Acquiring new customers is central to expansion strategies of most companies.
On the one hand, it does make sense – the most obvious way to grow your business is by reaching new people.
However, making sure that they stick with you is at least as important. A loyal and steady customer base is the only solid foundation you can build your business on.
There are numerous statistics that prove the value of customer retention for any company. For instance, only 12-15% of customers are loyal to a retailer, but they account for 55-70% of their total sales.
Moreover, the process of acquiring a new customer is estimated to cost 5 times more than what would cost you to keep an old one.
Thus customer retention is absolutely vital to both your long-term and short-term business plans. This means that once you make a sale to a new customer you’re still far from the end of the road.
Actually, you should work on making this road as long as possible by paying utmost attention to all sorts of post-sale processes. Here are some pieces of advice that may be of help.
1. Onboarding and education programs
First things first. An ideal way to show your customers you care about their convenience right after the purchase is a quality onboarding program.
The way you choose to organize this program will naturally depend on how complicated your product or service is to use, but in any event, you shouldn’t leave the customers on their own as soon as they pay.
This especially goes for apps and all sorts of online services. The possibilities for tailoring an onboarding program here are endless and guiding users through the process step by step has never been easier.
Have in mind that, for instance, 25% of users who download an app abandon it and never return after just a single session. This means that it’s crucial not to just capture your users’ and customers’ attention as soon as possible, but also to make their experience smooth and simple.
Try customizing these programs according to your customers’ previous knowledge about your or similar products. Not all of them need the same level of support to figure out how things work.
Moreover, guidance that you offer to the customers shouldn’t be limited to onboarding only. Offering further education to them can be of huge help as well.
You can provide more info about your product through blogs and social media posts. Your customers will appreciate learning useful tips and tricks on how to get the most from what they bought from you.
You can go a step further and give them useful advice on problems with similar products or tell them about the latest developments in the industry on your blog. This way you can make them more interested in your line of work and, obviously, some of your other products as well.
Finally, this will make you seem more knowledgeable, attentive and trustful to both customers and prospects.
2. Personalizing the experience
Over the course of last few years, personalization has been the magic word in the world of marketing. And for a good reason – the rise of digital marketing has opened numerous new opportunities in this respect.
Marketers can now easily make any customer feel like every step of their experience with the brand is tailor-made just for them.
Now, in order to make this experience truly personalized, first, you need to get to know your customers.
If you run an online business or you have any kind of online presentation (which is more-less a given in this day and age), you can make use of CRM software. So, what is CRM and how can a good CRM system help you collect valuable info about your customers?
A CRM system tracks the online activities of your visitors and analyzes the collected data in order to improve your interactions with them. This involves all sorts of activities both on and off your website or social networks, including browsing behavior, purchase history, feedback or social profile.
In short, CRM software can supply you with elaborate info about your customers’ interests and personal details.
This makes it easy for your marketing and sales team to create personalized messages for your customers and to plan a specific approach to retaining them.
You need to know which channels to utilize in order to target them and what types of messages would draw their attention. You’ll also have a chance to determine the perfect timing to reach out to them.
And once you decide to reach out, you’ll have enough info on your hands to make a perfect special offer that will make them want to buy again.
3. Reaching out to customers
It’s very important to stay in touch with your customers and form close relationships with them. That way you’ll ensure that they don’t forget about you and you’ll have a chance to show that you care about them.
However, once you start doing that, you’re always in danger of seeming intrusive. But it’s really up to you to adjust the frequency of these messages and their content so that your customers don’t perceive this activity as spam.
Try not to bother them with calls or emails too often and reach out only when you feel you can actually provide some value for your buyers.
For instance, you can keep them posted on important updates related to your company or your products and services.
Furthermore, let them know when there’s a special offer that might be of their interest or offer them discounts they may find attractive.
Finally, use the data you obtained from your CRM to determine if some of your regular customers have become less active or have shown certain indications that they might turn to your competitors. If this is the case, you should reach out to them and try to fix whatever has gone wrong.
Naturally, you need to make sure that you adapt your tone and language to particular types of customers. Not all tricks will work for all of them.
4. Loyalty programs
One of the most effective ways to turn a new customer into a loyal admirer of your brand is employing loyalty programs. There are several reasons why this is so.
Firstly, if you offer incentives and discounts to those who keep buying from you, they will be less inclined to switch to one of your competitors as they will already feel involved and invested.
