Now, more than ever, nurturing relationships with existing customers is a key part of any small business strategy. The Coronavirus pandemic has been a particularly severe example of a time when generating new business can be difficult. Focusing on the customer journey and finding ways to continually engage with your customers can create great opportunities for retention and referrals. In this post, I’ll explore how to improve your customer journey to win repeat business.
This post is complementary to my previous post “After Sales Services: Why Your Marketing Shouldn’t Stop With Making the Sale”. After you read this, pop over and check it out! It includes some of my favourite ways to take care of your customers after the sale.
Before we start, it’s worth noting that the approach you’ll ultimately take will vary depending on your business. This will come down to whether you’re a product or service-based business, whether you’re online or bricks-and-mortar, and what it is you’re selling. The bottom line, though, is analysing your customer journey and taking steps to improve it is invaluable whatever your business!
Let’s start at the beginning! Before making plans for after-sales engagement with your customers, it’s crucial that you explore the journey they go on with your brand. In order to get a full picture, map out the whole customer journey. This starts with the very first contact they make with your business, all the way through to completion of the sale. To do this, ask yourself the following questions:
Question One: When and how do you interact with customers?
To get started, map out the different avenues for potential customers to get in touch with or buy from you. And look for their preferences: Do your customers prefer to get in touch by email or phone? Are there ways that convert more people into paying customers than others?
Then have a look at what happens next – how quickly do you reply? What questions or concerns do they have before they hit “buy”? What else happens during the process they go through to complete the sale?
And what communication will they receive once they bought from you? Are you helping them make the best of their purchase? Are you taking the opportunity to give them an incentive to purchase from or work with you again when it arises?
While you’re at it, take the opportunity to hone in on what works best for you. For example, if you currently use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, but only post a couple of times a week on each, look at your stats. Which platforms are performing best and getting the most engagement?
You might find that Facebook and Instagram are generating triple the enquiries of the other two. If this is the case, consider pulling back on the less effective sites and pouring more energy into the sites your customers are virtually hanging out on!
Question Two: What are your crunch points?
Analysing any and all available customer data is incredibly useful here. It’s easy to breathe a sigh of relief and move on when you close a sale. However, taking the time to see what happens to your customers over time is invaluable.
Identify any issues that indicate a bump in the customer journey – a drop in usage of your online tool after six months or delays in getting back to your quote, for example. Find out about busy and quiet times for your target groups, like the end of the year for accountants or the summer holidays for consumers.
Look for patterns and common denominators: Have you been sending a specific type of content or emails when this happens? Are most cancellations happening at the same time of year? What has your competition been up to just then?
Alternatively, check to see if there is a dip at a time when you are not engaging. If past customers stop hearing from you as soon as you close a sale or complete a project, you could be missing valuable retention opportunities.
Look at all the ways in which you interact with customers leading up to and after the sale. Helpful tips and advice, as well as customer surveys and reviews, can be really useful here.
Figuring out why a customer doesn’t come back after they’ve worked with or bought from you once is crucial. What about the experience can you improve to change that? Surveys can be really helpful as you can gather feedback across all areas of your business, from communication and advertising to website navigation, pricing and everything in between.
Here it is also worth reviewing instances when the sale does not go through in the first place. If you have an online store, what is your “abandoned checkout” rate? Consider whether shipping costs or returns policies could be impacting on this.
If you are a service-based business, ask why they decided against working with you and make sure to address the issue head-on in the future. For example, if quite a few potential customers jump ship because your rates are too high, check if you’re being clear about the value they’re getting in return.
Analysing your statistics and feedback is all well and good – but then there has to be some action! Take the information you have gathered and come up with a plan. The customer journey is something that you can continue to improve all the time, with regular tweaks based on any feedback you receive or analysis you do yourself. To create a solid action plan, run through the following:
Question One: What additional actions could you take to keep in touch?
To keep existing clients on board, it’s important to nurture the relationship you have already built with them. Finding the right way to do that, however, is key. After checking your social media stats, use what you have gathered to tweak your plan. Which posts generate the most comments, which are most regularly saved or shared?
By following this information, you can ensure you are sharing content that resonates with your existing customers and followers. Make sure you encourage and regularly respond to comments and direct messages, to make customers feel valued and appreciated. This creates an ongoing relationship, rather than one-way communication.
If you have built up a (GDPR compliant!) mailing list but you aren’t sending out emails, now is the time to start! Come up with a system that works for you, and offers the customer value. This might be a monthly update email, including brand news, latest offers and promotions.
If you are already using emails, use the analysis from step one to show what’s working and what isn’t. Maybe you’re emailing weekly when you don’t have much new information to share. If you notice a drop off in subscribers with a weekly mailshot, try moving to a monthly update. That way, when you do send an extra email with a new product launch or update it will feel more exciting than intrusive!
Also, consider ways in which you make this communication feel more personal. Could you offer a birthday discount to those on your mailing list, meaning they’ll receive a personalized mailshot with an offer specific to them when the time comes? Or an offer for customers who shop with you regularly (a discount on every tenth purchase, for example)? Think outside of the box here if you can. Making your past customers feel valued goes a long way towards repeat business!
Check out my previous post “7 Ways to Keep in Touch with Existing Customers” for some more ideas on how to build up these relationships.
Question Two: How can you use what you already have in the bag?
Another amazing way of growing your business is through referrals. Once you’ve looked at new ways to engage with your existing customers, and generate repeat business, start thinking about how you can encourage referrals. This is a key stage in learning how to improve your customer journey.
Positive testimonials and reviews from happy customers are an incredible way to give your business a boost. In the age of social media, people trust people and seeing existing customers praise your brand is a great introduction for new customers.
How are you collecting and/or using existing testimonials? Sharing them (with the consent of the customer) on your social media and website can help to build trust, and if the customers themselves go on to share them, can encourage referrals.
Referrals can be particularly useful if you have a business which does not lend itself to regular repeat business from one customer. A beauty brand may sell products to the same customer every month, but if you sell fridge freezers, the time between sales for one customer is likely to be a while!
Five-star feedback from customers who have bought from you, and recommendations to their friends, can make all the difference in the world. Just think how much things could change if every past customer referred just one friend who converted into a sale!
Aside from that, consider the potential of referral schemes for existing customers – offering a discount when they recommend a friend or a referral code to give them free shipping or a gift voucher can be a great way to reach new customers.
Now that you have a plan, it’s time to put it into action. Start rolling out your new strategies, and be sure to keep a close eye on the results. There is no “one size fits all” approach – every business is different!
So look out for positive or negative responses, from increasing or decreasing subscriber numbers to feedback in comments. The most important thing is that what you’re doing is building trust and resonating with your customers.
Give yourself a three-month period to put your new strategy to the test. Continually watch your stats, tweak as you go, and by the end of this period, you should have another good amount of data to analyse.
Mapping out your customer lifecycle is invaluable for many reasons. Not only can learning how to improve your customer journey win you repeat business, but it can help streamline the way you work. Honing in on what is helping you continually engage with and build a relationship with customers can help eliminate time-wasting activities.
But even more than that, encouraging repeat business can help build a real community around your business. Having that sense of loyalty and retaining customers, whether you are a service or product-based business is a wonderful feeling. And not only that, but it’s a great sign that your business is thriving and resonating with your ideal audience.
To read more about how to improve your customer experience to generate more repeat business & referrals, have a look at these: