There is a fatal flaw in how we measure the success of marketing campaigns. We celebrate the acquisition of new customers, cheer incremental increases in average orders and response rates, and pass around high fives when website traffic hits a new high. But, what happens when an established customer places another order?
When customers do what is expected, it doesn’t seem like a cause for celebration. After all, isn’t providing quality products and service enough? In days gone by, it was. Once customers found your business, they became customers for life as long as you delivered on the promise. If your product or service line was unique, you didn’t even have to do that. You were operating “Hotel California”. Once people checked in, they didn’t leave. Customer loyalty was almost automatic.
Customer acquisition was the top priority. Retention was taken for granted. Marketing could neglect the people most likely to buy without losing them. This changed when the Internet started shrinking the world. Those special customers found through word of mouth, rented lists, and advertising now have the ability to find your competitors online. And, your competition has access to them through their friends, online behavior, and the same traditional tools you used. There has to be a shift towards retention or the best customers will leave, taking profits and market share with them.
Loyalty programs are supposed to make people stay, but they aren’t working. A survey by ACI Worldwide, Inc. found that 75% of Americans were members of at least one retail loyalty card program. Unfortunately, the programs are missing the mark because 81% of members don’t understand how they work and two out of five have had a negative experience.
It doesn’t take much to make customers happy.
It takes more to make them loyal. Delivering on the promise is a no-brainer. Customers are happy when they receive what they were promised. It’s expected. Loyalty comes when customers trust that the company will resolve issues and anticipate needs. Trust is earned. The most loyal people are those who have had problems resolved satisfactorily. They know, by experience, how the company responds to challenges. But, what about the folks who haven’t had a problem? How do you keep them from straying?
The best method is two-fold: Make it easy for them to stay and let them know that you value them. When it is easier to stay than leave, people continue to buy from your company. They won’t even think about leaving. Throw in a little appreciation and they’ll be customers for life. Here are some tips for keeping customers around:
Know your numbers and check them regularly. Customer attrition hides behind acquisition and sales. Find it before it’s too late. Watch it so there aren’t any surprises.
Make your best customers offers they can’t refuse. The promotions for them should be better than the ones for prospects. Your customers know what you are offering to newbies. When those offers are better, it implies that you like the new people better than the ones who are already supporting you.
Put customer retention at the top of the “things we must do to succeed” list. Until it has a priority position in your organization, it won’t get the focus it needs. Retaining customers adds more to profitability than any other marketing action.
Contact your best customers outside of your regular marketing cycle. Send them special emails, invite them to members’ only events, and say “thank you.” Email is an economical and effective way to stay in touch.
Make it easy for them to use your website, reorder consumable products, and access customer care. Providing specialized service to your best customers will keep them loyal. After all, who wants to shift from personalized customer care to a competitor’s phone tree?
If you want to discuss how this applies to your business, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.