Discover the 4 different ways in which you can grow customer relationships face-to-face…

How to use face-to-face interactions for customer retention.

How to use face-to-face interactions for customer retention.

There are so many awesome technologies for staying in touch these days. And I use just about all of them to keep in touch with my dad… he lives in England, on the other side of the world to me.

We email each other most days; send SMS (text messages) for news we want to share right away; we talk on the phone; sometimes we Skype; and we send cards in the mail.

Sure, it’s great to have all this… but there’s nothing like seeing each other in person. Being able to take trips together, laugh together, hug. There’s nothing like seeing each other face-to-face, and when it’s been a while since we’ve had that connection, we really start craving it.

The connection with your customers isn’t quite as strong as this family bond, but the same rules apply.

Customers value face-to-face contact as well

Though you may not hug your customers, they will value face-to-face interactions from time to time!

This may depend on your industry to some extent… but even if you have an ecommerce website, and minimal customer interaction, it doesn’t mean you should rule this out completely.

Personal interactions move the business relationship from being a transaction to being, well, a relationship…

Transactions are cold, clinical, impersonal. If you merely transact business, your product or service becomes a commodity, and customers are quickly lured away to cheaper competitors. (Read: How to get your Customers to Climb the Magic Beanstalk of Customer Loyalty.)

But if you take the business relationship to a more personal level, customers become emotionally invested in it. The deeper the connection, the less likely that customers will be lured to a competitor. It’s up to you to deepen that connection, and face-to-face interactions are the way to do it.

What kinds of face-to-face interactions for customer retention are there?

There are 4 broad types of face-to-face interactions for customer retention:

face-to-face-customer-interactions

Which type(s) of customer interaction should you choose?

The kinds of customer interactions you select depend on your business or industry. For example, group events generally work well for B2C (business-to-consumer) companies. Whether they work for B2B (business-to-business) organisations depends on the extent of the rivalry between the customers. I’ve worked in some industries, where customers are bitter rivals, and putting them in the same room together would be a seriously bad idea.

But in other industries, the competition between customers is friendlier – or non-existent even. So it’s up to you to decide what’s relevant for the business you’re in.

Another consideration is your budget

The amount that you spend on face-to-face interactions depends on the profitability of your customers. You need to keep that aligned with your expenses.

In practical terms, it can mean tiering your customers into different levels: it’s perfectly OK to take just your top 5% or 20% (or however many) of your customers out for lunch.

But what if you don’t want to have lunch with a customer?

If the thought of having lunch with a customer makes you cringe, then it may be best not to do it. Assess each case individually.

After all, not all customers are the same, and not everyone likes being taken out to lunch.

The whole purpose of this exercise is to interact in a way that’ll deepen the relationship, and for that to happen the other party has to enjoy the experience! So if you think that lunch together would be a big flop, then don’t do it.

Again, it’s up to you to make the call as to what’s suitable – and what simply won’t work.

If socialising is a no-no, then focus on work-related catch-ups. That’s fine. The important thing is that you do schedule them!

Schedule year-round customer interactions

Imagine if I didn’t phone or email my dad for 3 months. He’d be pretty upset, right? Good relationships need regular contact, and the same applies with your customers.

So make sure that you schedule regular catch-ups with your customers throughout the year. Diarise reminders. Do what you need to do to make them happen.

And again, it’s fine to tier customers into different levels: it’s not practical or helpful to visit every customer every week. After all, not all customers are created equal; they don’t all spend the same amount with you.

For example, in one company where I worked, the Business Development Managers in the sales team had different schedules for different customers. The A-Grade customers would get a visit every month, and phone calls in-between times at least once a week. (These customers needed a lot of servicing.) The B-Grade customers may receive a visit every quarter, and phone calls every two weeks. And the C-Grade customers would get one visit a year, and a monthly phone call… that’s all that was needed (or was relevant) to the smaller customers. What you do depends on your customers, and also the resources you have available to you.

What about industries where face-to-face interactions are tricky?

If seeing customers one-on-one isn’t possible, try to organise a seminar or workshop once or twice a year… if it’s appropriate to your business, of course.

