Filling your pipeline with sales leads is one of the most important tasks for you as a business owner. Afterwards, however, what’s even more important is customer retention – turning your first-time customers into repeat customers, or better yet, lifetime customers. Getting repeat customers is crucial to the future of your business, as it guarantees future sales, and selling to an existing customer is typically cheaper in terms of customer acquisition costs than acquiring a new one.
There are several ways to encourage return shoppers, even during these harsh economic times.
Manually keeping in touch with your existing customers can be an exhausting task, and one that you probably don’t have the time and bandwidth to do as a small business owner. Fortunately, there are software packages out there that can do the work for you by automatically sending text and email messages to existing customers advertising a promotion or a sale, conduct a customer satisfaction survey or send them newsletters or blog post alerts if your website offers content.
On average, email marketing produces an ROI of $36 for every $1 spent, according to consumer research group Litmus. Additionally, 97% of Americans own a cell phone and use their phones to shop, and according to a study by Simply Texting, mobile phone marketing campaigns have an average conversion rate of 45%. There are many email automation software packages out there (and some of them are free!) to choose from, as well as SMS marketing tools you can use to automate these processes.
“Because You’re a Loyal Customer…”
One of the most powerful methods of getting a repeat sale is to make the consumer feel as if they’re getting a special discount or bargain. You can use this as a strong selling point to existing customers who already know your brand and, presumably, trust you. Send them special offers on either updated products or ones similar to what they’ve already purchased via a text or email campaign. This will make your existing customers feel special and less likely to view your promotional messages as spam.
Additionally, “aftersales” are a great way to retain customers, especially if you’re a services firm such as a cleaning firm or a car mechanic shop. You should reach out to existing customers to gently remind them that they may be due for another cleaning, or that they’re cars are due for another oil change or maintenance.
Do Your Employees Care?
Let’s face it, whether you own a retail store or an eCommerce business, your employees are the key to successfully retaining customers, as they are largely the ones who deal with them and thus provide the “customer experience.” As consumers, however, we all-too-often deal with employees who simply don’t care – be it a sales clerk at a retail store or a customer service representative on the phone. These employees are often young and get paid subsistence-level wages, and therefore aren’t concerned about whether customers choose to buy products from your company. Even if you tell them that you’re unhappy and threaten to never buy a product from their company again, their response will most likely still be total apathy.
If this is the situation you find yourself in as a small business owner, you can join the rest of the older generation and ruminate over Millennials’ and GenZers’ supposed lack of work ethic, or you can take a more constructive approach by asking yourself, ‘Am I doing enough to incentivize my employees?’ Offering performance-based bonuses, career training on sales, being flexible when it comes to work schedules and promoting a strong team environment will motivate your employees to want to contribute.
Listen to Feedback!
Listening to your customer feedback is key to improving your business, and how you react to it is one of the important keys to retaining customers. You should diligently examine whether your business has been reviewed. Think of every review, whether it’s on Yelp!, Google Reviews or social media, as a chance to retain a customer. You should also view negative reviews as positive – if they’re reasonable and rational, they will offer you a roadmap on how to fix issues with your business to make it more attractive to customers, as well as a chance to appease any unhappy customers.
It’s also important to personally respond to both negative and positive reviews. With negative reviews, be apologetic and offer either some sort of clarification or ways to make it up to the customer. Other consumers will see that and this will enable you to make a positive impression on other potential customers.
Retention is Key to Survival
As a small business owner, much of your time will be spent trying to gain new prospects and customers. While that is certainly vital for your business, what’s even more important is keeping the customers you already have. Relatively small investments in automated email software packages and in a good training program for your employees will go a long way in ensuring the longevity of your business.