It’s a handy little trick – they will feel as if they have already achieved something, so starting from scratch again may seem like a nuisance. They’ve earned their right to the conveniences that you offer them, so why give up on that?
Secondly, a well-conceived loyalty program can evoke a sort of competitive thrill that will keep your customers excited about new achievements. The best thing about this competition is that the further they get, more financial benefits they have and they will be less and less eager to change the team.
Finally, giving them points for referrals may help you not just keep the existing customers, but also acquire new ones. When there’s nothing to set you apart from your rivals, details like this can actually give you a much-needed competitive edge.
5. Top-class customer service
Being at your customers’ disposal 24 hours a day and resolving their problems as quickly as possible is one of the keys to keeping them happy.
In fact, according to a recent survey by Hiver, companies are going the extra mile with 76% of support teams responding that they offer customer support outside of business hours.
Most of them will understand if your company has made a mistake, but if you don’t do everything in your power to fix it you’re probably on your way to losing a customer.
Namely, as much as 70% of customers will be ready to do business with you again if you resolve their complaint in their favor.
On the other hand, 52% of those who remain unsatisfied will be eager to spread the bad word about this.
So it’s not about being perfect, but about being attentive and helpful.
Have in mind that customers of different age groups and different habits will want to use different channels to get in touch with your company. That’s why you should be available on multiple channels.
Nowadays it’s not enough to have a contact form on your website and one person answering the phone. Of course, you still need these, but it’s best if you also employed emails, social networks, and live chats.
In general, you need to listen to your customers and take their feedback seriously. Thanks to social media you can even publicly show how you deal with all kinds of complaints.
If you respond in a timely manner, with understanding and with actual solutions to their problems it won’t go unnoticed by other social media users as well.
Once again, putting some effort into keeping your old customers will help you gain new ones.
If you get public complaints on your website or social networks and try to solve the problem instead of avoiding it or, even worse, deleting the post, it’s not just a sign that your company is supportive and accessible. Even more importantly, it shows that your brand doesn’t have a problem with being transparent.
There’s no use in hiding that a line of your products is plagued with problems or if a number of your users experience a certain type of trouble with your service.
Also, when it comes to transparency, it’s essential that the end users get exactly what they’ve been promised. That means no hidden fees, no hidden clauses, no secrets in your return policy and no surprises altogether.
Convincing customers to stick with you is all about getting them to trust you. Over 80 percent of consumers will not just continue buying from you if they trust you, but they will also be inclined to recommend you to others.
And in the long run, getting them to trust you simply means being honest with them, as deceiving and misleading them is definitely not a sustainable strategy. Not being honest with your customers will get you a few more bucks short-term, but in the long run, your business will lose credibility.
As it was said, if you come across a problem you can’t fix, don’t hide it and don’t hesitate to suggest compensation. At times it may be costly, but nothing is worth more than your brand’s integrity.
7. Customer advocacy
One true sign that your brand endorses transparency is encouraging your customers to tell what they think about your business and your products. And this will bring you other benefits, as the psychological effect of social proof can be quite significant.
Naturally, people tend to believe other customers’ opinions much more than branded ads. A genuine experience of someone who used a certain product is obviously going to sound more authentic than what you claim about the product in a commercial.
Thus offering incentives to those who share their opinion or rate your company is a reasonable idea. It will be a sign of gratitude to your existing customers for taking their time to tell what they think, and it will also be valuable info for those who haven’t tried out your products yet.
The benefits of customer advocacy are twofold. Testimonials from satisfied customers can convince prospects to try your product, but it can also affect the decisions of those who’ve already bought from you.
Namely, if they’re unhappy with your product a new perspective may alter their opinion, and if they’re happy, good reviews from others may assure them that they should upgrade the product or package they’ve already got.
Nothing beats genuine care
At the end of the day, none of these tricks will do much good for your business if you don’t make sure that two basic conditions are fulfilled.
Firstly, without a truly first-rate product or service, there’s no magic that will make your one-time customers come back to you. No strategy will convince people to continue buying or using a product they simply don’t like.
And secondly, you have to have in mind at all times that you should treat your customers with genuine care and understanding. As people with needs, desires and problems, not as mere consumers of goods.
Be in no doubt, they’ll be able to tell the difference.
About the Author:
Daniel Bishop is a full time editorial consultant for marketing companies. He started off as a freelance writer on a couple of blogs and in a few years began leading his own team of writers. After becoming an editorial consultant he still likes to go back to his roots and write articles from time to time.