It used to be that customer retention lay solidly within two areas of any business: manufacturing and customer service or support. It was up to the manufacturing process to ensure a quality product that would invoke a certain amount of brand loyalty in the consumer was produced. It was the role of the customer service division to make sure that any customer issues with a product were addressed quickly and returned customer satisfaction to the product.
Today customer retention doesn’t rest solely on those two pillars. Customer retention begins, in many ways, before the customer even holds a product or receives a service. It begins with marketing. Accordingly, today’s top marketers are not only bringing customers in, they’re sowing the seeds of customer retention.
Here are five of the hottest customer retention strategies for marketers:
1. Make the consumer process active
An active customer is a happy customer. Craft your marketing efforts in such a way that they empower your potential customers. Your customers want to feel like they’re in control, that they’re making smart choices, and that their actions or behaviours are directly being rewarded or producing good results.
Promotional efforts that encourage the consumer to be part of the marketing process, and that reward them for doing so, are among the most effective. This can include customer loyalty programs or sweepstakes for example. Take, for example, promotions that offer a discount on the customer’s birthday. This invokes a specific emotion (joy at receiving a birthday card) and encourages a specific action (buying your product or service) at a specific time (on their birthday, or during their birthday month).
Give your customer a specific action to take with an immediate reward, and you’ll see sales increase dramatically.
2. Recognise the marketing conversation
Marketing isn’t just about putting out your message to the market. It’s about listening to what consumers have to say about your marketing efforts. If your conversation is one-sided, you’re going to have a lot of one-time customers.
You do this in a number of ways, and it’s not always even about directly interacting with individual customers. Raw customer data can help you understand when a customer is or isn’t happy with something.
For example, let’s say that the average customer who makes an additional purchase does so between 45 and 60 days after their initial purchase. That latency statistic can tell you a lot about your customer base. For example, if a customer hits 61 days, she’s telling you there’s a problem. Maybe she’s unhappy with the first purchase, or maybe she’s just forgotten about you. At that point, you need to offer a promotion to put yourself back on her radar.
By using customer data, you can do a great deal of “listening” and craft your end of the marketing conversation accordingly.
3. Utilise the most time-tested marketing strategy ever
Many experts in the marketing world may tell you that word-of-mouth is dead or dying in the new information age. The fact the opposite is true, it’s alive and well, albeit in a vastly different form. If you want to increase your market share, getting satisfied customers to be an advocate for your product is a necessity.
The unintended consequence of turning customers into brand evangelists is that you solidify the evangelist’s brand loyalty and increase the customer retention rates. Referral promotions, for example, not only bring in new customers they also assert your position in the existing customer base.
4. Be wary of putting too much faith in brand recognition
Today’s consumer is becoming more and more savvy. Just because their favourite sports team plays in the “Conseco Field House” or “Acer Arena” doesn’t mean they’ll buy from Conseco or Acer once, much less become a retained customer. Brand recognition strategies may complement other marketing efforts, but they are a poor substitute for effective customer retention efforts.
5. Weave customer service strengths into your marketing message
You need to demonstrate to your prospective customers that if they choose your business, they won’t have to hassle with an uninformed or discourteous customer service process. If you can convince your customer before the moment of purchase that they can expect good things from your customer service process, you dramatically increase the likelihood that they’ll approach service issues with an open mind.
For those customers who don’t need to utilise your customer service process, you’ll still have helped to instil a feeling of confidence at an early stage of the product buying cycle, leading to higher retention rates.
There is no single magic strategy that can ensure customer retention, but if you put these principles into place you just might be surprised to see how many familiar faces come back through your door.