Customers are not just for Christmas. They need to be loved, looked after and appreciated long after the wrapping has been taken off.
Loyalty can never be mis-underestimated but it often is.
It is a proven fact that it is much cheaper to re-market to your current customers and costs less in time and money to resell to them than to find new customers.
Why do you think mobile phone service providers bend over backwards with discounts when you are threatening to leave them?
I’ve suddenly been offered amazing tariffs when I said I was going to go to their rivals.
(Note: in the end I did as it was too late and I wanted an iPhone at the time and they didn’t have an agreement with Apple to provide iPhones and tried to tell me that the Nokia 95 was a better phone than the 3G handset… that’s a debate for another day and was back in 2007 anyway).
But how do you keep customers and keep them keen. Here’s a few tips that might help you:
Listen to your customers
The more you know and learn about your customers the better.
User test how they interact with your product and watch them use it. Meet them and ask them questions about how you can make your product better to help them. Pick up the phone and call them. Listen to their problems and build a product or service to solve these problems.
You’ll end up with a more refined customer base who will end up turning into long term customers and promoters of your great product to others in their network. Afterall, if you build what they want, they’ll probably have other friends who have the same problems. People tend to know other people with the same problems and in the same situations.
Be there for your customers and deliver a good quality product with features that they actually want.
It’s not all about how cheap it is, there are more important things for customers. Price is only around 3rd or 4th on the scale of decision-making factors.
Are you there to answer phone calls or emails when they need support? Are you active on your support forum? Do you do extra work such as logo design or brochures on top of website design? Can you SEO the site for when it launches? Do you give away an ebook on how they can sell more? Do you throw in a couple of email marketing templates too?
There are lots of things you can do to add extra value to the purchase a customer makes other than just a discount.
A successful loyalty scheme can encourage frequent purchases from customers over time.
Ideas might include yearly discounts on your SaaS app over the monthly price; buy 5 hours of changes for the price of 4 if you are a web designer, and even coupon codes at Christmas or other times of the year for downloading your software.
Be creative, reward loyal customers and they’ll keep coming back for more and even turn into your advocates. When that happens, you won’t be able to handle the work that comes your way.
Customers are God
In Japan, customer service managers train their staff that “customers are God”.
Not like in Desperado.
Customer service is very important for your brand, business and customer loyalty.
Make sure you handle complaints effectively, manage their expectations and answer any questions promptly. Give bad news quickly and drip feed good news over time.
The biggest problems for small business owners can often be managing expectations. My advice is to always under promise and over deliver and you’ll do just fine.
If you keep communications hot with customers then they will more likely be in a position to buy from you in the future.
Nowadays twitter offers a good platform, although a little public. Email is still good for building relationships as well as the dog and bone. Other ways include creating a support forum or ticket contact system for handling customer and support related enquiries.
Blogs, email marketing campaigns or even printed newsletters are other great ways to build relations and a customer audience.
Keeping in touch is key as the buyer goes through different buying cycles and decisions. By giving them information on the latest skills you’ve acquired or latest technologies included in your latest product range, they may just want that upgrade too.
Whether you think your customer is a God or have a strict policy to answer all support emails within 24 hours, or a telephone in 3 rings (yes that happens in Japan) there are lots of things we can all do to improve our customer relations and ultimately our bottom line.
Happy customers equals loyal customers. And, loyal customers equals healthy business. Isn’t that what you want?
Try and keep them beyond Christmas.
Image by kennymatic