Or if you really can’t manage that, at least fill in the gaps with other media: after all, you have snail mail, email, social media, Skype/instant messaging, the telephone and SMS (text messaging) available to you… make the most of it!

After all, while my dad understands that I can’t visit him as often as I’d like, I at least make up for that in other ways! And you should do the same with your customers. Whereas family bonds are hard to break, customer bonds are far more fragile and you need to treat them as such.

Summary

  • Face-to-face interactions deepen business relationships, which can help with your customer retention.
  •  There are 4 different types of face-to-face interactions you can have with your customers: they can be work-related, fun, one-on-one or group events.
  • The nature of the interactions will depend on your industry, budget and resources… as well as what your customer will enjoy.
  • Ideally, you should schedule face-to-face interactions all year round, though it can be worth tiering your customers so that the attention they receive is in line with their spend.
  • If you really can’t spend time face-to-face with your customers, make the most of all the other media you have available to you: snail mail, email, social media, Skype/instant messaging, the telephone and SMS (text messaging).

 

Business thank you cards: How to grow your business with two little words

Business thank you cards are an easy and effective way to show your appreciation.

Business thank you cards are an easy and effective way to show your appreciation.

Have you ever tried training a dog to obey some basic commands?

“Sit”, “stay”, “drop”… that kind of thing.

Well, the key to obedience training is to give the dog a reward when it performs a task well. That treat could be food, or a toy, or a pat… whatever motivates the dog. That way, the dog learns what’s good behaviour, and being people-pleasers, they’ll repeat the good behaviour. (Well, most of the time… let’s just say that my west highland terrier can be a little stubborn!)

On the other hand, losing your temper with a dog won’t get you very far at all. They won’t really want to obey you… perhaps through fear, but hopefully I only have people who are nice to animals reading this blog.

I digress… the point is that rewards encourage good, positive behaviour. And we as humans aren’t really that much different.

Yes, both the proverbial sticks and carrots can motivate humans. I for one respond far, far better to carrots and will avoid the stick-strewn path at all costs. But a nice reward? Yes, please!

A “thank you” is a very simple reward to give

The simplest way to show your appreciation of a job done well is to say just two little words: “thank you”.

Saying “thank you” is easy, effortless, and it doesn’t cost you a bean.

However, in my view, these two little words aren’t used anywhere near often in enough in business.

Why bother saying thank you in business?

Why say “thank you” in business when you’ve paid hard-earned money for a product or service? You’re entitled to receive what you’ve paid for, after all!

The reason why it’s worth saying “thank you” is because that product or service has been delivered by a person. A person with feelings, emotions, worries, concerns, dreams, frustrations… in short, a person like you or like me. (And not some kind of work robot.)

The person delivering you the product or service may have had to make personal sacrifices to deliver it on time. Perhaps they’ve been up all night with a sick child. Perhaps they’re supporting a frail relative. Perhaps their boss is a mean ol’ slavedriver. Perhaps their car broke down earlier in the day.

OK, so there may not have been any such sacrifice, but a sincere “thank you” is always appreciated. What’s more, saying a heart-felt “thank you” also encourages future good service delivery from that person. Yes, it’s a bit like rewarding a dog… they’ll be nice to you if you’re nice to them.

The key is to be sincere when saying “thank you”

An insincere thank you is demotivating. For example, I used to have a boss who’d handwrite his instructions for me, and at the end he always wrote “thx”. I always thought that this was rude and slapdash – he can’t really be thankful, if he can’t even be bothered to write “thanks” in full!

Yes, I realise I’m reading waaaaay too much into the “thx”, but the point remains that a “thank you” should be sincere if you want it to have the desired motivational effect. And in my view, there’s no way that’s more sincere than sending a “thank you” card…

Thank you cards? Isn’t that a bit old-fashioned?

Yes, it may be old-fashioned to send business thank you cards but, as the saying goes, “manners maketh man” (or woman). Sending a thank you card is a classy touch that will elevate you far above your competitors.

