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.
There 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.
Here are the top 10 ways to get repeat business:
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 for your small business. 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.
Also, think about offering free trials of new products/services to your existing products – even if they don't choose to buy what they try, they'll be pleased you've thought about them.
7. Add little touches
Think about little ways you can recognise existing customers, and show them their business matters to you.
You might wish to send a hand-written letter, thanking them for their custom; alternatively, consider sending a small gift, such as flowers or chocolates; if you have a shop, try inviting clients to an out-of-hours party; or, if you have tickets for an entertainment event, think about inviting them along.
8. Increase your profile
The more visible you are in your locality, the more people will trust you – and the more likely people are to buy from you repeatedly.
Make sure you join a local trade body, donate or volunteer for local charities, and organise networking events. Nothing should be too much trouble – if it elevates your profile, it's worth doing.
9. Maximise your online presence
In addition to creating a top-notch website, you need to think carefully about utilising the online space. Here are some things you can do:
- Create a forum on your website, so customers can report any problems or ask questions about what they've bought;
- Create an online newsletter, and invite your customers to sign up – so they can receive news about your business;
- Link to your customers' websites – this will boost your own search engine ranking, and create a clear bridge between you and your clients;
- Use social media – follow your customers on Twitter, or add them as a friend on Facebook.
10. Keep re-evaluating
Even if you give each client the red carpet treatment, they'll still ditch you if they can find a cheaper, or better product elsewhere.
Keep a constant eye on your competitors – the way they change their prices, their offers and discounts, and the products they bring to market. Never, ever take your existing customers' loyalty for granted.