3. Remind customers about product benefits. Customers may not make repeat sales because they don’t understand how the product or service they purchased works. Offering your customers classes or taking the time to explain things further, shows that you have their best interest in mind.
  4. Develop customer rewards programs: Events and special event promotions for previous customers can be promoted through direct mail postcards and a well coordinated email program. Of course building a strong customer list is a must here (refer to step #2).
  5. Inform Customers of all of your services: Spell out the full range of your products and services to customers on a regular basis. This can be communicated through newsletters, sales calls, and brochures.
  6. Have an organized email and direct mail program: This would incorporate at least 3-4 mailings to established customers a year. Simple postcards combined with an annual newsletter or catalog keep your name in the mind of your customers, and are proven to help with customer retention. Emails sent through programs such as Constant Contact can replace the more expensive mailings as your email list develops and grows.
  7. Update your website regularly: A stagnant stale web site makes it look like your business hasn’t changed much either. This doesn’t mean that you have to perform an entire redo of the site. Simply announcing store hours, your phone number, what brand of products you carry, and special services can work wonders here. A secondary blog web site can compliment your regualr web site with more timely information that facilitates conversations with loyal customers (that also bring new customers into the fold). Setting up a blog is free, easy, and the updated information moves you quickly up internet search engines

The time and money spent to increase customer loyalty is a small investment to make compared the higher costs of trying to win back a lost customer. Making it easy to shop with you is essential for preventing your clientele from going elsewhere.

For more information on this topic and the other business services of the MI-SBTDC in Northwest Michigan, call 231.922.3780.

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