Here are some extracts from one of my favourite business authors, Paddi Lund, which help to explain why I’m so passionate about thank you cards:

“Politeness is the oil of the wheels of society.

Most people believe that they should be polite to strangers. They know that if they are not, the strangers will not like them and not be polite in return. When strangers are not polite people feel offended and unloved: feelings that make for unhappiness and no one wants to be unhappy.

If it is important to be polite to strangers so that the social interaction we have with them makes for happiness, then surely it must be even more important to be polite to people who are intimates and have much more power to make our life unhappy.

All social graces are learned. If our parents did not educate us in the niceties of social eating, everyone would feel nauseated when at the table in our company.

Social behaviour is something we are taught. It is not instinctive. We learn how to walk gracefully, not to eject gas from our bodies noisily in company and to blow our noses without contaminating those around us. Almost every behaviour we have has been learned and practised. Why not a few more?

Politeness affirms the dignity of the people with whom we communicate.”

Source: ‘Building the Happiness-Centred Business’, Dr. Paddi Lund

In short: I think it’s rude not to say thank you in some form (be it verbally or written), and putting it in writing is a thoughtful, classy way to do it.

I used to hate writing thank you cards as a kid, but now I’m a few years older I realise how nice it is to be appreciated!

After all, when was the last time you received business thank you cards from your suppliers? I bet that you don’t receive many business thank you cards… so when you do receive one (and it’s a nice, sincere, thoughtful one), it gets noticed. Sending thank you cards is an effective way to differentiate your business and elevate it above your competitors.

Best of all, you have many opportunities to send business thank you cards.

What could you send business thank you cards for?

There are numerous opportunities to use thank you cards in business, and I’d encourage you to embrace as many of them as possible.

Some ideas are:

  • Thank you for choosing me to work with you (pre-project)
  • Thank you for the work (ad-hoc projects)
  • Thank you for the ongoing work
  • Thank you for a great referral
  • Thank you for the meeting/lunch/catch-up/other nice thing
  • Thank you for you testimonial.

Crunch your numbers

As with any other marketing tactic, you should crunch your numbers first to make sure that sending business thank you cards is viable. For example, there’s no point sending business thank you cards if your average dollar sale is very low… the cost/benefit analysis simply won’t stack up.

But if you’re in a reasonably high value/high margin business, it’s worth a look.

When it comes to sourcing and sending the cards, I have some more tips for you…

Some design tips for your business thank you cards…

For the thank you card to make an impact, it needs to look great. Use high-quality store-bought cards if you need to. Or better still, get some customised cards designed and printed, with your company details on the reverse.

Pay good attention to the design on the front, and ask if it’s something you’d want to display in your home or office.

I’ve seen some terrible thank you cards: two particular ones stick in my mind:

  • The first one had just the business’ logo on the front (very large) with the words “thank you” underneath. It was quite ugly.
  • The second card had just the business owner’s photo on the front. While I like the business owner, I didn’t really want to look at a photograph of him every day.

Let’s just say I appreciated the gesture from these business owners, but these particular cards were filed in my bin rather than pinned up on my noticeboard…

I’d suggest you get a good graphic designer to make something reasonably stylish for you.

If, like me, you need your cards to be multi-purpose, then keep the wording on the front a simple “thank you”. (And the inside blank, so you can write whatever you need to say.)

If you can afford to have multiple thank you cards for different purposes, that’s cool. You might consider:

  • Thank you for your business (or: Thank you for your valued business)
  • Thank you for your referral
  • Thank you for shopping with us
  • … and you can get a message printed inside, too.

Be sure to handwrite at least some of the thank you card

For the thank you card to have maximum impact, it is vital that you handwrite the inside… or at least some of it, e.g. the recipient’s name and your signature.

(If the entire card is pre-printed, it is lacking in sincerity… remember, the whole point of the thank you is relationship building, and that needs the personal touch in this instance.)

Personally I handwrite the entire message… yes, my handwriting is scrawly and ugly, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the personal touch and the effort that’s gone into it that counts.

Save time with business thank you card scripts

Do you find yourself writing similarly worded thank you cards time and time again?

