It’s always exciting to win over a new first-time customer. In fact, most marketing budgets are focused mainly on that very goal. Unfortunately, studies show that over 80% of those first-time buyers will never make a second purchase.
Whether your company sells B2B or B2C, turning one-time buyers into loyal customers is not an easy task. It involves nurturing and strengthening your customer relationships over time, and a commitment from every member of the team to make those relationships a priority.
If done properly, though, your second and third-time buyers will become loyal customers and your best marketing tool – they will become advocates for your business, referring you to other potential customers and singing your praises via social media. In addition, converting even 10% of these customers drastically increases their lifetime value and can potentially double your revenue!
Strengthening customer relationships requires a strategic plan. Here are 5 tips to consider when designing your plan.
- Know the stages of customer loyalty.
Understanding the stage each customer is in makes it easier to target your communication and engagement activities toward moving them along to the next stage.
Suspect – This is essentially anybody who could buy from you.
Prospect – Potential buyers of your product or service. They haven’t purchased from you yet, but they have expressed some form of interest.
First-Time Customer – Most customers will remain at this stage unless you have a clear plan to engage them on a deeper level.
Repeat Customer – A customer will enter this stage when you have gained his/her trust.
Client – This customer has a vested interest in your business, and a personal connection that keeps them loyal to you.
Advocate – Advocates are people who will recommend your company and go out of their way to speak positively about your staff, products and services.
The key to any good relationship is communication, and is essential for strengthening customer relationships. Keep communication lines open at all times. Don’t wait until you have an answer to respond to a customer question – a simple response to acknowledge an email or voicemail lets your customer know you are on the job and keeps them in the loop.
- Ask for feedback.
What better way to make someone feel valued than to ask their opinion? Giving your customers an opportunity to share their experience with you shows that their opinion matters. Always listen carefully to comments and respond promptly, whether it’s a compliment or a complaint. The worst thing you can do is ask for feedback then not address concerns.
Quality products and services can win you sales, but it’s often the little things that make the biggest difference in gaining customer loyalty. A simple thank-you note lets a customer know you appreciate them and remembering a customer’s birthday says you value them as a person and not just a sale.
- Engage. Engage. Engage.
Your customer base likely spans multiple generations and a wide variety of demographics. Some customers may prefer to communicate by email, and others via phone. It is important to develop a communication plan that uses types of engagement tools. From direct mail to blogs, websites to email blasts, touch your customers multiple times to ensure they receive your message.