The majority of business owners will tell you that their number one priority is ‘to get more customers’. As a business owner, you’ll no doubt agree with that feeling but you know that it is ‘hard work’, can be expensive and the results (of what will be some kind of marketing effort on your part) are highly unpredictable. Do you sometimes wonder if there is a simpler way?
Perhaps we should start by thinking through who our customers are. No, not in terms of ‘targets’ rather in terms of them being your friends, because we all know that people buy from people they like. To like you, they have to know you – so who do you know?
Let’s expand that view of friendship by going ‘personal’. Who do we turn to when we need help? Usually a friend we already know. And if that friend couldn’t help the odds are they will point you in the direction of someone they know who can. And it’s likely you’ll follow their advice. Fair comment?
Well, so it can be with your existing customers. People who have already bought your products or services. You see, the chances are that they already like you, especially if their experience of your product or service was memorable in some way. Also it is five times easier to sell something else to your existing customers than to get a new customer.
Like personal friends though, customers need to be looked after, loved even. But there’s a difference. If you lose contact with a friend it’s a shared loss. Ever been contacted by a ‘long lost’ friend? Or contacted one yourself? It’s great isn’t it! A shared sense of renewal as well as a shared sense of a little guilt of ‘leaving it so long’? That’s friendship. Knowing you’re both at fault for letting things slip but happy that you’ve ‘kissed and made up’ and that neither of you will let it happen again.
But it’s different with your customers. If you’re not talking to them you can bet your life someone else is. Your competitors, telling them all about their products or services and giving them reasons to become their customers. If you don’t talk to your customers they’ll figure you don’t care enough about them and move their custom elsewhere. And they won’t tell you about it nor get in touch to ‘see how you are’ before going with their new friend, your competitor.
You’ll agree then that you need to keep in touch? Let them know about your new products or services? It really can be as simple as a quick phone call and an offer to stop by for a coffee. Of course you’ll need some kind of database and reminder system. There really are loads of ways to ‘talk’ to your customers and these should be a part of your regular business routines. Far cheaper than looking for new customers and a far bigger priority.
But “wait” you say. “It’s different in my business. I sell one-off products or services.” (Perhaps you install kitchens or build conservatories.) “People don’t buy my stuff again – or not for a long time! It’s not worth the effort”. OK. But don’t they have friends who might want your products or services? You know, the very people that will see your kitchen or conservatory and admire your craftsmanship, especially as your customer gushingly describes to them just how good you were! This is where testimonials and a simple question ‘are any of your friends looking to improve their kitchen?’ pays dividend.
That just leaves the ‘nearly’ customers. The one’s that got away. They talked to you but ultimately didn’t buy from you. Do you know why not? It’s as important as knowing why your actual paying customers did buy from you. And it’s as important to maintain contact with them. Maybe their decision not to purchase was a ‘not now’ decision – need to save up perhaps. When the time is right they’ll go to the business they feel they know best and your job is to make sure it’s your business. If not, your competitor wins. And you lose.
Keeping customers is more than just luck. It entails a lot of commitment as well as good planning. Trust plays an integral role too. Try your best to win your customers’ trust. Take care of it. And for sure, this trust will fuel good business for you for many years to come.