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Customer Retention: Magic or Method?

It’s a generally accepted notion that acquiring a new customer is more expensive than retaining an existing customer.  Add to that fact a sluggish economy where businesses are scrutinizing budgets and considering alternative suppliers, and it’s easy to understand why it’s important to have a customer retention strategy in place.  After all, current customers (as well as past customers) have already demonstrated that they want and are willing to pay for your products and services.  It makes good sense to hold on to them.  Doing so is crucial to the growth and success of your business.

A sales guru once described a five-step magical process for customer retention.  The five steps are: 1) Follow Up; 2) Follow Up; 3) Follow Up; 4) Follow Up; and (you guessed it) 5) Follow Up.
OK, there’s nothing magical, or even remarkable, about the process. I
suppose the guru was trying to drive home the point that if you don’t want your customers to drift away, then, in addition to normal buyer-seller interactions, you should maintain regular contact with them throughout the year.

Makes good sense.

But simply “following up” is not enough. The real “magic” is how, when, and in what manner you maintain contact. Making monthly “keep-in-touch” phone calls is not sufficient. So, let’s look at five follow-up strategies you can implement to cultivate a closer relationship with your customers.

  1. Send a “Thank You” card to new clients. (Yes, a card . . . not an e-mail.)  An elaborate pre-printed card with a foil-stamped company logo isn’t necessary…or desired.  A simple card with your hand-written message, “I look forward to working with you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me for any reason,” is all that’s needed.  Make sure to include your cell phone number and e-mail address.
  2. At regular intervals, send to your customers a printed copy of your company’s newsletter, or an article or white paper that is relevant to their businesses or industries. Add a hand-written note - “Thought you’d find this interesting.”
  3. Send birthday cards to your customers.  (You do know their birthdays, don’t you?)  Again, no elaborate card with a company logo or imprint. A simple birthday card with your hand-written note, “Enjoy your day,” is sufficient.
  4. Send information about new products or services to your customers. Add a handwritten call-to-action note.  For example, “Let’s discuss.  I’ll call on Tuesday at 10am.”
  5. Send customers printed copies of articles relevant to their personal interests. (Yes, you should know something about your clients’ personal interests.) And, as you’ve already guessed, add a personal note like, “Saw this in the Business Journal…thought you’d like to have it.” 

The underlying theme is: communicate in a personal manner.  Most salespeople are so focused on their work that they don’t take enough time to meet with, talk to, and listen to their customers.  Much of their communication takes place in a most impersonal manner - via e-mail.  While that’s a valid means of communication for day-to-day business interactions, there’s little room for it in a customer retention program.
Little things that you do throughout the year remind your customers that you are thinking about them and you care about and appreciate their business.  Customers who feel appreciated are much less likely to jump ship when your competitors come knocking at their doors.


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