The goal of every business is to grow. Perhaps not to giant levels but certainly to a financially viable and sustainable size. We’ve spoken more than once about the importance of customer service. It is a facet of a larger organisational strategy for customer retention. As it with money in wealth accumulation so it is with customer retention and business growth; it’s not just how many you bring in but how many you keep that determines your worth.
Many in business may not be able to ascertain this but there is a cost to customer acquisition. Depending on the nature of your business and how you go about marketing your product this can be a very complicated calculation. Many tech companies are reporting increased acquisition costs. Bringing in new customers through the door gets more and more expensive as you grow or try to widen your reach. So retaining existing customers is very important for growth.
First of all, there are lower costs of reaching existing customers, you (should) already have their contact details and this makes them both easier and cheaper to reach. Less effort is expended in convincing them to purchase from you. In addition to this existing customers prove to be more profitable due to the aforementioned factors. They also present the advantage of you being able to get feedback from them on improving the product.
Having understood the importance of customer retention we need to look at how to practically apply what we know about customer retention to our businesses. A good customer retention strategy looks at the customer journey once they are in. Many practical strategies can be used and here are 10 that are essential to a good retention plan.
This is underrated. I’ve seen many businesses lose customers straight after the acquisition because of the lack of onboarding. The customer doesn’t leave straight away of course but customers struggle most with products in the early days of using them. This is the most important time in customer retention. An example is an online shop that neglects to send customers a simple email with a useful how-to guide for their store. I’ve abandoned some online shops because I can’t find a simple thing like a wishlist. Onboarding educates the customer about the product and its use.
Keep your promises
You promised them the moon and the stars to get them in the door, now that they are in deliver. This is another mistake that leads to customers leaving very early in the relationship. And this is not buzzwords and phrases like “under promise and over deliver” it’s simply about providing the customer with the experience they were groomed to expect.
Improve the offer
Existing customers are great because they’ve already used the product and may have an idea or two how to improve it. Or maybe you can see through their purchase behaviour if there are any ways you can improve the offer. Use the data you. Do they often buy two items together? Bundle those two items? Do they buy something at a certain time of month or year? Offer discounts for packages. Do they buy it repeatedly like clockwork? Offer a subscription. There are so many ways to improve the offer when armed with the right data.
Proactive communication calendar
Establishing a proactive communication calendar keeps you relevant in the customer’s eye. That one email sent a few days before Christmas does not. You know your product and its cycles. If the average customer uses the product for a month then a monthly newsletter is a good idea. Or maybe just a reminder of what’s new or on special. Slice it how you will but you need to establish a regular habit of communicating with the customers you already have.
Capitalise on social proof
This one is simple and perhaps one of the easiest to employ in the digital and social media age. Use images and evidence of other satisfied customers to remind existing customers why they chose you in the first place. Satisfied customers are your best form of advertising and social proof is an easy way of utilising them.
Sometimes they come back. Sometimes you have to remind them to. It doesn’t matter how they come back just make sure they do. Follow up on purchases and get reviews, feedback, suggestions. Follow up on experiences with the product. Without a follow-up strategy, you may as well forget customer retention as a strategy and depend on something else.
Personalise follow up
It’s not just about follow up, make it personal. Supermarket chains the world over are adopting personalised discounts to loyalty program customers. I receive weekly personalised discounts on items I frequently buy from the supermarket I frequent the most. It’s an ingenious strategy. I get reminders from my preferred online store when something I placed on my wishlist goes on special. Personalised follow up converts.
I’ve already mentioned the loyalty programs aspect so we need not dwell too much on this. Have some sort of system for rewarding customers for patronising your business. Get the 10th cup of coffee free, bring a friend and get a discount or many other varieties of the same idea. The principle is to recognize and reward customers who continue to choose your business. Customer loyalty is a choice.
Having a feedback loop is important. Give existing customers the space to be heard. And use the feedback to improve the product. Save for extremely dire cases customers rarely abandon a product entirely but rather one or two unfavourable elements push them away. The feedback loop can help you identify these and remedy them if possible.
More of an attitude than a strategy but a very important part of your strategy. We live in a very tough economy and any time a consumer chooses you they have made a tough choice and in the process excluded all other alternatives does it not follow then that we should be truly grateful for this choice? And our gratitude must be visible. A show of appreciation goes a long way.
Ultimately customers we already have are easier to convert and tend to be more profitable. As we remember this we gear our spending to both customer acquisition and retention. Sometimes the two even overlap, an example is the use of social proofs. Analyse your business for new customers versus repeat customers. Create your customer retention strategy today starting with these guidelines.