Last week, I showed you some basic strategies to use to retain customers. If you have mastered the basic strategies, it is time to start using more advanced strategies for customer retention. These advanced strategies are also great if you have a bigger business.
Reminder: your starting point needs to be excellent customer service
Whether you have a small business or a bigger one, your business should see great customer service as a high priority. Research shows that customers will spend up to 13% more money if they feel that a business is giving good customer support. This may seem very low. But if this customer is buying from you every week and continues to do so for 5 years, this small money will add up to a significant amount!
1. Build a customer database
Collect information about your customers: what products and services they are interested in, what their buying and spending habits are, what contacts they have had with you, whether they have had any problems or complaints, whether they have referred new customers to your business. As well as any other information relevant to your business.
The more you know about your customers, the more effective your communication with them will be. This will also make it easier for you to identify key customer segments and to see who your most important customers are.
2. Keep in touch with your customers
Do not allow your customers to forget about you. For example, you can use newsletters to give regular updates to customers about new products, special offers and promotions. Every time they see it, they will also see your business brand.
If you have many customers, consider using a customer relationship management tool (CRM). There is software for this, but there are also many Excel templates on the internet that are good and easy to use.
A CRM-tool can be used to record the interactions you and your team have with your customers. For example: how long it has been since you spoke to them or the customer contacted you. You can also use it to record customer service issues that need to be addressed. If your business has multiple people dealing with customers, you can also use the CRM-tool to assign certain employees to certain customers.
If you are using a customer relationship management tool, consider dividing your customers into various groups. For example, groups based on the type of product or service that they have bought from you. Or a group of your best customers. You can then reach out to each of the groups with topics based on their interests. This will also encourage more sales.
It may also be helpful for you to use a communications calendar. This is a monthly (or yearly) calender to plan your communications with your customers. You can use it for 3 types of communication:
- Physical mailings like a printed newsletter. Send this once every 1 – 3 months. No need for this if you only communicate digitally.
- Email communications like a marketing email or email newsletter. The general advice is to send this about 1x per week.
- Social media like Facebook or Instagram. If you use social media, consider posting about 3x per week.
The communications calendar can help you to plan when you will be communicating with your customers. It can also help you to plan special marketing campaigns, for example for the holiday season. As an example, click the below image to see Guide My Growth’s social media communications calendar for the month of August 2020.
MailChimp is one of the many online programmes that you can also use as a CRM-tool. It offers a powerful and high-quality way to communicate with your customers. You can use it to send automatic marketing emails, product updates or newsletters to your customers. You can use it to do marketing through Facebook. It can also be used to divide customers into groups (segments) and to send targeted emails to customers who have not interacted with your business for a long time. MailChimp is free of charge for up to 2 000 customers. However, if your customers do not use email, it may be better for your business to use an Excel CRM-tool.
3. Ask your customers for feedback
Do you know how your customers feel about your business? Do you know whether they liked a certain new product that you started selling? Do you know which other products they want you to start selling?
You can get this kind of information from customer feedback. You can do this manually. For example by sending a questionnaire to every customer who bought a certain product from you. Or you can ask them face to face when they come to your business. But it is also possible to do this online using a customer survey.
If you want to do online customer surveys, check out SurveyMonkey. The free version will allow you to ask 10 questions per survey. Note: you will only see 40 responses from customers in the free version! So either upgrade to the paid version or send out the same survey to multiple groups of customers. If you are using MailChimp, this can be easily done through MailChimp.
Once you get the responses from customers, make sure to analyse them. Are you seeing a whole lot of customers telling you the same thing? See how best you can do something about that. Then use the same email marketing programme (or a physical newsletter) to update all the customers that told you this. Customers surveys are a great way to find out things that will help your business be even more successful.
- Use MailChimp to create a segment (= list) of customers who bought a certain product form you but never returned.
- Use SurveyMonkey to create a survey asking them if they liked the product. And if not, why not?
- Use MailChimp to send the survey to that group of customers.
- Analyse the responses. If most of them tell you the quality of the product was not good, consider adding a product with better quality.
- Then use MailChimp to send a newsletter to that exact same group of customers to inform them about the new product. Please make sure to include a discount to encourage them to buy it! 😊
4. Appreciate customer loyalty
There are many ways to do this. You can send them a personal thank-you email or offer them additional discounts on special occasions like their birthday. You can also call them to express your appreciation. If you have a bigger business, you can establish a customer loyalty programme. Having a customer loyalty programme means that you reward your customers every time they do business with you.
There are simple and more advanced (meaning more expensive) ways to set up customer loyalty programmes. A simple way is to offer your customers the opportunity to register for a unique code. Whenever they buy something from you, you record it. Once the money they spent reaches a certain amount, they gain discounts. You can use levels like Silver, Gold and Platinum to determine the discount that the customer will get. You can also offer cash prizes or free products.
5. Set up a customer test panel
A customer test panel can help you generate positive word-of-mouth about your products or services. You could do this with your most valued or trusted customers. How it works: you invite your customers to test your product or service for free, in exchange for feedback or an online review + picture of them using the product or service.
The benefit to the customer is that they are part of an exclusive group that gets your products for free. The benefit to you is that you get information about customer satisfaction which will help you to improve your product or service. It also gives you social proof.
Social proof means that people will be encouraged to buy your product or service if they see other people benefit from it. Like celebrity endorsements of a certain product. Showcasing truthful customer testimonials on your social media or in your marketing can help to increase your sales.
6. Educate your customers
Education is one of the most valuable things in the world. Educating your customers shows that you are willing to make a long term investment in their wellbeing or success.
Do you sell products? if so, can you use step-by-step pictures or video to show your customers how to use the product to get the most benefit from it? If you are selling a service, can you give them a video explanation that will help them increase their knowledge or skills?