Top 10 ways to generate repeat business

How to keep your customers coming back for more

If you’re focusing all your energies on winning new business, rather than servicing existing clients, you’ve got your priorities completely the wrong way round. Repeat customers are cheaper than new ones; you might have to spend thousands on marketing and customer research to woo new clients, but, with existing customers, the hard work is already done.

Furthermore, a repeat customer can become an ambassador for your brand, spreading the word about your company among their friends and partners. And, the more times a customer buys from you, the more they will come to trust and you – thus the value of their purchases will go up, not down.

Here are ten simple ways you can maximise the value of your existing client base, and cash in on the work you did to entice them in the first place.

1. Get it right first time

If you don’t get it right the first time you sell to a particular customer, they won’t buy from you again, so a great first impression is crucial.

With a first-time customer, make sure every little detail is dealt with as professionally as possible. Handle all correspondence in formal language, with a personal greeting on each e-mail, and assign a specific member of your team (if you have one!) to deal with the customer, so they build up a rapport and provide a clear point of contact.

Keep the customer informed of every development in the delivery process, and, if the product or service you’re selling is particularly complex, offer proactive advice to help the customer understand it. A week after the product has been delivered, phone the customer to ask if they’re happy with it.

2. Spend money on after-sales support

This may seem slightly basic, but it’s not; many companies put all their eggs in the pre-sale basket, and don’t spend any time or money on ensuring the customer is happy after they buy.

If you’re handling after-sales support yourself, make sure you treat each request as urgent, and aim to respond same day. If you have staff handling after-sales for you, give them clear deadlines for responses, and brief each of them on all your products, so they can give the customer real insight.

3. Keep customers’ details on file

Again, this might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many firms fail to keep accurate records for the firms they sell to.

Create a contacts book for all your customers. For each one, include:

  • The name of the person you’ve dealt with
  • Their personal phone number and e-mail address
  • Full postal address details
  • A brief description of what they’ve previously purchased from you
  • Details of any feedback they provided – if they liked a particular aspect of the product/service, you can use this as a reference point for future business.
  • Any personal information you think relevant – if you think their age, sex, budget, company progress, personal background or buying preferences will make any difference to the products they buy in the future, keep a note.

Alternatively, you might think about investing in customer relationship management (CRM) software. This can be expensive, and may be beyond the budget of a start-up business, but it will create permanent, electronic records for each of your customers, and organise your customers into clear groups.

4. Tailor your alerts

Use the information you’ve stored in your contacts book, or CRM software, to deliver relevant, targeted alerts on each new product or service.

Don’t just send out a blanket mailshot to all your existing contacts. Make sure you only send info on new products to customers who have bought similar things from you before, and have the resources to purchase this new item.

If possible, create tailored e-mails for each individual customer, explaining why they’ll like your new offering. Mention their previous purchases, and the specific benefits the new product or service will bring to their business.

5. Maintain contact

Although product/service alerts are often effective, many customers will think repeated sales pitches are intrusive and annoying, so intersperse your pitches with relevant, objective information.

Ask them for feedback on the product/service they originally bought from you; direct them to a particular news story, or market trend, you’ve noted in their sector; or simply ask them how they and their business are doing.

6. Think about special offers

By offering, say, a 10% discount or a three-for-two offer to existing customers, you’re demonstrating to them, and the wider world, that your company really values the people who buy from it.

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