AASBC and OTS
6 Ways Your Customers Can Help Grow Your Business
As business and marketing consultants, we review a lot of different business strategies. Some are simple and others are more complex. No matter the situation, customer retention is a cornerstone of almost all the final business plans. If businesses could keep customers forever, long-term growth and overall success would almost be guaranteed. Unfortunately, this is not the case and wishful thinking at best.
If EVERY customer cannot be retained, then the next best thing is for a business to retain its BEST customers. Retaining customers, however, takes more than marketing campaigns, new products, or price discounts. It must be an integral part of the business strategy.
Consider the following initiatives in building out your customer retention plan:
1. Build Relationships - Relationship building is easier in some industries than others, nevertheless it should be the goal for all businesses. True relationships are not built quickly as it takes time to nurture a meaningful connection. When there is a lengthy sales cycle, lasting relationships are easier to build since salespeople and customers have time to get to know each other. Even for businesses that have short sales cycles, relationships can still be fostered between salespeople and customers with a little strategy. In this situation, relationships must be developed quickly during the initial interaction by having the right attitude, showing concern, asking relevant questions, and providing prompt service.
2. Set Reasonable Expectations - When customers agree to a plan and expectations are met, customers will be satisfied with the product or service they purchased. However, when expectations are not met, customers then seek competitive businesses to fulfil their needs.
“Under promise and over deliver” is an axiom that sounds good for business; however, the most important factor is for a business to deliver regardless of the promise. While customers might be pleased to receive more than what is expected, receiving anything less will have a far greater negative impact on retaining the business. A business that proves itself as a reliable partner will have much more success retaining customers.
3. Deliver the Right Message - Customers are more likely to stay with businesses that they understand and value. Although a business might sell the same product or service to different markets, this does not mean that the same message should be delivered unchanged to all markets. Different markets may require different messages, and messages should target the specific needs of customers. The best message for one market segment may be totally ineffective for another segment. The retention process is enhanced when products and services are matched with the right customers through targeted messaging.
4. Educate Customers - Today’s customer wants information, and thanks to the Internet and social media, information it’s only a click away. This, of course, does not mean that the only form of education should be obtained from the Internet. In fact, most customers appreciate the opinion of a trusted ‘expert’ over the web. Sales reps and employees need to be equally informed about market dynamics and emerging solutions, so they can create a consultative relationship with the customer. Clients want information that will help them make informed decisions to better their business.
5. Seek Input - There’s no better way to grow customer relationships than to treat customers like valued experts. They’ll appreciate being asked for their opinion and will often gladly share their priceless insights. A business can use this information to focus on emerging needs and make changes to better accommodate market variations. Employees that deal directly with customers are another important source of customer information. They have real time insight into the customer’s feelings about business, products, pricing, levels of customer service, and even the competition.
6. Never Falter on Customer Service – Retaining the best customers always requires top-level customer service. Building loyalty through customer service is not a hit or miss proposition. It cannot exist one day but not the next. Customer service is letting customers know they are priority #1 at all times. A high level of customer service can make the difference between one isolated sale or continuous repeat business.
Convert Customers into Extraordinary Customers
Since it takes considerably more time and effort to obtain new customers than to retain current customers, businesses should concentrate on cultivating ordinary customers into extraordinary customers. Once a customer is lost to the competition, rarely does that customer return. Use the above techniques to build a stronger customer base of extraordinary business partners.