When it comes to customers, most businesses are longing for a strong relationship for years to come. Who wants a one-night stand kind of customer who breezes in and out of your world, barely around long enough to hear you say, “Thank you for your business.”
Acquiring customers is costly. You’re wise to want to retain them.
Retaining them means keeping them happy and interested in you over time. The second part – over time – is the kicker. Anyone with a pulse can figure out how to keep a customer, or potential customer, happy for a moment but it takes a plan to stay on their mind when they’re not currently in the market for what you offer.
That’s where courtship comes in. Many people assume courtship is about landing a customer, and it can be, but it’s also about keeping them interested in between purchases. Here are a few ideas to keep your business at the top of your customers’ minds:
Create an e-Newsletter
This is an easy way to stay top, IF you can find worthwhile content for your audience. Let’s take it back to the relationship analogy. A love letter (or text, in today’s world) is a wonderful way to stay close to the person you like. If you talk about things they find interesting, peppered in with a little flattery, your communication becomes the kind of thing your beloved will show friends. However, if you talk incessantly about yourself or a topic they have no interest in, their attention will soon wane.
You need to address topics they’ll find entertaining, inspiring, or educational and you need to do this from the start. It doesn’t take long for people to lose interest if you’re presenting them with something they don’t value. Here’s some helpful advice on how to create a valuable e-newsletter.
Become a Free Resource
Most of us talk about content marketing as if we just invented it. For this reason, a lot of business people are hesitant to embrace it because it seems like a novelty and a trend, and they’re uncertain whether the tides will change, so they wait. But content marketing, or providing resources for your audience, to establish you and your business as an expert in the industry is nothing new. In 1895 John Deere (yes, that John Deere), published a magazine for farmers called Furrow. His goal was to become a resource for his customers by providing helpful tips to maximize production. It took the rest of the world a little time to catch on to how well this type of marketing works.
You needn’t worry if the subject matter you choose to focus on is directly related to what you sell or only loosely so. John Deere knew that if farmers were more successful in producing more crops, they’d have more money, and need help mechanizing the process. The beauty behind his content marketing strategy was that he helped his audience and created a happy problem (now they needed a more efficient way to operate) that his company could then solve for. You also see this when companies that make flour, for instance, hand out cookbooks that contain recipes with what else? Flour.
Remember, effective content marketing does several things:
• satisfies your audience because you are providing them with information they need
• helps them know, like, and trust you
• makes you a resource and an expert in the industry you serve
• creates a need for your services or product
Offer Discounts for Return Customers
Nothing says thank you like a loyalty discount for past purchases. However, most businesses that offer them place an expiration date on the coupon or discount that is not very far in the future. They believe this drives business but there are certain products people won’t stockpile. In the end the discount expires before the customer uses it and the nice gesture is thrown in the trash. Consider eliminating the expiration date on the coupon, and instead, send them an email reminder periodically.
If you don’t want to go the route of the discount (some businesses are morally opposed to them, like Apple), create a wow moment by placing something extra in their order. Ideas range from happy quotes to free samples. There’s a solution for every budget but it’s a nice surprise when they receive the package or you hand them the bag.
A final tip about nurturing your relationship with your customers: Customer relationships aren’t much different than our personal ones, except that they’re a lot less forgiving. In order for customers to stay faithful to you, you need to provide them good reason by remaining attentive to their needs and giving them things they find valuable. If you keep them at the top of your mind, they’re likely to do the same for you.
Photo credit via Graphic Stock
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.
She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.