You may have heard the marketing mantra: ‘It’s cheaper to sell to existing customers than to go out and find new ones.’
Is this always true? Let’s say that it costs £100 to run a marketing campaign to target a segment of your audience. If this audience hasn’t heard of your brand before, it could take several attempts at reaching out before they even consider buying from you. Compare this with the cost of sending an email to existing customers who may be poised to purchase from you again and it’s not hard to see why marketers favour customer retention.
That isn’t to say you should reduce efforts to attract new business, but it’s important to understand the true value of your existing clients – in terms of profitability and predictability.
Employ our simple tactics to increase repeat sales and visits to your site by building customer trust and loyalty.
Customer retention vs acquisition
If you still need convincing that customer retention is important, take a look at some of the hard facts:
- A report by invesp estimates that it is four times more expensive to acquire new customers than to sell to existing customers. The true cost to a company will depend on individual variables; some experts suggest that this figure could be as high as thirty times more expensive.
- The probability of selling to existing customers is 60-70%, but to new customers it’s as low as 5%.
- Kiss Metrics report that 61% of consumers will take their custom to a direct competitor when the relationship ends – it’s important to keep your customers happy.
- The same report estimates that the global average cost of a lost customer is £187.
- Small Biz Trends report that 80% of future profits are achieved from just 20% of a company’s existing customers.
- The same report also estimates that 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers.
What are the most effective techniques to help you build brand loyalty with your customers? Now we’ll look at:
- Email communications
- Reward schemes
- Personalising offers
In it for the long-haul
1. Email communications
Email communications could be a weekly newsletter containing a round-up of your latest business news and activities or an invite to read the latest blog.
These should be sent to both existing customers and people who have subscribed to your mailing list.
Benefits of email updates
Newsletters and email digests are designed to inform the customer and should be devoid of any ‘hard selling’, making them the most effective way to build brand loyalty and encouraging customers to stick around.
For example, I’m a bit of knitting fiend and have a few favourite suppliers from whom I purchase my wool, needles and other knitting essentials. One particular supplier regularly sends information about flash sales with ‘buy now’ messages, which I usually ignore. The other sends a weekly email that contains free knitting patterns that have been carefully curated throughout the week. The latter is my preferred supplier, largely down to the fact that I pay more attention to the emails. I also feel inspired by the patterns sent to me and choose to buy wool directly from the site out of convenience.
Make a list of topics that are relevant to your niche that you could regularly report on alongside company updates. The best subject matter should be both interesting and inspiring. This is a great way of providing regular content that will grow your brand loyalty and encourage sales.
Tips for creating regular email and newsletters
1. Steer clear of sales talk: Don’t use these communications to sell to your customers. The focus should be on building customer loyalty.
2. Short and sweet is best: Don’t expect your customers to read a mountain of content. Large emails are a major source of frustration and will actually deter your audience from reading anything. Keep it short and to the point to ensure that your customers will give it the attention it deserves.
3. Quality over quantity: Given the number of emails the average consumer receives on a daily basis, think carefully about how regularly you should contact your customers. Once a week or bi-monthly is sufficient. Any more frequent and you run the risk of your customers becoming despondent, sending your emails to trash or – even worse – unsubscribing!
4. Monitor effectiveness: Be consistent with the timing of the newsletter and monitor how many people open the email and the number of click-throughs to your site. Vary the time and day you send out the newsletter until you find the optimal time based on the engagement levels.
5. Honour unsubscribes: There’s nothing worse than continuing to receive emails from a company or individual that you have already unsubscribed from. It’s not only highly frustrating; it’s illegal. Make sure that customers who request to be unsubscribed are removed from any email communication lists. They may return if you honour their wishes.
6. Use an automation tool: There are lots of tools available to help you create great HTML emails, schedule delivery, manage subscribers, control distribution and monitor reach. If you have a large customer database or subscriber list, it’s well worth spending on a good tool. Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor are two examples.
