Succeeding in business is all about growing your customer base. However, too many companies focus on gaining new customers at the expense of their existing ones.
In fact, retaining your current customers is an important part of growing your business. Let’s say you want to reach a goal of growing by 5%. If you lose 3% of your customers over the course of the year, you’ll actually have to grow by 8% to reach your target.
It’s also an expense issue. It costs more to acquire new customers than it does to hold onto existing ones. That means that keeping a customer is more profitable than securing orders from a new one.
Even though it can feel more exciting to convert a new customer, keeping your current clients satisfied is more critical to your success.
And retention is especially important with channel customers in the built world. Retaining the contractors, builders and architects who repeatedly sell or use your products is what will keep your business sustainable and profitable over the short term and the long run.
Whether you’re dealing with existing customers, customers who have left, or customers who are considering switching to one of your competitors, there are some strategies you can use to encourage them to stay with you.
Reach out to customers who left and ask them why they stopped buying from you. Make it clear that you value them and that you’re getting in touch to see if there’s anything you could do to better meet their needs.
Too many people think they know why they lost their customers. They might assume that the customer went on a hunt for cheaper prices, had unreasonable delivery expectations, or were poached by a sneaky competitor.
If you think you know why your customer left, chances are you’re wrong. So take them time to ask them. You might not be able to win them back, but you’ll learn what you can do to keep other customers from leaving.
Some people think it looks bad to admit fault when things go wrong. It doesn’t. It shows that you’re honest and willing to change things for the better.
If there are shipping delays, mixed up orders, or customer service issues, don’t deflect responsibility. Take the blame for the things that happened on your end and start taking concrete steps to fix them.
If you want to keep customers happy, you have to take the guesswork out of it. That means finding ways to track their satisfaction with your products and the service they get from you.
Surveys are a great way to put your finger on the pulse and find out how your customers feel about you. Getting your sales team to check in with them regularly can also give you a good sense of how things are going.
One of the big complaints customers have when dealing with companies is having to interact with a computer instead of a person. Sending your customers through a series of menus, getting them to fill out endless forms, or pointing them to your FAQ instead of giving them personalized help isn’t going to encourage a lot of loyalty.
That doesn’t mean you have to staff a dedicated department ready to take on every single call and email that comes your way. You can still outsource your customer service to give your customers the help they need without losing that human touch.
If customers can put a face or a name to the person helping them out, they’ll feel a stronger connection to your company. That connection makes them more likely to buy from you again.
A lot of people say they hate sales and marketing emails, but I don’t think that’s actually true. What they really hate are bad, impersonal ones. The ones that feel like you’ve clicked open some spam instead of something you actually care about.
When you’re drafting messages, avoid making them long, clunky and bloated with information. Make sure they don’t sound salesy, either. It should have a personal touch and include helpful offers or something genuinely useful.
Changes are going to happen and they might happen fast. You can’t be successful these days unless you’re willing to adapt.
But adapting looks different from the customer’s side. They tend to prefer predictability. They don’t want any shake-ups.
Customers hate getting caught off guard. It’s jarring. It’s inconvenient. The first thing they might ask themselves is “Do I need to find a new supplier?”
That’s why it’s important to announce changes as soon as you’ve finalized all the details. If they see the changes coming, they’ll be a lot more willing to adapt along with you.
Social media is a great way to reach new customers. It’s also a simple and effective way to build a better relationship with those who already buy from you.
Create opportunities for them to engage with you on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or wherever your customers spend their time. Create a rapport that makes you more than just “the company that sells us concrete products.”
Respond to the questions and complaints they post on social platforms. It’s a way to make them feel heard when they’re at their most frustrated.
A lot of built world companies make it too easy for their customers to leave.
You can’t force them to stay, of course. But you can do more than just wave goodbye and shrug.
Implement a customer retention process. That way, when someone drops an order, decides not to renew, or gives up right before the buying stage, there will be a system in place to ensure someone checks in with them.
The specifics will vary from company to company and will depend on the situation. But at the very least, you should have someone reach out to see if they can assist, ask what made them change their mind, and offer special incentives to address their problem and win them back.
You sell built world products and services. It’s tempting to think of anything outside of that as beyond your jurisdiction.
When your customer is struggling to understand building code updates, has trouble with a distributor, or isn’t sure how to make a specific feature appealing to buyers, you might think that it’s just not your problem.
And fair enough. It’s not. But you’re missing a prime sales opportunity if you don’t help them.
You won’t sell something directly. You won’t get to talk them into buying your product. But you will be helping them tremendously and becoming a trusted expert they can turn to when they need assistance. That’s a great way to build loyalty and make sure that your product is the first one they think of when they need to buy again.
Losing a customer sucks. There’s no two ways about it.
But being bitter about it isn’t going to help you in the least. In fact, it might make you lose your customer twice. Because you lost them now, but being cold toward them means you also lose the opportunity to win them back in the future.
Instead, do something a little counterintuitive: thank them. Be grateful for the business they gave you and the lessons you learned from working with them.
If you’re lucky, they’ll reconsider leaving at all. But even if they go, they’re a lot more likely to consider buying from you down the road or recommending you to someone else.
Keep a Stable Base
You can’t keep every single customer. That’s not how business works.
Their needs might change. They might start selling to a new kind of customer and need a different product. You might have dealt with shipping issues or problems with a third party that cost you some business.
Some of that is going to be out of your control and there won’t be anything you can do about it.
But some of it will be entirely up to you. So, take the time to understand your customers. If any aren’t satisfied, find out why. Take steps to rectify their problems. Do what you can to build loyalty and keep customers happy.
If you can do that, you’ll build a solid base of stable buyers. And that’s critical – you really can’t succeed unless you have one.