Don’t neglect your faithful customer base as you grow There’s an old saying you might have heard: “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold.”
Translated into business speak, that roughly means that while getting new customers is important for business growth, it’s critical to hold onto those you already have.
Especially given that it’s estimated 65 per cent of a company’s business comes from existing customers. So while it’s important to keep hustling for new customers, it also makes good business sense to focus much of your time and marketing budget on customers who already spend their time and money with your business.
The dilemma, of course, is how to do that when customers have so many choices. And, worryingly, according to one US survey, around 60-80% of customers who describe themselves as satisfied do not go back to do more business with the company that initially satisfied them.
It’s a tricky one but the key, say business experts, is to continuously innovate to stay aligned with customer needs, something that’s especially important in a rapidly changing market.
One way to do that is to tap into, and keep track of, customer satisfaction. Which sounds easier than it often is, but the payoff is worth it because if you can keep a larger percentage of your customers for a longer time, you can build a more profitable and predictable life cycle.
"One way to assess customer satisfaction is to stay connected to your customers and find out what they like, or don’t like, about your business."
For example, do customers want fast shipping, expert knowledge and great customer service? Ask them and then deliver.
Another way is to keep track of your customers’ buying habits and monitor them to see if patterns emerge. It’s useful to make a record of what customers have bought and when because that enables you to hone in on them at the perfect time, contacting them to encourage re-orders whenever they need a product.
You can also retain customer loyalty by identifying who your VIP customers are. Who, for example, buys the most over a period of time? Who brings in other customers? Once you’ve identified those VIPs, develop a marketing strategy for them which not only maintains the relationship but could help you channel more customers into this category, providing a solid growth strategy for the future.
That could include offering perks because, let’s face it, everyone loves a freebie. If you can offer your customers, especially those on the VIP side, things like exclusive discounts, priority access to new products or services, discounts on additional purchases or other perks, that can help cement your relationship. Not to mention make your customers feel like they’re dealing with a trusted and reliable friend.
They’ve been around forever, but don’t discount the power of loyalty programmes because they’re another good way to keep tabs on regular customers. This could take the form of either a subscription programme, where customers pay in advance for a fixed period of time or pay a regular subscription charge to ensure the continued delivery of a product or service, or a reward scheme which results in a free item or discount once enough purchases are made, for example a coffee card.
"Finally, a sure fire way to hold onto your existing customers is to personally connect with them. In this increasingly digital world, nothing replaces the human touch so pick up the phone or meet with your customers in person."
And whenever there’s a customer service issue, go above and beyond to put it right, because as another old saying goes, it’s the putting right that counts.