How To Keep Your Clients Coming Back Time and Time Again
When I first started in business I made a very common mistake... Like most new business owners, I focused all my time, money and resources on getting new clients.
I’d spend my entire marketing budget on trying to acquire new leads through the paper and online. Then I’d hope and pray that they’d turn into paying customers. It was a slow, arduous and expensive mistake that I will never make again.
New clients are necessary and you need to allocate some resources to acquiring them, but there is a much better way than marketing to the masses.
If you’ve been in business for a while then it’s likely that you’ve got a list of clients who have purchased from you in the past. It’s also likely that you have a list of prospects who may have requested a quote but never actually made the final purchase.
There’s something special about these people. They’ve heard of you, they’ve contacted you, and in some cases they’ve spent money with you. These are the most pre-qualified leads that you will get.
Now... You have this list of people who have showed interest in your product or service. If you’ve done business right then they should know, like and trust you. You are in a perfect situation. So how do you get them to come back to you?
Simple. Communicate with them frequently! I’m not talking about constantly following up and asking for an order or sending them ads or special offers, (That annoys people.) You need to inform, entertain and nurture your clients and they will thank you for it by doing two things:
1.) - Spend more money with you
2.) - Refer someone else who will spend money with you.
It really is that simple! Yet next to no businesses actually do this, I work with hundreds of businesses every year and only a handful actually have systemised communication with their clients. Most just expect that the client will 'remember them and come back' just because they did the job right.
Or the one I love is: "they'll hold onto my business card or flyer until they need my services again..." - sorry to say guys, I struggle to find my birth certificate when I need it, good luck finding a business card I kept from a few months ago.
It really is an epidemic of non-communication. The most easy, cost effective way to retain clients and generate referrals is non-existent in most industries! I'm sure you can think of hundreds of examples where keeping in touch would have resulted in more purchases yourself.
Personally, My last electrician was friendly, did the job right, was even on time! - But I have no idea who he is, the ad in the paper that I called him from has been in the trash for months, of course I lost his business card, but the sad thing is, this nice, friendly, good electrician has lost potentially thousands of dollars of electrical repair work that I'm likely to spend over then next 5-10 years purely because he did not 'keep in touch'!
I'm sure by now I've made it clear that you need to keep in touch and communicate with your clients. However, there are a few things that need to be considered.
What Method Of Communication Works?
Any communication is better than none. I suggest that you use a variety of different ways to communicate with your clients and prospects. You could use Newsletters (Offline & Online) SMS, Faxes, Phone Calls, Social Media, Emails and Direct Mail.
There are pros and cons to each method and there is no specific rule because it really depends on your target market. (Eg - selling to Gen-Y you probably wouldn’t use fax)
One tool that I find most effective in communicating in an non-intrusive way is newsletters. A newsletter allows you to keep your clients and prospects informed on a monthly basis (generally). Receiving and reading your newsletter becomes part of the monthly business routine.
Often I get asked by clients if they should do an online or an offline newsletter? - I generally recommend offline newsletters if possible, they are a lot more work, but tend to be a much higher response rate than online. But online newsletters or e-newsletters are certainly better than nothing at all!
How Frequently Should I Communicate?
I usually say once a month as a standard. Real publications that people subscribe and look forward to tend to be monthly, and it allows you to tie your content in with the monthly holidays and event (Christmas, Easter, Valentines day etc.) - But this rule isn't concrete and depends largely on your target market. For instance a car salesman probably shouldn’t stay in touch every week or it will get annoying as it’s a once off purchase every few years. However, a monthly or quarterly newsletter with car-care tips and some useful information about general day-to-day stuff would be appreciated and welcomed by most people.
On the other scale, you could have a coffee shop who email or SMS their weekly specials every Monday. If they only did this once every 3 months, it would probably be too far apart as coffee is something people often get on a daily basis. - The main aim is keep them informed, entertained and involved as regularly as possible without becoming a pest. - You want them to look forward to your communication.
What Should I Communicate About?
You should be talking about topics that interest your clients. Do not focus on your product, instead find related topics that you, as an expert in your field, can provide your opinion and views on. Provide advice and keep them informed about any changes in the industry.
Don’t be afraid to communicate about something unrelated every now-and-then. Entertain them with interesting stories or get them involved by asking for feedback or advice from them. Use quizzes, trivia, recipes, jokes and other readers digest style snippets that people find useful and entertaining.
Clients hunger for a personal connection, they buy off people they like and trust, so share your personal life, talk about your kids or spouse or pets. Be real and you'll strengthen your relationship even further!
The secret is: It’s not the quantity or quality of the information that matters (although that does help), it’s the frequency of communication that tends to motivate people to want to return to you.
Words Of Warning
There is a trap that I see so many businesses fall into. They start a newsletter or a communication strategy and follow through great when there isn’t a lot of work on, but as soon as things get busy they tend to forget and stop all communication. In order to stop this cycle, you need to make communication a high priority.
By making a small effort and just ‘keeping in touch’ - You’ll see a massive difference to you bottom line.