Would your newest customer be surprised to get a non-sales follow up phone call from you?
What happens to your customer after they leave the shop or end their specific reason for using your services? Those of you in distribution or manufacturing almost always have ongoing relationships, but the issue still applies. Do you "land the new account" and then take them for granted? There is a very, very old rule in business: It is far more expensive to land a new account than to hold on to an existing one.
An entire industry has grown up around customer retention with sophisticated computer programs called CRM or customer relationship management. My experience with those, and it may be different than yours, is that CRM makes it even easier to turn clients into numbers, and to objectify the entire process.
For those of us in small business, we generally need to have a very personal relationship with our clients, but we think we don't have the time or resources. Many of my clients get it that their current clients are likely to come back again and again. But some don't seem to get the huge benefit that comes from keeping in touch.
Let's take a divorce lawyer for our example. Why keep in touch after the divorce is over? Because divorces happen in bunches and referrals are worth their weight in gold. Because, unfortunately, folks who get divorced are far more likely to repeat. Because a happy client might give you a great write up in Yelp, Google Places, like you on Facebook, or recommend you on Linkedin.
The good news for retailers, online sellers, and service providers is that staying in touch has become very close to free through using email blasting to clients and potential clients. Recent statistics show that 70% of the population would rather be sold through email than any other way. The lawyer mentioned above can send out an email every other month just to stay in touch. Retailers can send emails out once a month or even more. A local computer sales company sometimes sends me daily emails.
I personally use Constant Contact for all of my clients and my own emailing. They have the best customer service of any company I have ever done business with, and they are always ahead of the curve on new developments, tools, and both online and live local helps. You can sign up at http://www.constantcontact.com/index.jsp?pn=searchpage1
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Think of the email connection this way. If your customer just saw an email from you, even if they didn't even open it, they are more likely to remember to mention you to a neighbor if the neighbor needs what you do!
You can also stay in touch through birthday cards, small promotional products with your brand on them, social media, or even a purposed phone call. As a writer for 35 years in the bicycle industry, I have encouraged bike shops to call the client a couple of weeks after the purchase of a new bike. The conversation can include how they are enjoying the new bike, any problems, and recommendations for groups or places they can ride.
I have even recommended sending a hand written thank you note a week after the sale. After all these years, one client took me up on it, and reports that his clients are just blown away. They've never had any retailer do that.
For those who do have ongoing relationships, there is clearly a need to differentiate the time and money you want to spend for staying in touch with a specific client based on their perceived potential future contribution to your bottom line. But keep in mind that it may not always come in the form of orders. It might come in the form of being an opinion leader or source of ideas and industry gossip.
You may commonly be surprised by who is important. I have also had plenty of times when a one man business outsold Target or Toys R Us, because they had a critical niche and I worked hard with them to exploit that market. Ironically, some of the people I've worked the hardest for have turned out to be the least grateful. Sound familiar.
The take away. It isn't about the specific situation. It is about your reputation. If you do more than the other guy in the days and months after the sales is made, that alone can easily be a reason for WOM. Your personal relationships with opinion leaders can create more new business than a a big print campaign.
Action steps for day 35:
- What kind of follow up would make sense for your business. Phone calls, personal letters, lunches, sporting events, email blasts, personalized promotional items, birthday cards?
- Create a follow up plan and a budget for the plan.
- Figure out how you will decide who will get the follow up gold plan, silver plan, or bronze plan.
- Execute the plan. Review results and make adjustments.
- I believe that Linkedin is already an amazing way to work on some aspects of follow up, and that it will eventually be one of the best tools for networking and getting WOM. I highly recommend that you become knowledgeable about Linkedin and add connections.