Make a note of your most common scripts, and refer to them. It’ll save lots of head scratching “what shall I write” moments.

Why you need to be careful when selecting envelopes for thank you cards

Envelope choice isn’t something that most business owners stop to think about, but you can influence the recipient’s perception of the card before they even open it.

Do not use the same kind of envelope that you send your invoices or statements in: the recipient will recognise these, and their emotional bank balance will go into the negative end of the scale before they’ve even seen what’s inside. This is not the impact you want!

Instead, choose an envelope that’s a different colour, or maybe even a different size.

For example, I send my official business correspondence (i.e. the boring stuff) in plain white envelopes that are DLE sized (to fit A4 paper folded into three). But my business thank you card envelopes are C6 size (to fit a card that folds to A6 size), and they’re usually cream coloured or maybe silver. And the address is handwritten.

The standout envelope means that there’s a bit of anticipation building before the recipient even opens the card.

Consider putting some goodies inside the thank you card

An additional way to build anticipation before the recipient opens the card is to put some goodies inside. That will make the envelope bulky, so it’ll be even more obvious that this envelope contains something nice and fun – and that it’s not an invoice!

Make sure that the goodies you enclose add to your brand’s message and match the quality of your product or service.

For example, my thank you cards generally contain high quality Swiss chocolates. That’s a nod to my Swiss heritage, but it also reinforces the quality of what I do.

Thus each card sends me a few dollars to send… and I can think of no other way to deliver such a “wow” factor for such a small amount of money and effort.

My approach to business thank you cards is one of the key reasons why I enjoy a high rate of repeat business, as well as oodles of quality referrals. In keeping with The Leaky Bathtub Marketing Principle, I work hard to ensure that my customers feel valued, so they keep coming back for more.

In fact, I frequently receive a “thank you for the thank you card” email or phone message from the recipient, simply because they’re so impressed… and really, it’s such a small gesture!

Sending business thank you cards promptly and consistently is important

If you decide that sending business thank you cards could work for you, there are two final factors to consider: promptness and consistency.

  • Promptness: You should send the thank you card as soon as possible after the event in order for it to be perceived as being sincere (and not an afterthought). Note that if you’re sending thank you cards to your customers thanking them for their business, the most appropriate time to say thank you is immediately after the customer has made their payment. The thank you is more sincere that way.
  • Consistency: You need a system in place to ensure that you send out the cards consistently, month after month. If you send cards some months, but not others, your customers will wonder why. They may think that if you’re not sending business thank you cards any more (a) you no longer value them, or (b) your standards have slipped and your product or service is no longer up to scratch.

I must admit that it is the promptness and consistency factors that I struggle with the most in my business… when it gets busy, it’s a juggling act. Balls get dropped, but that’s no excuse. This particular aspect of my customer retention programme is important, and I need to make time for it, no matter how busy I am.

After all, I always make time to walk my (not-very-obedient) dog, so it’s easy to combine a trip to the mailbox with a dog walk.

My New Year resolution for next year? To be more prompt and more consistent with sending business thank you cards… maybe I could train my dog to remind me?! 😉

Summary

  • Saying “thank you” is a simple way to show your appreciation and encourage/reward good behaviour in business.
  • People like to feel appreciated.
  • Thank-yous must be sincere in order for them to have the desired effect.
  • Sending thank you cards is a classy way to say thank you.
  • There are numerous opportunities to say “thank you” in business.
  • Crunch your numbers to make sure that this marketing tactic is viable for your business.
  • It’s worth paying attention to the design of your business thank you cards.
  • Handwrite at least some of the thank you card message.
  • If you send a lot of thank you cards, write out scripts for the most common message types that you can refer back to.
  • Choose nice envelopes for your thank you cards, so it doesn’t look like an invoice!
  • For an even bigger “wow” factor, put some goodies inside the thank you card.
  • Send the thank you cards promptly and consistently.
  • Sending thank you cards can help with your customer retention rates and referral rates.

 

Why social media is both great and terrible for customer retention campaigns

Social media for customer retentionHello, my name’s Cornelia and I’ve been a Facebook user since 2007.

