All business owners can agree that repeat clients are essential to a healthy bottom line.
But many small businesses make a significant mistake: They focus on bringing new customers in the front door while ignoring opportunities to retain and upsell clients who have already decided to do business with them.
If your business is guilty of this, consider using one of the following four retention techniques to bring customers — and their wallets — back again and again.
4 Ways to Keep Clients Coming Back for More
1. Ask Their Opinions
Create a system to contact existing customers to ask them how you can better help them. People love to offer their opinion, and your clients are no exception. This technique tells clients you’re listening while simultaneously helping you find out precisely what you can change to make them happier.
Make this part of your customer journey after the first sale. By then, your clients are used to being contacted, but few expect to see further effort after they’ve spent their money. Pleasantly surprise them this way.
Bonus Points: Include a coupon or special offer at the end of your survey or questions, encouraging them to come in again.
2. Host Invitation-Only Events
In this age of free content everywhere, people love to feel like they get to be part of something with limited attendance. Whether you put on a sale, an early release of a new product, a small party, or invitation-only hours at your shop, you can create this kind of event to reward and encourage your existing clients.
This works even better when the event gives behind-the-scenes access to what you do. Something as simple as a PDF of a rough draft for a report, all the way to a day-long facility tour including lunch with the CEO, can turn clients into lifelong friends and advocates of your company.
Bonus Points: Set a minimum requirement for an invitation and announce that requirement ahead of time so your customers can engage with you to qualify. For example, you could say anyone who has purchased a specific quantity or dollar amount in the past month would be eligible.
3. Establish Rewards
Those little punch cards where you get a free sandwich or haircut after buying a dozen are popular for a reason. They work with human psychology to encourage loyalty and return visits, and they’re far from the only way to use rewards to motivate clients to come back. Use social media, text messaging, and even an app, and get creative with how people qualify and what they can earn.
When your customers accumulate progress toward some kind of freebie, discount, upgrade, or other reward, it triggers the same kind of dopamine reaction that leads to screen addiction and similar habits. Make one of those habits a great relationship with your brand.
Bonus Points: Combine this with Technique No. 1 on this list. Ask your customers what they want for rewards, then give it to them.
4. Prioritize Communication
You’ve experienced the opposite of this with your phone company or cable provider. You have a problem, but the customer service rep can’t help you until you threaten to cancel. If you call the competition, the salesperson will offer you an incredible package to get you to move.
Don’t be the company that’s unreachable. Prioritize communication, honesty, transparency, and problem-solving with your existing clients, even over the siren song of getting new business. Give staff the necessary permission and tools to treat your current clients like they’re at least as essential as the new guy “just looking” in the lobby.
Bonus Points: Be proactive about this and ask how you can make things better before people start to complain.
Get More From Metrics
Your churn rate is a numerical measure of how often you’re losing customers who already bought at least one thing once. Calculate it by taking the number of customers you lost in a month and dividing that by the number of existing customers at the end of that month.
For example, if you had 200 regular customers but five dropped off the rolls in January, your churn rate would be 5/200 = 2.5%.
By tracking churn rate, you can tell when you’re doing well and when things are getting rough. More importantly, you can gauge the success of client retention programs you put in place.
Ella Youngstown has run a marketing company for a decade in Florida and offers workshops on retention strategies. She is a writer for Money Crashers.