Customer Retention Strategies: Engagement, Programs, Plans and Tactics
As marketers, we have never before been in an age where we had more creative tools, quick and direct access to our customers, and the ability to identify and target our market with such precision. The web can do wonders for bringing new prospects to your business. Between the multitude of social media platforms, the ability to easily create and share content, and well-implemented Search Engine Optimization SEO, potential customers can find you with lightning speed and accuracy. The digital landscape has endless inbound marketing possibilities.
Combined with your efforts in traditional media – print, television, radio, out-of-home, direct mail – you might have a pretty good grasp on bringing in qualified leads with a need for what you sell.
But more important than how you find your customers or how they find you is what you are doing to keep them around after that first sale.
You’ve worked hard and strategized to generate leads, established a relationship with your customers and secure sales, so don’t run the risk of a competitor scooping them up. Customer retention is not rocket science. Once you convert a lead into a sale, there are a few simple yet effective tactics you can implement to keep that customer coming back.
Keep Them Engaged
Engaging your customer is simple, but takes sustained and strategic effort. I love companies that thank you for your business. It just feels good to be appreciated. A communication that says “We know you have options and we appreciate that you chose to give us your business, and we will work hard to keep it. Tell us what you like and tell us what we could do better.” You can easily send out a short survey that can give you very valuable feedback. Listen, improve and then let your customer know what you did and thank them for their ideas and suggestions. My wife’s yoga studio recently sent out a 2-question survey. She loves this business and wants to see them grow and provide even more options. They owner emailed her back immediately and said “We love this idea, and we’re going to run with it right away!” Now THAT is good customer relations and a win-win. My wife gets the new classes she wants, the studio not only gets her loyalty, but possibly gains new customers.
Businesses tend to underestimate the power of email and social media. Social media provides a perfect forum for customer engagement, but it can be intimidating and overwhelming, if you’re not an adopter or user. But efforts in this area can also be small, targeted and simple. It’s not necessary to be everywhere all the time, and a sustained, strategic approach can be more effective than businesses who are digitally verbose and just become annoying. A standard email that goes out to every new customer with an E-news letter sign-up and a suggestion to “Like us on Facebook” or “Follow us on Twitter” are great ways to keep your customer up to date on company happenings, new products or events. If you lack the know-how, time or interest, there are plenty of young people out there, looking to earn some cash for tweets and posts. Come up with a strategy that’s simple and give it a try.
Give Them Ongoing Deals, Discounts, Sales and Specials
Everyone loves a good deal. Offer customers that extra push to purchase from you, such as 10% off any online shopping, a BOGO (Buy One Get One) deal, or tell them about a major clearance. You will bring them in, and they will spread the news. This is very easy with email blasts and your customers will be happy to spread the good news. Large retailers have been successful with this strategy with their customer loyalty weekends offering 20% off the whole store digital coupons, and at the same time discount codes to forward for “friends and family” discount days. I don’t need to tell you that good news goes viral.
Create and Share Content That Screams Authority
Asserting your scope of knowledge in your area of expertise capitalizes on your current relationship with your audience. Blogs, instructional videos, quality photos of your business, an E-book are all things that create content for your website, but also create value for your customer and increase engagement. Taking leadership in your market makes your customers think of you first.
Provide Quick, Quality Responses
Just like my wife’s yoga studio, a quick, enthusiastic and personal response gets you a lot. Listening to everything your customer has to say is an opportunity to improve your business. That includes the critical and sometimes harsh. Get over it. Chances are there are more than that one customer that had the inclination to speak up or “complain”, who feel dissatisfied. One small bit of negativity can multiply very quickly, especially with social media. I’ve have seen many a Facebook post where people intentionally declare “Do not do business with _____” and proceed to tell their tale of poor service.
Take the time to respond immediately to your upset or dissatisfied customer, hear what they have to say and be clear that you will work to resolve any issues. Most of the time, just listening and acknowledging their feelings can turn them around. I have actually seen a dissatisfied customer end up apologizing, removing a Facebook critique and subsequently converted to a loyal, raving fan just because they were handled properly.
Retaining your customers isn’t hard, but is a key aspect of any marketing strategy. If your current approach consists of relying entirely on customers simply coming and going without any plans for bringing them back, you’ll want to revisit and re-evaluate it to ensure that when it comes to the product and service you have to offer, your customer only thinks of you.
What do you think? Do you have a customer retention strategy? Have you seen success in bringing customers back again and again? We’d love to hear your thoughts!