Yes, it’s true, I’m a long-time Facebook user. I’ve had Facebook business Pages since 2008. And you can also find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. In fact, at the time of writing, I’ve got 4 Twitter profiles and 4 Facebook Pages, each for a different brand of my business (because each brand has a different target market).

That doesn’t mean that I love social media as a business tool

So you might be surprised that I have reservations about social media as a business tool. You might (wrongly) assume that I’ve jumped on the hype bandwagon.

Here’s the thing… I’ve used social media to test and measure things. And I’ve learned some important lessons that I’m going to share here with you.

1. Social media only works as a business tool if your customers and prospects are using it too

Before you decide that you’re going to use Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or whatever, make sure that your audience is actually using it too! I’ve seen too many business owners jump in, and engage in a nice conversation… with themselves.

Or other times they’ve started using (for example) Twitter… but their audience doesn’t use Twitter, they’re over at LinkedIn.

Talking to yourself gets pretty boring after a while, so do some research first!

2. Not everyone will see your updates

No matter which social media site you’re using, not all of your followers will see your updates.

For one thing, social media requires users to actually log in and check for updates. So if your audience is busy, they won’t see your posts.

What’s more, social media news feeds move fast. Depending on how active your contact is, anything more than an hour or two old won’t get seen.

And on top of this, your Facebook Page will only be seen by 10-20% of your fans… unless you pay Facebook to promote your updates.

3. You need to be comfortable using social media

It is soooooo obvious when a business owner isn’t comfortable with social media. The updates are generally sporadic, uninteresting, stilted and not engaging. (And remember, the whole point of this social media malarkey is to engage and interact.)

You either need to learn to get comfortable with it, or get someone who loves it (and understands your business inside out) to write the updates for you.

4. Check your profile regularly

Here’s another reason why you should love social media if you’re going to use it as a business tool: you need to check your profile regularly.

If a follower makes a comment on your page, or asks you a question, it’s a really bad look for your business if you don’t reply promptly. That can do more damage to your business reputation than it can do good. So if you can’t check your profile regularly (and respond as needed), it may be best to leave social media alone.

After all, it is called ‘social’ media… not ‘unsocial’ media. 😉

5. Commit to making regular updates

To keep readers engaged, you need to make updates regularly.

So what is ‘regularly’? In my years of using Facebook Pages and Twitter, I’ve found that I need to make one update daily to keep people engaged. Any less than that, and things start stagnating. (i.e. no new followers/likes, not many website click-throughs.)

You may also need to experiment with different days of the week. For example, for The Leaky Bathtub, I usually post Monday to Friday on Facebook. I experimented with posting at weekends too, but those weekend posts didn’t get seen, as my followers were busy doing other things.

But on Twitter, the most important time for me to post as Minnie The Westie (my cartoon dog) is at weekends, either early morning or in the evening. My audience is either in the UK or US, and they tend to check their accounts at the weekend more than during the week.

6. Posting quality content is vital

Regularly posting quality content is important to keep your readers engaged, yet this is something that many small business owners really struggle with.

Again, it comes down to having a love for social media. You can learn a lot by seeing what others are posting, and what kind of responses they get.

It’s also a balancing act between promotional posts and other (fun) stuff; you need to strike a balance. Aim to make no more than 5% to 10% of your posts promotional. And keep your content varied.

For example, on Facebook that means a mix of links to articles; posting photos (that you have copyright of); links to videos; and so on.

7. If you’re a service business, you need to understand the limitations of social media

If you’re in a service business that offers one-on-one help, you need to be aware that people are buying you, not your business. That means that trust is really important… and it’s almost impossible to build that trust through social media alone.

Your website can help to build trust. But if you’re in a service business, word of mouth referrals are your key new business tool. So don’t expect social media to bring you an army of new customers: that’s very unlikely. Treat social media as a customer retention tool (if your customers are using social media, etc.).

It’s even hard to grow your Facebook ‘likers’ when you’re a service business. Think about it: have you ‘liked’ any service businesses that you haven’t personally used or met? Chances are, that when you’re a service business, most of your ‘likes’ will be from friends, colleagues, clients, and strategic alliance partners. And that’s OK: quality is more important than quantity.

