We’ve heard it all before: Growing your small business is not just about identifying new opportunities but also about generating repeat business. Simply because retaining an existing customer is cheaper than acquiring a new one.
But of course, that is easier said than done. Most companies have a sales strategy in place to generate new business but never heard of a customer retention scheme. A mailshot every time when a renewal is up is simply not enough to win customers back.
You quite literally have to woo them. And you have to do it regularly, not just on anniversaries, Christmas and Valentine’s Day to get their repeat business.
Repeat business is about loyalty
To make them come back over and over again you have to build up loyalty – to your product, your company, your brand or to you personally if you are a sole trader or the face of your company. You have to make sure your customers know you care about them and you know what you’re talking about.
Fortunately for small businesses, this is a lot simpler today than it used to be ten years ago to get repeat business. The internet and above all social media create a universe of instant communication and feedback. No more expensive direct mails and customer magazines that are out of date the minute they hit your customers’ desks.
These days you can share news and background information with billions of internet users worldwide within seconds and for a fraction of the cost. This can be a bit mind-boggling at times and certainly time-consuming but it is an amazing opportunity especially if you’re on a budget.
Let’s talk about the three most important things about customer retention: Anticipation, Communication and Listening.
To become a part of your customer’s life you don’t only have to offer a good product – the more pleasant doing business with you is for customers the more likely it is for them to come back. So make sure to smooth out bumps in the road as quickly and efficiently as possible. But even better: Be proactive and do your best to avoid them in the first place.
Anticipate your customer’s needs and expectation and deliver accordingly. For example, if your customers are usually pressed for time don’t send them a long and detailed manual the size of a phone book. Add a card with the most important things that enable them to get started as quickly as possible.
I personally loved how I got a text from British Airways, telling me that my plane was delayed by 20 minutes – while I was still at home. Or when the delivery service informed me when exactly my new office chair would be delivered. This way I didn’t have to wait for them the whole day.
Be proactive and ask your customer service team what the common issues with or questions about your product are. Put them on your to-do list to answer the question for future customers before they even thought about asking.
Read more about how to improve the customer experience of your small business.
Don’t only get in touch with your customers when it’s time to renew the contract. If you want them to do repeat business with you and to show them you care for them and not only for their money you have to be in touch regularly.
Let them know about product improvements and planned changes. Alert them to related issues like a new legislation that is coming up or simply give them helpful advice. You can do that on your blog, in a newsletter or as a regular feature on your website – just make sure to not only talk about yourself but to make it about helping them.
Also be visible. Be there for them on every available channel, be where they are and encourage conversations. That specifically applies to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social media platforms your customers might be using. Involve them in what’s going on in your small business and let them meet the team behind the scenes.
And of course, get back to them quickly if they have a question or complaint about your product. React as soon as possible and prove that you take complaints or negative feedback as seriously as praise and thank yous.
When your customers want to give you their opinion on your product or make suggestions as to how to make it even better make sure to listen closely. Customer feedback is one of the most valuable things you can get as a small business owner.
Additionally, make sure to ask them from time to time about their experience. Don’t just assume you know what they need but let them have a say in future developments of the product. Keep them updated on the progress of things to get their repeat business. And announce it when their suggestions made it into the product and explain to them when and why they didn’t.
You’d be surprised how many people happily share their thoughts with small businesses when they feel taken seriously and when it’s for their own benefit.
If you are interested in reading more about this topic, have a look at these:
How to Get Referrals for Your Small Business
7 Ways to Keep in Touch with Your Existing Customers
How to Market Your Small Business With Customer Reviews
7 Steps to Improve Your Customer Experience