October 10 2017
While there are many different methods of attracting customers and retaining their loyalty (most of which involve over-the-top or straight-up silly marketing campaigns), it often seems that businesses of all shapes and sizes struggle to implement these methods with more than a small modicum of success. In fact, even businesses that have been around for decades often fall into the trap of using the same methods that they’ve been using for the entirety of their existence…
Only to find out that the modern customer no longer responds to what was once effective.
Or worse, to finally learn that their methods were never effective in the first place.
Now this is broadly applicable and is a common thread in B2B, B2C, and beyond — the needs, desires, and values of customers change quickly, and it’s up to the savvy business to keep up with the trends…Or fail.
By the same token, it’s critical that the tactics you choose to attract and retain customers actually work. If you’re not measuring what you’re doing, if you’re not asking your customers if these things actually work, you’re not just wasting time — you’re wasting money.
And that’s just silly, now isn’t it?
Change Methods Regularly
The most successful firms employ a combination of tried-and-true tactics and wacky, out of the box methods to both attract customers and retain their loyalty.
It’s a delicate balance that must be carefully maintained — and honestly, it’s usually better to err on the side of solid-and-reliable than try too hard to go wacky-and-viral.
Sometimes this works out, and you end up with the Hamburger Helper Mixtape phenomenon. Light shines down from the heavens, the Gods of Marketing fill you with their viral glory, and you’re whisked away to 400-million-social-impressions Valhalla.
But 99% of the time, you miss the mark, and you end up with, well, one of these…
And you look like the 45-year-old dad who’s trying way too hard to prove his Talking Heads albums are still super cool.
While the old, reliable methods of attracting customers and retaining their loyalty may not always be sexy, mind-blowing, or catapult you into viral stardom, they will be effective in their own way, leading to steady growth.
Most business owners and marketers that I know are quite happy with steady.
So let’s talk steady.
#1 Make Yourself Easy to Find, Easy to Contact, and a Pleasure to Talk to
I really hate the fact that I have to write this.
It’s ridiculous — this should be Business Ownership 101.
And yet, it is not.
So, let’s get back to the basics.
There are many different methods of attracting customers and retaining their loyalty, but they’ll all fail if you don’t have the basics covered.
If I can’t find you online, I’m not going to become your customer.
If I call you and get routed through a flippin’ phone tree instead of being able to talk to an actual human, depending on your product or service, you may have lost me as a potential customer for life.
If you answer the phone tersely, if you’re rude when a customer has a problem, if you make things difficult, if you don’t answer the phone at all when your business hours indicate you should (I’ve experienced all these things), then you’re going to lose customers.
Yeah, we’re not just talking about bringing on new customers here — if your business is difficult to deal with, even your loyal customers are going to start to leave.
So, before you start gettin’ fancy with PPC campaigns and loyalty programs, cross those Ts and dot those Is — your customers will appreciate you for it.
That means a few things:
- Claim your listings
- Set up Google My Business (sigh… and I guess you could do the same with Bing and Yahoo if you’re so inclined… barf)
- Set up profiles on social media sites and any other sites that are relevant to your business (Yelp, for example, or Houzz, or, heck, Foursquare even… wherever your customers are, basically)
- Make sure your website, address, phone number, email, and other contact information is correct and consistent in all these places
- For the love of Bob and all that is holy, respond to messages and pick up the dang phone! Monitor social media for messages, check your email (or pay someone to do so) — do what you have to do to be available when a customer tries to contact you.
- Be nice! Remember what your parents taught you — do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Do you like it when people answer the phone, clearly in a hurry, speaking rudely and tersely, rushing to get you off the phone? No, you do not, unless you’re a masochist.
- But sorry, if you’re rude to potential customers, you’re not going to get customers new customers, and you’re going to lose the old ones
Now, for those of us who are well behaved, we’re thinking “Well no joke Joe Smoke — DUH! Of COURSE you need to do these extremely basic things.”
But guess what? More businesses than you can shake a very large collection of sticks at seem to have serious problems with these very basic issues.
So, get this stuff figured out, and then you can worry about actually drumming up business and getting more out of your existing customers.
Because the truth is, your marketing and retention methods will fail if you don’t have this taken care of — prospects will get lost or frustrated when trying to find you and give up, and existing customers will switch to someone else who is easier to work with.
It’s just that simple.
#2 Offer Value in Everything You Do
I think another problem I see in a lot of businesses is the lack of value in many activities — basically, they’re stingy and cheap, and it ends up hurting them.
In practice, this can look a lot of different ways. It might be a coupon that, frankly, doesn’t save you much money at all (or worse, gives you something of extremely limited value, something so small that you don’t even bother with it).
You see this all the time in “loyalty” programs: “Buy 30 of these things of ours and get the 31st for free!” Well jack, I hate to burst your bubble, but most modern consumers are impatient —they ain’t got time to wait until they’ve gotten 30 oil changes to get an oil filter for free, and they’re not going to see a lot of value in that stupid filter anyway.
The funny thing is, I’m not just making this up off the top of my head — we’ve known for a long time that loyalty programs are frustratingly ineffective.
You even see this with the products themselves, companies who give extremely limited warranties, or who have draconian return policies, or who skimp on parts and labor, or who are so worried about theft that they stalk you around the store, very decidedly not offering to help you or doing whatever they can to meet your needs, making you so uncomfortable that you don’t want to buy any of their bull hooey in the first place.
So, how do we fix this problem?
It takes a bit of thought. You really have to look at the numbers and figure out exactly how much of a discount you can offer to customers to make it worth getting them in the door, but it’s worth taking the time to offer as much value as you possibly can while still staying profitable — your customers will appreciate you for it.
You need to offer value from day 1 — the second they walk in the store, send an email, pick up the phone, shoot you an FB message, or land on your website, it needs to be very clear that they’re going to get value out of the interaction.
Taking it further, they need to get value out of your content (blog posts, emails, the like), they need to get value out of your products and services (don’t do the bare minimum — increase the quality, decrease the price, make it worth their while!), they need to get value out of every interaction they have with your company.
You have got to make it clear that they’re always going to get the best service and the best deal (whether it be best price, best quality, or some hybrid of the two) by choosing you over your competitors.
Focus on the Basics
I cringe to think of how many businesses suffer day, after day, after day, from their own poor business practices.
Nothing boggles my mind quite like being unable to find a business online — I often wonder how these people are able to find the bathroom on their own.
That being said, there are plenty of highly competent businesses who are just plain terrible at customer service. It’s like they don’t even try. They have an attitude from day one.
They suffer for it.
In a world where the online review is only a click away, when the customer you just ticked off is able to hop on their phone and leave a nasty review immediately, it behooves you to offer the best possible customer service at all times.
If you can get these basics down, then you can start worrying about putting marketing and loyalty campaigns into action.
Already got the basics figured out? Great — then read the astoundingly awesome Rebecca Wojno’s 7 retention tactics that leave customers hungry for more.
Until next time, marketers.