It’s a bit different when you’re selling a product; there’s less perceived risk. People can return a product if they don’t like it. Product sales aren’t usually so personal.

Example: I’ve sold a good amount of Minnie The Westie cartoon dog books because of my social media work; but I’ve never (so far!) received a copywriting or marketing consulting client through my social media work. But that’s okay. The copywriting and consulting has a longer, more involved sales process. And it’s got a higher price tag than a $20 cartoon book.

So just keep things in perspective, and remember that quality is more important than quantity. 🙂

8. To attract new customers via social media, you will need to invest a lot more time and/or money

Just because I haven’t made copywriting or consulting sales through social media doesn’t mean that it’s not possible. It just means that my one-post-a-day approach isn’t enough.

You can make sales through social media. But it requires a far greater investment of time and/or money. For example, you may need to pay to promote your updates. Or pay for Facebook ads.

That’s a whole different ball game. And personally, it’s one I’ve chosen not to play (so far). Why? My target market clients aren’t great users of social media. Yes, my strategic alliance partners are on social media, but not my target customers. And there’s no point paying for advertisements to my strategic alliance partners when I can engage with them in other ways that are more personal and make a greater impact.

9. You need to test and measure how you’re doing

If you do use social media, check your Google Analytics to see how much traffic the different sites are sending you, and how engaged those users are. Metrics such as ‘time on site’, ‘bounce rate’ and ‘pages per visit’ are important here.

For me, I’ve found that Facebook users tend to be more engaged than Twitter users. (Even for Minnie The Westie, where I’m far more active on Twitter than Facebook.) Yet I’ve made sales to both Facebook and Twitter users.

As for Pinterest? In my view, it’s not worth the bother. The click-through rates are low, and Pinterest users are browsers, not buyers.

So how can you use social media as a customer retention tool?

Despite all my social media myth-busting, you can use it as an effective customer retention tool. I just think it’s important to be realistic about social media, because so many of the so-called ‘gurus’ are toting it as the latest and greatest thing ever. Sure, it has its uses (and, of course, it’s free!) but when you’re a small business owner with limited resources, you need to keep things real.

If you take heed of the tips above, social media can be a great way to get your clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

Why? Because if you use social media well, it can not only keep your raving fans engaged (and give them material to rave about), but it can even help create more raving fans… provided you dazzle them with your awesome updates.

Here’s how you can use social medial for your customer retention campaigns:

1. Offer value-added tips

Do you have website or blog articles that your clients will find useful? Then link to them from your social media profiles!

(Just like I’ll be linking to this article from my Facebook Page, Twitter account and LinkedIn profile.)

Tip: if you have a specific customer that will find your article useful, but isn’t on social media, then send them the link in a personal email. That’s another way you can stay in touch, and they’ll appreciate the fact that you thought of them.

2. Use social media as a customer service tool

Social media isn’t about you or your brand; it’s about your customers. It’s a tool for two-way communication… and every so often you might encounter a customer with a complaint or problem.

So how should you handle customer complaints made via social media?

For one thing, you need to check your social media profiles regularly, to keep on top of things. Replying promptly is important: the sooner you can nip any issues in the bud and rectify them, the better. It’s important to view any complaints as an opportunity to put things right. Always be professional and courteous – even if the customer isn’t acting this way… remember, you have an audience watching.

If a customer does get angry or abusive, communicate via email or direct messages (via the social media platform). There’s no need to wash that dirty laundry in public!

Customer complaints are an opportunity to gain customer loyalty

Yes, it’s true: customer complaints can actually help clients climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty!

Statistics show that 7 out 10 people who’ve had a complaint resolved fairly will continue to do business with that company. Using social media as a customer service tool is a great PR tool to create positive publicity, provided you do it well.

(No, I’m not saying that you should get people to complain on purpose; but if they do, see it as an opportunity rather than a complete negative.)

Note: don’t think that by avoiding social media you can avoid negative publicity. People will still talk about you; the difference is that if you’re part of the conversation you have a greater chance of influencing the outcome in a positive way.