Blogs are regular informative articles that typically adopt an informal or conversational tone.
As the aim of a blog is to address customer issues, provide information and answer questions, they are a great way of generating brand trust.
It’s estimated that 81% of consumers conduct online research before purchasing. If you are able to write with a level of authority around your topic, you will gain a great amount of trust and advocacy for your brand.
Additionally, blogs are effective at canvassing support and encouraging existing customers to share your content to their wider networks, which in turn can attract new visitors/customers.
1. Be customer focused: Ask your customers what are their common issues and questions, and write your blogs in response. For some more ideas about topics, see our previous post.
2. Structure blogs effectively: Make your blog easier to digest by including clear headings and subheadings. This allows your audience to skim the blog to grasp the most important points within it. Links to external resources show that you have done your research and will instil trust.
3. Be transparent: If you’re writing a comparison blog, don’t be afraid to include products from your competitors; just don’t forget to mention why you feel that your products and services are better value for money. Remain objective or your customers will tune out.
4. Be informative: ‘How to’ guides, top ten charts and ‘Where to buy’ guides will be greatly valued by your audience. Remember that consumers like to do their research online, so providing useful information will be appreciated.
For information about how to establish and promote a blog, check out this handy resource dedicated to the art of blogging.
The direct approach
Reward schemes are a way of letting your customers know that you value their custom and are willing to reward it.
The most common type of reward scheme is offering discount codes exclusively to returning customers. This is an effective way of encouraging repeat business, especially when these are offered during quiet periods. It can also help to ensure a level of certainty and predictability, and guarantee some profit.
Customers not only get a monetary incentive, they also feel valued, which can encourage loyalty.
Percentage based discounts: Offer a percentage based discount off the overall spend; for example, customers get 5, 10 or 25% deducted from the total purchase cost.
Discount voucher: These are exact-amount discount vouchers, typically offering £10 or £20 off the overall cost, although these normally specify a minimum spend.
Free gift: Offering free gifts is a great way to encourage purchases and is an opportunity to get rid of stock that you might be finding hard to shift.
Free shipping: Why not offer free shipping to returning customers? It won’t cost you much but will serve as a worthy incentive to purchase from your site instead of a competitor’s site.
Refer a friend
Incentive schemes like ‘refer a friend’ usually offer a reward if an existing customer encourages a friend or family member to make a purchase or sign up to a newsletter. These can reward both the referrer and the referee so that it becomes mutually beneficial.
Benefits of referrals
There is nothing more powerful than word of mouth marketing; 92% of consumers trust a referral from someone they know and 43% are likely to make a purchase on the back of a referral. This is a perfect opportunity to boost sales.
Make it personal
Personalising offers can work wonders for customer engagement and retention:
Personalise communications: When sending any email communications such as newsletters and rewards, make sure emails are addressed to the recipient. This provides a level of personalisation and exclusivity, and ensures that your emails aren’t regarded as spam or phishing attempts.
Remember important occasions: If customers enter their D.O.B as part of the sign up process, use this information to offer personalised, exclusive discounts around the time of their birthday.
Offer an incentive to return: If you haven’t heard from a customer for a while, try reaching out with an email offering them a discount if they return. Remember to put an expiry date on the offer as an incentive to act quickly.
Customer retention is important for any business. Existing customers are cheaper to retain and more likely to make repeat purchases compared with acquiring new business. They are also able to become brand ambassadors, which is the most effective form of marketing.
There are many different ways to reach out to your existing customers but remember that your primary objective should be to establish brand loyalty through informative and authoritative content, over and above making sales. The sale will follow as a result of building a brand that your customers can trust and are willing to refer to friends.
Sarah Miles, owner of Yabbermarketing.com, is dedicated to helping small businesses improve their online presence. With over ten years of practical marketing experience Sarah provides crucial digital marketing services to her clients, including SEO and digital marketing communications.Read full profile