We all know that it is cheaper to win business from an existing customer than to find a new one. Even so, it's easy to take long-term customers for granted. The danger is that once you start to take them for granted, you begin to lose them.
No matter what your business, your customers have a relationship with you. The stronger the relationship they have with you, the more loyal they will be. It'll then be harder for a competitor to lure them away.
I've mentioned before the parallels between buying decisions and relationships. The process of nurturing a new customer is similar in many ways to meeting and dating a new love.
And the parallel doesn't end there. In both situations, it’s not uncommon to find that relationships somehow get neglected over time. We are all familiar with divorce rates reported in the press. Do you know how many of your long-term customers quietly decide to move to a competitor?
If your sale is quite transactional, It’s easy to forget that you need to sustain your customer relationships to avoid them drifting away.
So how do we “keep the magic alive”? Funnily enough, this might start to sound a little like marriage advice:
1. Keep the communication going
I’m not talking about regularity of communication here – although that is also important. I’m talking about “spending quality time together”. In many businesses, the only communication with customers is purely functional, such as emails about service updates or business news. These businesses are like the married couple who only talk about who’s picking up the kids tonight and what time they have to be at Auntie Jill’s on Saturday.
Think about how you can connect with your customers for other, more engaging, reasons. Let your brand’s personality shine through, especially if your business is quite quirky or fun. Even it if your business is quite conservative, you are still human beings and people buy from people. How can you show your human side to your customers to strengthen the relationship you have with them?
Whatever you do, keep it fun and engaging.
2. Show you appreciate them
Hopefully you thanked your client when they first bought from you, but have you continued to thank them?
Last week Ocado sent me a voucher for £10 off wine or chocolates because I’ve been their customer for 4 years. The marketer in me knows it was an automated email with an automated voucher code. Even so, as a human being it spoke to the emotional part of my brain and I felt appreciated. This simple automated email reignited the emotional connection.
3. Be honest
We're all human and sometimes we all make mistakes. But when this happens in your business, always be upfront and honest about it. Explain, apologise and make things right by the customer. Sometimes it's not our fault: a supplier lets us down or our system fails at the wrong moment. But when something happens that is outside your control, don’t make excuses. Take the hit and make it right.
If you go above and beyond to help a customer then they will value you so much more for it. The companies I am most loyal to – as a customer – are not the ones who have never made mistakes. They are the ones who dealt with those mistakes best
4. Never stop givinG
The best marriage advice I’ve ever received was “Love isn’t something you feel, love is something you do.”
I don’t want to put the rubbish out when its dark and raining, but I love my husband so I do (even when it’s his turn sometimes).
In Watertight Marketing, Bryony talks about “being helpful” to customers at the Trial stage of the buying process, but are you continuing to be helpful to your customers after they have bought?
What useful content, tips or advice would you customers want to receive that might reaffirm your helpfulness in their minds? Again, a newsletter is a great tool here to regularly provide customers with relevant, valuable content. However, if your business is very relational then you might prefer to send personalised emails or letters to your key long-term clients.
Remember that all your customers have a relationship with you and you with them. Neglect that relationship and they will forget why they bought from you in the first place. And this will make them much more easily swayed by a competitor’s offer. Continue to nurture them after they buy from you and your customers will stay loyal.
If you don't know whether your marketing supports your loyal customers as well as it could, drop me a phone call, email or message and I'll be happy to talk it over with you and see if we can find a way to make it better.
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