3. Share customer news, success stories and articles

Use your social media profile to share your customers’ successes! They will appreciate the fact that you’re helping to promote them.

You can do this whether you client is on social media or not. If they are on social media, then sharing their updates is quite easy (with the share or Retweet function), and they’ll see that they’ve done this.

If they’re not on social media, write your own update, and link to their website (if that’s appropriate). And tell the customer that you’ve promoted their business. After all, if you’re going to do something nice for your customer, you might as well tell them about it, so that they can appreciate you!

4. Make important announcements

Got something new, different or interesting to announce? Post it on your social media profile! Blow your own trumpet every now and again! (Just don’t do it too often, as that’s very off-putting.)

However, don’t rely on social media alone. Not everyone will see your announcement on social media, and if you don’t make any other attempts to communicate it (a) your announcement will fall flat, and (b) that’s very lazy.

If you’ve got a new product, or some other special announcement, you need to tell your customer base (and your strategic alliance partners) in a more personal way. Consider email or mail – or, better still, both.

5. Drive traffic to your own website and build your own opt-in list

Work at putting quality information on your own website, and encourage your followers to click through to your site. Most importantly of all, get them to sign up to your own email opt-in list while they’re there.

Why bother doing that when they’re already following you on social media?

It’s very dangerous to build your business on someone else’s property. And if you’re relying on social media to connect you with your clients and prospects, you’re building your business on very dangerous territory, my friend.

You don’t own Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. They could disappear overnight… and where would you be then?

Or they might change their rules. (Just look at how often Facebook makes changes, and each time they do there’s a lot of grumbling from users, and people closing their accounts.) You have no control over this. And you absolutely must have control of your client and prospect list. So getting these opt-ins is vital to the continued health and success of your business.

Whilst social media is an okay tool for customer retention, email marketing is a great tool for customer retention. I’ll cover the ins and outs of email marketing later in this series. 🙂

Summary

  • Before you dip into the world of social media as a business tool, there are certain things you need to be aware of:
    1. Social media only works as a business tool if your customers and prospects are using it too
    2. Not everyone will see your updates
    3. You need to be comfortable using social media
    4. Check your profile regularly
    5. Commit to making regular updates
    6. Posting quality content is vital
    7. If you’re a service business, you need to understand the limitations of social media
    8. To attract new customers via social media, you will need to invest a lot more time and/or money
    9. You need to test and measure how you’re doing
  • You can use social media as a customer retention tool in the following ways:
    1. Offer value-added tips
    2. Use social media as a customer service tool
    3. Share customer news, success stories and articles
    4. Make important announcements
    5. Drive traffic to your own website and build your own opt-in list
  • It is dangerous to rely too much on social media, as you have no control over it. Focus on growing your own opt-in list so that you have maximum control.

 

Customer retention doesn’t happen by itself: How to get your customers to climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty

In the ideal world we’d like our customers to come back to us again and again… after all, customers are the lifeblood of any business. No customers = no business!

But don’t customers come back anyway?

No! 68% of customers defect through perceived indifference:

Customer retention campaigns are vital, so that you don't lose 68% of clients through 'perceived indifference'.

Customer retention campaigns are vital, so that you don’t lose 68% of clients through ‘perceived indifference’.

We have to put time, effort and resources into ensuring our customers come back, and that’s why customer retention campaigns are so important.

Is it really worth putting in this effort into repeat business?

Yes, absolutely! It’s 6 or 7 times more expensive to find a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer. So if you need to be careful about your marketing expenditure (and which small business doesn’t!), then it makes sense to focus on your customer retention campaigns. Not only can it mean more repeat business, but also more referrals.

Why customer retention campaigns can boost your word of mouth referrals

If you’re regularly contacting your best customers in a helpful, proactive way, chances are they’ll be impressed by your care and attention. They’ll feel valued and appreciated… and that means that they’re likely to tell all their friends about your business too. This can transform many customers into being Advocates or Raving Fans, who’ll do your marketing for you.

