Existing customers are the backbone of your sales, and your most valuable asset. And still, somehow, they are often taken for granted, blitzed with inappropriate offers, or ignored altogether in the endless pursuit of the elusive first sale. Marketers can no longer assume that old customers will continue to buy. The competition is too heavy and good and services are too easy to acquire.
To retain your customers today, you have to offer more. Your offers should be personal, highly targeted, and perfectly timed.
Exceptional customer service doesn’t end with making a sale. If your customer list is a growing pile of one-hit-wonders, you’ve got some work to do. Rather than let your connections grow stale, use some simple techniques to keep your customers coming back for more.
It may seem daunting to keep track of every person who has ever purchased anything from your business, let alone keep in contact with them. Luckily for us all, we have software to handle the heavy lifting of organizing customer data. Use CRM to keep track of those active and inactive past customers. Set reminders and tasks associated with groups of customers. See individual contacts’ past purchases and communications with your business at a moment’s notice, so everyone representing your business can offer personalized customer service to any individual customer at the drop of a hat.
When you have all your customer data in one place, it’s pretty easy to stay in touch, especially with automation. While it’s bad practice to drive your customers crazy with spam, you still need to reach out to them continually. How often is often enough? Well, if you’re launching a new product, service or site update, you’ll want to let your past customers know first. If a few months has gone by with no interaction from them, invite them to update their email preferences. Consider contacting customers on their birthdays or major holidays. Create reminders based on these events to ensure that you contact customers in a timely manner. Just be wary of too much automation, such as the case of Amazon.com and its lubricant sales.
When you’re trying to attract the attention of previous customers, it helps to make sure you’re not simply inviting them to be bored by your same old, same old. Updating product images each season is one way to spruce up your site. Offer new looks at your products or business through social media, such as quick video tours or images of your products in use. Ensure that you update your site often, but not necessarily on a dramatic scale. Fresh doesn’t mean a whole new look, just enough difference to keep customers interested.
You know you should be paying attention to what your customers have to say about you and to you. You know you must engage via social media. But you may be missing one important way to transform past customers into repeat business. Send them a survey asking them why they haven’t yet purchased from you again. They’ll be more likely to provide you with that information if they have some incentive, such as a discount code upon or entry into a sweepstakes upon completion.
Give Them Presents
Offer loyal customers sneak peeks at unreleased products or a little insider knowledge. A special discount for previous customers or limited pre-order sales for past customers are both ways to get someone to become a repeat buyer. By giving them a little something special, you’re showing your customers that they matter to your business while encouraging their repeat business. When you offer personalized incentive that isn’t accessible to the public, it builds loyalty, as well.
You know a few things about previous customers that you don’t yet know about new ones. What they purchased from you is one of the most important. Create personalized offers based on your customer’s past purchases to entice them to come back to you. Using purchase history creates the opportunity for cross-selling complementary items or services. You can automate these offers to occur at optimal times, as well. For example, if your customer buys a vacuum cleaner from you, create an automatic email offer to send out after 3 months for a discount off the regular price of replacement air filters for that model.
Implement a Loyalty Program
Customer loyalty programs that allow customers to earn perks or discounts based on how much they spend or how often they shop with you are both popular and effective. Loyalty campaigns can be emailed, downloaded and tracked through a mobile app, or handed out the old-fashioned way, like Kohl’s Cash. Customer loyalty programs are particularly effective when they have a reasonable expiration date. You want customers to come back soon…and earn new rewards when they do.
Don’t Forget Social Media
While email and phone seem the most direct ways to reach out to previous customers, you can also use social media. Promote customer appreciation sales, host follow campaigns with prizes, or “like-and-share” for a chance to win campaigns. All of these cast a bit wider net than does targeted email campaigns, but they’re still effective at grabbing the attention of your past customers.
When customers walk away after one or two sales, it could be for any number of reasons. Enticing them back may be impossible, but those that do come back are well worth the effort. And customers who left because they were dissatisfied may be only too happy to tell you why, valuable information indeed. Ex-customers may turn out to be a goldmine of information…or just a goldmine. The effort you put into luring them back establishes a deeper, more loyal relationship.
One last thing to remember — always offer stellar customer service. Going the extra mile for your existing customers will be key to keep their loyalty. If anything points to customer loss due to poor customer service, rectify the problems immediately. If your service is awful, not much you do will encourage displeased customers to come back.