While customer acquisition is always an important strategy for business growth, you can’t beat customer retention as the most cost-effective way to raise revenue.
In my time as a business coach, I’ve observed that repeat customers:
- Spend more money with your business
- Are easier to convert
- Are cheaper to convert
- Do some of the promotional heavy lifting for you
- Increase profitability
Bottom line: repeat customers cost you less and bring in more money.
So, let’s look at some customer retention tactics so you can keep these valuable VIPs coming back for more.
Six tactics for increasing repeat purchases in your business
One: Invest in a Customer Relationship Management System
First up, you’re going to need to invest in a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM). This provides a central point of reference for all information regarding each client – everything from what they’ve purchased from you, any feedback they’ve provided and (depending on what type of business you are in) even more personal details like their kids’ names or their birthday.
Your CRM system will also allow you to tag customers as being part of certain groups for the purposes of targeted offers and email marketing campaigns etc. For example, you can tag them in the system as having a need or interest in certain products or services that you provide, or even run exclusion reports based on your last communication with them to ensure that you don’t contact them too frequently.
Two: Put a customer onboarding process in place
How do you welcome customers to your business? Maybe you don’t – in which case you are missing a major opportunity to increase the likelihood of repeat business, because it all starts here.
I mentor business owners that an onboarding process is like rolling out the welcome mat for a new customer. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but at a bare minimum you’ll need to create a positive experience and collect the minimum amount of information that will allow you to talk to them down the track to build and strengthen the relationship.
As a business advisor, I would also point out that an onboarding process often represents the difference between taking a proactive vs a reactive approach to customer service. For example, if there is a list of questions that new clients or customers ask on a regular basis, doesn’t it make better sense to collate those into some kind of welcome email, guide, how-to video or checklist that you can distribute to every new customer? This is far more helpful than sitting back and waiting for them to ask.
What goes into a basic an onboarding process?
Honestly, in my experience, no two onboarding processes are the same.
The best approach in designing yours is to think carefully about:
- what a customer needs to know about your business, your products or services to get the most out of working with you
- what information you need from them to help you create a positive experience
- how you can best communicate or collect this information to/from your customer
For some businesses this is best achieved using an automated welcome email sequence; the first email is to introduce yourself, the next couple can be used to inform/educate and towards the end you can add elements such as feedback surveys or even ask for a referral.
Whatever you do, my best business advice is to always follow up post-sale, whether this is via phone call, email or even face to face meeting. It’s good customer service to check in and make sure that they were happy with their experience, resolve any issues, find out how you can better serve them next time and thank them for their custom.
Three: Play detective and take notes
Keep your eyes peeled on the job – a tradesman for example may be able to cast an eye over the property and see what else the customer may need now or in the future (upsell or cross sell). For example, a customer may mention that they plan to begin renovations on their home. This would present an opportunity to make note of that in your CRM. You can then call them or send an email down the track, asking how their remodelling plans are progressing.
Four: Be relentlessly amazing (ie focus on customer experience)
There is just no substitute for knocking your customers’ socks off when it comes to getting them to come back to you. That’s just a no brainer. As a business coach, I also can’t stress enough the importance of actively seeking customer feedback and making adjustments to your offering based upon the insights you collect.
Our blog on How a focus on customer experience drives business growth offers a wealth of tips and strategies for making small changes that have a huge impact on your customer journey.
Five: Consider a loyalty program
Give your best customers a reason to come back. This can take many forms, from a percentage-off or a dollar discount through to a two-for-one deal. It’s a good idea to test out different offers to determine what appeals the most to your customers.
Six: Become a leading source of information through content marketing
One of the ways that Bunnings has cornered the home renovation market is through content marketing; their website is a hub for how-to guides, videos and all kinds of value-adding content that their customers love.
Almost any business can use this same tactic; simply give away all your best content for free. What this does is give customers a great reason to visit your website, keeping your brand top-of-mind for when they do find themselves in need of your product or service. This tactic also helps position you as an industry expert and build customer trust and goodwill towards your brand.
If repeat business isn’t on the cards, then focus on its close cousin – referrals
Some offerings just don’t lend themselves to frequent repeat custom. That doesn’t mean you should ditch the whole list of customer retention strategies. I mentor business owners that increasing positive reviews and referrals are two of the most powerful marketing strategies around. Therefore, it is still worthwhile building strong relationships with customers on the basis that they become ambassadors for your brand.
You can improve the chances of customer referrals by taking one simple action: asking. Yes, this can be uncomfortable at first, but it may help to sweeten the deal (by offering an incentive) or to keep an ear out for natural point during a follow up call to request the referral. For example, if a customer expresses that they are very happy with their experience, strike while the iron is hot and ask them to spread the word by leaving a review or telling a friend.
A customer in the CRM is worth two in the pipeline
There’s no question that increasing repeat purchases is the most cost-effective way to increase sales and profitability. As a business coach, as much as I mentor business owners to spend an appropriate amount of time, effort and resources on activities that fill the sales funnel, there’s much to be said for catching customers as they come out the spout (ie make a purchase). By strengthening the customer relationship, you’ll prevent valuable customers wandering off towards the competition. By closing the loop, you’ll be well ahead of the rest.
image source: ‘See You Again’ by Marco Verch, original photo license