In short, you’re helping your clients climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty. (This is a concept covered in my book ‘The Leaky Bathtub‘.)

The key to customer retention is to get clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

The key to customer retention is to get clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

Notice the topics of customer retention and customer loyalty are very much related. Why? Because it takes a happy, satisfied customer to become an advocate or raving fan.

Let’s take quick look at the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty

Most of these levels are fairly self-explanatory. The one thing that does tend to surprise business owners is the ‘Shopper’. That is, that someone who’s bought from you once is not a customer – they are just trying you out.

If you have a lot of shoppers, you have a problem, and marketing alone won’t fix this. You need to ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your product/service of an adequate standard?
  • Is your product/service priced at a level to match its quality?
  • How good and consistent is your customer service?
  • Are you regularly maintaining contact with your clients? Not just to sell them more, but in a way that adds value and makes them feel appreciated?

Assuming that you’re happy with your answers to those questions, you can now focus on how to get your clients to climb that magic beanstalk of loyalty.

Clients won’t climb this magic beanstalk of loyalty by themselves

Although you might get some raving fans without trying, most clients need a little more encouragement to climb this magic beanstalk of customer loyalty. They need a reason to climb it, and it’s your job to give them those reasons.

Not all clients have a head for heights

Even if you do all the right things, not all clients will climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty. It’s impossible to convince everyone to be a raving fan. For some people, it’s simply not part of their personality to gush and enthuse about other businesses.

Or for others, maybe the fact that they use your product or service is their little secret that’s very personal to them. It doesn’t mean they don’t love what you do, it’s just that they want to keep it to themselves.

And that’s okay: they’ll appreciate that you’re keeping in touch with them anyway, and will help to ensure that they’ll remain a loyal customer. They may climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty as far as ‘Member’ level, and that’s fine too.

Besides, so what if a certain percentage of clients don’t climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty all the way to the top? That’s okay too, because many others will – provided you give them a reason to climb.

How to get your clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty

The good news is that you have lots of tools and media to encourage your clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty. And many of these are low cost, too.

Here are the different media you have available to you to help you with your customer retention (and to get clients to climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty):

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Mail
  • Phone
  • Face-to-face

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be writing about each of these five media, so you can see how to use these tools, their pluses, and their negative aspects.

What you need to know about these different customer retention media

These media vary in terms of effectiveness, and you need to be aware of this. I’ve seen far too many business owners use just one tool (or maybe two tools), and think that’s enough.

For your message to really get through, you need to be using as many of these media as you can, and as effectively as you can. People are incredibly busy these days, and if you use just one medium, your business will appear flat and one-dimensional. The more media you use, the more multi-dimensional and sparkling your business will appear!

You need to nurture your magic beanstalk of loyalty all year round

For your customer retention campaigns to work, you need to implement them all year round. After all, you can’t water magic beans just once or twice a year and expect them to grow: you need to water them regularly. Same with your marketing campaigns; you need to tend to them regularly.

That’s why it’s vital that you make a marketing plan for the year, which includes regular customer retention campaigns. And then diarise these campaigns to make sure they actually happen.

Here’s an example as to what a solopreneur might do to encourage customer retention:

  • Social media: updates five times a week
  • Email: monthly email newsletters
  • Mail: send Christmas cards plus a mid-year mailing
  • Phone: call two or more clients each week
  • Face-to-face: arrange a catch-up with your top clients every quarter or every six months.

We’ll cover each of these media in more detail over the coming weeks, but that gives you an overview of how you can use multiple media without getting overwhelmed.

Summary

  • To get repeat business, you need to actively work on your customer retention campaigns, so that clients feel valued.
  • It’s 6 or 7 times more expensive to find a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer.
  • Customer retention is strongly linked to customer loyalty.
  • There are various different levels of customer loyalty; your job is to give clients a reason to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.
  • There are 5 key media to help you with your customer retention/loyalty:
    1. Social media
    2. Email
    3. Mail
    4. Phone
    5. Face-to-face
  • You need to have a year-round plan to make sure you’re continually at front-of mind with your clients.