Ask the experts: Using marketing to retain current customers

Monday, August 15, 2011

How can I use marketing to retain my current customers?

Drew Janes

Drew Janes: It would be the same as asking, "How can I use food to keep my body healthy?" To keep your body continually performing, you have to feed it. It's a pretty simple design and without it, well, unfortunately, you would die. If you look at your business the same way and want to keep your current customers, you have to not only feed it the "generic" to sustain it, but give your business "protein" to actually grow on.

Marketing to retain your customers will work if you give them a reason to stay with you. Consumers are brand-loyal if they feel they "belong" to or "take ownership" of a piece of that brand. Just look at Nike, Starbucks and Apple, to name a few. Their customers are not only loyal, but passionately loyal.

Remember how basic and practical marketing keeps customers coming back:

* Start/continue a newsletter or email marketing that updates customers monthly.

* Build your fans/customers on social media sites where you offer sales, specials or promotions to loyal customers.

* Be personal. Send them thank-you cards, a personal letter or visit them with a face-to-face thank you. The old-school handshake will trump all.

* Write. Having a blog on your website with great content needs to be a wealth of resources for your current customers or potential customers.

Dana Hukel

Dana Hukel: Marketing to current customers should be about more than just reminding them that you exist. It's an opportunity to develop a new level of trust and commitment to your business.

A basic tenet to follow: Address customers' needs and wants, and they'll buy from you. Be accommodating and fair, and they'll come back again.

Tips on accomplishing the latter include:

* Slightly underpromise so you can overdeliver. Deadlines are a good example of this. If you promise a customer that a product or service will be ready within seven days when you know you can finish it in five, your client will be impressed when it's done early. The flip side of this, of course, is making sure you're not consistently late on promised deadlines.

* Back up your promises. Be sure you and your team can back up your marketing message. If you promise a five-day turnaround time, make sure you're hitting that deadline.

* Respond promptly. Address customer questions, concerns and comments in a timely manner. It shows you care about what your customers have to say and are taking them seriously.

* Know your customers. Find out what your existing customers want, and address that through your marketing efforts. Your message should center around their needs, not on what your customers can do for you ("We've overstocked! Help us clear out our inventory!")

* Be versatile in your problem solving. When the situation calls for it, be prepared to demonstrate your company's abilities to step outside the box to deliver what your customer wants. It's yet another quality that will keep them coming back to you.

* Market with a purpose. Make sure your marketing message includes a call to action -- something to do -- for customers, so there is continued perceived value in what you are marketing.

All customers are critical to your business but existing customers are your biggest asset in building a solid, successful reputation and gaining new customers. So dedicate yourself to marketing specifically to those current customers, and following through on that marketing.

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