Your returning customers have value that new customers do not. One way to look at this is from a marketing perspective. The value of your customers can be measured by Cost-Per-Lead and Cost-Per-Sale (the cost of acquiring a sale or customer). Your profit from any customer or account is the difference between your sales total and CPS. If you know what it costs to acquire a sale, its quite simple to measure the return you get for your investment.
But even without running the numbers, its apparent that returning customers are of high value. Without them, you’re going to have to pay a premium to acquire sales. Additionally, returning customers will strengthen your marketing overall (which, again, improves your CPL and CPS).
How do they do this? By Word-of-Mouth recommendations. We consider WOM its own form of marketing, and an essential part of your funnel Indeed, it is your most cost-effective and credible form of marketing. If you treat it as one of your marketing channels, you’ll reduce your reliance on other forms of marketing (for practices that will strengthen your WOM, see this post).
Other channels, of course, are important --- but they’re more expensive and less effective. If you’re under performing in WOM, you’re entire marketing engine is under performing. And if your marketing engine is under performing, so is your business.
Think about it: CPL and CPS are just part of your operating expenses...and your profits are whatever you make on top of your operating expenses. Building strong relationships will increase the difference between CPL/CPS and total sales.
Of course, if you’re reading this at all, you probably don’t need to be convinced any further --- you just need strategies. Here’s what we suggest:
1. Strong communication
---honesty & transparency
---value based conversations
Never assume that “no complaints = happy, satisfied, and loyal.” Many people will not voice their complaints. Maybe its out of politeness; maybe its because they feel its a waste of their time. But if you make it easy for them to voice their complaints, and let them know that their feedback is important, they’ll be more forthcoming.
Think of the customer’s experience with your brand as one extended dialogue --- the first encounter via your marketing or branding, the first sale, every follow up, and every recurring sale. Your repeated efforts to answer your client’s questions, to let them know that you’re available, and to make sure they are certain about the deal they’re getting, will all help them feel comfortable with you.
We recommend having a system that allows you to keep the dialogue going. Maybe that’s just a standard follow-up call with every sale. Maybe once per week, you go through all your clients and make sure you’ve spoken with them at least once. If you haven’t, just call them to say hi, ask an important question, or share something useful. This will give them a chance to bring up anything that’s been in the back of their mind.
Also, notice our use of the word dialogue. Give them a chance to talk. If they don’t have much to say, you shouldn’t either. There’s nothing wrong with a quick hello. Keep in mind that the point of calling them isn’t to demonstrate what a solid, reliable person you are --- its to provide them with value, IE information or an opportunity. And that will ultimately make them think of you favorably.
Finally, make an effort to provide transparency. Customers shouldn’t have to trust you blindly, and they’ll notice if you do more than the competition to erase uncertainty they might have about, say, why things are priced the way they are, or why you can’t share this detail about how your product is made.
2. Be reliable
---Never expect or assume trust
--- earn it
.---keep your promises
---answer the phone and/or return calls promptly
Let us return to this topic of uncertainty, because it’s a big one. To the customer, uncertainty can be a nagging feeling that’s hard to identify. This doesn’t exactly put them at ease. Ultimately, you want your customers to be comfortable doing business with you. The best way to do that, of course, is to earn their trust...by being trustworthy.
Its easy to forget that others have no reason to trust you. You know that you’re reliable. Your friends know it. But customers only know that you want their money. They shouldn’t trust you, until they have a reason to. And you shouldn’t want them to.
Again, practice transparency. Make sure they know what they’re getting into, and why things have to be done this way or that way. Do what you say you will, even when there’s no harm caused by not following through. Every promise is an opportunity to demonstrate that when you say something will happen, it happens.
Finally, be available. Answer the phone and return calls and emails promptly. Make it easy and comfortable for them to ask questions. They might be worried that you’ll think their question is stupid. They might be worried that you’re busy, and they’re asking more of you than they’ve rightly paid for. These things might sound silly to you, but you probably know some people in your personal life who are like that. Why wouldn’t some of your customers be?
The rest, of course, comes down to providing value. Ideally, your business is one that can provide value that nobody else can. Building relationships is part of that, of course. The customer cares about a lot more than price, assuming your business has more to offer than a competitive price. They care about how they’re treated. Remember, there’s more than just price to the cost of doing business with any supplier. There’s an investment of time, and there’s always risk. There’s long term cost-of-ownership to consider.
Just because a supplier provides something at a lower price doesn’t mean that its the more profitable option for the customer in the long run. A helpful way to think about the customer’s experience is to analyze your own experiences as a customer. Are you loyal to any particular business for reasons other than price? Why? Are these strengths that you can develop in your own business?