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This Month's Touch Q&A

Question from Tracey Palmer, NSW

Hi, I would consider my business medium in size and I wanted to get some advice on how to ensure I keep and maintain the relationships with new customers I have made.

Answer

Hi Tracey, I am so glad you are thinking about how to keep your new customers happy and advocates for your business. There are some tips you can use to develop long-term relationships with newly acquired customers. The key to growing your business is to effectively communicate and leverage these new customers into advocates for your products/services and purchasers of additional services you may offer. As I don’t know a lot about your business I will try and keep the response to your questions as top-level as possible.

Maintaining relationships can be done in a variety of ways but there are some basics steps that must be followed to ensure retention. Here are a few tips:

1. Proactively shape impressions about your business. Whether you're sending a welcome message, making the first contact via phone, or sending an email, be sure to position your company for the long-term. Many times individuals buy products without knowing a whole lot about the company they’re buying from. 
A popular tactic is sending an email or direct mail piece that introduces your company, your values, what you offer and the resources you have available for your customers including support contact details. This lets you control your company's image among newly acquired customers. Otherwise, your customers are free to form their own opinion without any guidance from you whatsoever. From the very beginning it’s important to be able to manage your corporate image.

2. Categorise your customer. Is your customer a high potential? Are they a transactional buyer that will likely never buy from you again unless you offer the lowest price? By segmenting your buyers based on your existing database or known behaviours, you can develop customised communication plans to retain them for years to come. Parts of your communication plan may be focused on up-selling while others may only be focused on retention. The communication plan you implement should be based on the proper categorisation of your customer.

3. Show your thanks. Once you've acquired a customer, don't forget to thank them. This may seem a little strange, but done properly, this goes a long way. Often a hand-written note or personalised email from the company owner or manager can do the trick. The real key is to make the customer feel good about the purchase they've made and the company they've chosen to purchase from.

4. Provide consistency among all touch points. Once you've acquired a new customer, you must make sure that you provide a consistent user experience. For example, if the prospect contacts your support team or a member of your staff the first day after they've purchased a product and receive an answer to their question, then call the following day only to receive a different answer, they're going to lose faith in your company's ability to provide consistent and reliable support.

You can benefit greatly by developing procedures that can be documented and delivered consistently - meeting customer expectations. This builds trust in your business and can minimise defections. If the consumer knows they can count on you to give them what they need/want, they'll be willing to forgo a better price or promise of a better deal elsewhere. Ensure all your marketing communications are consistent and the information is integrated among all touch points.

5. Share customer testimonials on future marketing pieces. Many believe that testimonials are only for prospects. The truth is that testimonials can help retain customers, especially new ones, when they are exposed to positive experiences of individuals just like them. In addition to sharing testimonials, it is always a best practice to ask newly acquired customers (within 30 days of purchase) for their feedback/testimonials.

The benefit of reaching out to your customers is that if a problem exists, you can react to it and if they have something positive to say about your product or business, it can be used to reinforce your brand. (Note: be sure to get permission to publish a customer testimonial).

These techniques are very effective for maximising lifetime customer value. By shaping the image of your company, providing a consistent experience, and sharing testimonials for similar customers, you can develop a positive, lasting impression with your marketplace.

Most importantly, keep it simple. Don't overwhelm your new customers with tons of email, or direct mail. Develop a well thought-out communication plan that has a definite purpose. And most importantly, remember to thank your customers for choosing your company, product or service. I hope that helps Tracey!