A stable client or customer base is the security blanket of most start-ups and small businesses. These are the people who’ve purchased from you, know how client-centric you are, and place repeat orders. But they can also fade away over time.

Did you do something wrong? Did you change your marketing strategy? Did you hire new customer-service employees without training them properly? Something changed, because that long-time repeat buyer isn’t buying from you anymore.

Want to fix that? Of course you do. Here are some suggestions to help you win back those valuable people.

1. Recognize customer profitability. Customer profitability tends to increase the longer the client stays with the company. Not only do these folks keep coming back on their own without you spending dollars to attract them, but they may also recommend your company to their contacts. Long-time customer = long-term profits.

2. Research why the long-time customer stopped buying. Customer satisfaction surveys are a great tool for you and your buyers. You can discover flaws in your customer relations system, and customers feel like you’re listening. If you ship items, include a postage-paid satisfaction survey with your packing materials to get the customer’s perspective. Surveys can also be posted on your website or made available at the point of sale in your retail outlet.*

For business-to-business sales, if your customer is a company run by a long-time acquaintance, pick up the phone and ask directly, “Did we do something wrong?” You want this kind of information to improve delivery of services and/or products. Long-time buyers will tell you if you ask them.

3. Develop a split focus for your marketing strategy: attracting new customers and keeping your repeat buyers happy. If your focus is always on acquisition of new customers or clients, guess what? Your regulars may feel left out. That’s right, the repeat buyers you’ve cultivated all this time may feel left out if all your attention is focused on adding new customers to the list.

If you offer free shipping on all new customers’ first orders, how will repeat buyers feel when they have to pay $14.95 handling and shipping? Probably not good.

To maintain a stable customer base, your promotions and marketing strategies should attract new customers while also rewarding repeat buyers.

4. Use CRM software. Client relations management (CRM) software provides a quick overview of an order’s status, or the progress of a project your company has taken on. Using CRM software, you can keep track of a customer’s previous orders and his or her preferences. You can schedule dates to contact them regularly and automate promotions.

If you don’t have CRM, consider investing in it. It will keep existing customers coming back because you’re paying attention to them, and that’s what every customer wants.

5. Review your customer care policies and publish them on your website. Make sure customers know your terms. If you offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, regulars should see that every time they come into your store, visit your website, or open your direct mail catalog.

During any sale, surprises should be avoided. If a customer asks “What’s that?” you may want to clarify your customer care policies to make them clearer.

6. Stay in touch. Long-time customers often just drift away because of a lack of quality contact. You may have dropped them from your catalog mailing list after 12 months (too little contact), or sent them a constant barrage of spam through their smartphones or tablets (too much unwanted contact).

Want to keep in touch? Stop selling. Instead, push useful information on your products or services, special cost-cutting sales – information that’s actually useful and will get read, not sent directly to the spam folder.

Send out a monthly newsletter. It’s easy to personalize these newsletters based on each customer’s past buying history.

Regulars form the basis of long-term business success, and the more transactions conducted, the stronger the relationship. Give your regulars the in-house problem-solver’s personal cell phone number. If it’s you, and a long-time buyer calls on the weekend, are you going to ignore the call?

Of course not. You know this buyer, you’ve worked together for years, and you want to keep that customer a part of your client base by fixing his or her problems any time.

The best way to win back customers who’ve left the flock is to make it personal – a personal call from the owner, a box of her favorite golf balls, a visit from the head of the company.

When you make regulars feel special, they’ll stick around and your business will, too.

*Click here for an article about customer satisfaction surveys.

 


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A.