You've probably heard that it's more expensive to get new customers than to keep the ones you already have. Keeping existing customers is called customer retention, and just as the Internet has made local advertising more effective and affordable, it's done the same for customer retention.
That means lots more opportunities worth taking advantage of. Why? Because an increase in customer retention leads to an increase in: referrals, brand awareness, your online reputation - and most importantly, your profit margins.
Stay in Touch When They're Out of the Store
All customer retention begins with building great customer relationships. And when your customers walk through your door, you know how to build and nurture these relationships. But the offline methods you might have used in the past to keep in touch when customers leave the store just don't work as well as they used to. Think about it:
- Direct mail pieces get your message through your customers' door, but are impersonal and expensive, and usually get lost next to more important items like bills. The result? They get lumped with the junk mail and end up in the trash. (Did you ever see that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer gets fed up with junk mail? Check the end of this post for the video if you haven't.)
- Phone calls are much more personal, but the time it takes to call each customer is too costly. Plus, is there ever really a good time to call a customer? Most of the time, you're interrupting something, and that doesn't get the conversation off to a good start.
All Things Digital are Not Created Equal
Today, the reigning champ of customer retention is the email newsletter. After all, they're a great way to blast a lot of information fast to your entire customer base. But they're still not ideal, because:
- It takes time and resources to put together a good newsletter.
- Mass emails still feel impersonal.
- Compared to the other emails in their inbox - personal notes from friends, family members, or even the boss - your business newsletter looks less important.
When in Rome
So what's a local business owner to do? Easy: do as your customers do!
Where do your customers spend the most time online? That recent Nielsen study says it's social networks - so make sure your business is there, too.
Then, pay attention to what your customers are doing on these social networks. Do they love to tweet and create short status updates several times a day? Talk about their day and ask questions so their friends can respond? Upload pictures and videos?
The key to staying top-of-mind with existing customers is to keep in touch the way they want. So ask yourself: do you have a retention plan for your business that keeps customers coming back and builds more fans and followers online? Or are your business messages getting lumped with the junk?