Taking your customer retention online

Written on the 7 April 2009 by Bloomtools

The paradox of our current economic climate is that customers are demanding more value, at the same time that businesses are looking for more cost-effective ways to deliver service.  Consumers are being much more careful with how they spend their money so they want to make sure they are getting the most for the least.  This can present a big challenge for your business - how do you meet their needs when you are trying to save money?  Well, it's easier (and cheaper) than you think...

The answer is the internet.  There are so many quick, simple, cost-effective strategies available on the web to help you add value for customers, build their loyatly and get them to stay with your business longer. And retaining customers is great for your business - happy long-term customers make repeat purchases and refer their friends which means leveraged sales for you.

Communication is they key to retaining customers, so here's our top 7 communication strategies for online customer retention:

  • Welcome letters - after-sales service is integral to any business.  You need to stay in touch with the customer to make sure they are getting the most out of the product and aren't experiencing buyer's remorse.  But it could be a logistical nightmare to phone or email every customer individually after they have made a purchase, so you need a cheaper, faster, easier solution.  Using an email marketing system (Ezy Communicator) you can set up a series of welcome letters for the customer for them to receive over a period of time after their purchase, for example - day 0: customer buys vaccuum cleaner, day 1: congratulations on purchase email with information on how they can contact you for support, day 3: tips for using the vaccuum cleaner and reinforce benefits, day 30: catch up email to see how it's going for them (great time to include survey, see point below) and upsell additional products.  Something like this is really simple to set up with an database marketing system and you can basically 'set up and forget' so once they have made the purchase, the emails are automatically sent to them - making you look professional and them feel valued.
  • Feedback surveys - the easiest way to make someone feel important is taking the time to ask them their opinion.  An online survey is the easiest and cheapest way to do this, plus you get the benefit of some feedback that you can use to improve your service.  Use an online survey tool (like the one included in the Bloomtools Ezy Communicator) to create a short and simple customer feedback survey, getting the customer to rate the product and the service they received.  Then automate it to be sent a month after they made their purchase.  Then make sure you act on it - if they have noted a problem in their survey, take action to fix it then call the person and thank them or if they have given you great feedback, call them to say thanks and potentially use that call to ask for referrals.  You can even add an incentive to get them to complete the survey, such as 30% of their next purchase of vaccuum bags - another added bonus for them.  For tips on creating and sending surveys, read this article.
  • Email promotions - one of the simplest ways to add value for current clients and increase revenue in your business is specials, packages and discounts - and it's so easy to promote these with email marketing.  The options with this are pretty much endless and really depend on your business - some examples include 'special of the month', free trials, 'buy one get one free', referral rewards program etc.  To make this really successful, make the offer sound exclusive ('Members club specials') and personalise it ('Sue, how's the model X vaccuum cleaner going for you?  We thought you might be interested in these products so we've discounted them an extra 10% just for you').  Email marketing is the most cost-effective way for you to communicate with your existing customers and because they have a relationship with you, it's highly likely that they will open your email. 
  • Client area on your website - email is a great way to get existing customers back your website and keep your brand top of mind, but a secondary strategy you could have in place is a clients area on the site where they can visit to get exclusive information.  Once the customer has made a purchase, give them a login and password for a secure section of your website and then fill this area with value-adding content - product guides, warranty information, offers, ebooks, reports, articles, videos, podcasts etc.  You can basically put anything in there and if it's valuable to them, they will come back to your site and use it regularly.  The main aim of this strategy should just be adding value and educating your clients - focus on achieving this and more sales will come as a result.
  • Ebooks - ebooks are a fantastic marketing tool for small businesses.  It's simple and free to put together a professional PDF report on a topic you are knowledgeable about and they have so many potential uses.  You can write a 'getting started' ebook and set it up as part of your automated welcome emails, or write a 'how to' guide and give it away as a free gift to your valued clients.  Ebooks can also be used for lead generation - make a free ebook available for download on your website and capture the contact details of potential customers to add to your database.  All you need to do to write your ebook is type it up in Microsoft Word, make a simple, professional design, then use a free PDF converter like CutePDF.  Alternatively, you could hire a copywriter and graphic designer to make the ebook for you - this would be a worthwhile investment if you are going to use the book in several campaigns.
  • Ecards - an ecard is simply an animated greeting card that is sent via email.  You can automate ecards to be sent to your customers on special occasions, such as their birthday, the anniversary of them becoming your client, Easter and Christmas.  This makes the client feel like you care about them, plus has the added benefit of putting your brand top of mind  with them.  The Bloomtools Ezy Communicator ecard tool allows you to choose a card from the library of ecards our graphic designers have created for a range of occasions and schedule it to go automatically to every client on a particular date.  Spend an hour setting up a series of ecards for different events and it will be working for you throughout the year with no effort - you can't get much easier than that!
  • Updated contact information - if you were to go through all your past customers and try to contact them, how many of their phone numbers and postal addresses would still be correct?  Having an up to date database of contacts is essential for all of the marketing strategies mentioned above, so you will need to spend some time making sure you have everyone's correct details.  This is easy with email marketing - you can send an automatically generated form to your entire database that asks them to update their details and anything they enter into the form automatically updates into your database.  This means you have the best chance possible of reaching them and also means you aren't wasting time and money on marketing that won't get to it's target.  You should send out an update details form once every 6 months to make sure your database is fully maximised.

These strategies are all really simple and cost-effective, so you could easily start doing them today and you may even reap instant rewards - a customer from a year ago might just be in the market for an upgrade and an email from could push them over the line.  We know times are challenging at the moment, so get smart with your marketing and start maximising your existing customers to grow your business.