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.
Of course, that is easier said than done. While most companies have a sales strategy in place to generate new business, less have heard of a customer retention scheme. Here’s the thing – a mail-shot every time 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, you need to put in consistent effort. The current business landscape is highly competitive, and your customer connections require nurturing.
So – how do you do it? Here are my top tips for building lasting relationships with your customers to keep them coming back.
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 that 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. 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 No more expensive direct mails and customer magazines that are out of date the minute they hit your customers’ desks.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. Encouraging repeat business can easily be built into your digital strategy. This can be a bit mind-boggling at times and initially time-consuming, but it is an amazing opportunity especially if you’re on a budget.
Feeling overwhelmed with your social media? Don’t let the fear make you miss out on these incredible opportunities to connect! Check out this post for my top tips to gain control.
Now 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 enjoyable doing business with you is for customer, the more likely it is they’ll come back. So make sure to smooth out bumps in the road as quickly and efficiently as possible. Even better: Be proactive and do your best to avoid them in the first place.
Anticipate your customer’s needs and expectations 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. Instead, 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’ve 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 to show them you care for them (and not only for their money!) you have to be in touch regularly. This is how you will win repeat business from them.
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, on the same channels they are on, and encourage conversations. That specifically applies to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram 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. Create a sense of openness, trust and relatability wherever you can.
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.
Unsure of how to handle an unfavourable post? Here are some tips on how to respond to negative reviews.
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. Don’t get defensive! 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!
Finally, remember to take the time to intentionally plan out your after sales activities. Your marketing should’t drop off after the sale – this is a great time to increase customer satisfaction! I have a whole blog post dedicated to streamlining your after sales services – check it out for some inspiration. From providing them with support, to giving them access to exclusive offers, make sure you keep customers in the loop.
When it comes to generating repeat business from existing customers, creating a connection is key. It’s easy, when things are busy, to get complacent. Don’t let that happen! Invest the time and effort required to build these relationships, following the tips in this post.
It might seem like a lot to get your head around to begin with, but think about it – each step helps build the others! Like most things, the more you put in, the more you get out. The more you communicate, the more engagement you’ll get, enabling you to listen, anticipate, and ultimately fulfil your customer needs. What an amazing opportunity!
Check out these posts to read more about engaging with existing customers:
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
Why Good Marketing Takes Time – Touchpoint Marketing for Small Businesses