When it comes to getting customers to stick around, Todd Eby knows what it takes. This self-described “anti-consultant” launched SuccessHacker in 2016 on a quest to help small businesses get big results. Now, after nearly a quarter-century in the customer success space, Todd has plenty of practical, effective ideas about capturing and leveraging customer feedback and cultivating repeat business from loyal, happy clients.
Here, Todd shares insights and strategies to help you build strong, trust-based relationships with your customers, no matter whether you’ve been in business for five days or five years.
Retention or Acquisition? Both
When you work for yourself, you spend lots (and lots and lots) of time thinking about getting new customers through the door. That makes sense, but Todd reminds us that getting existing clients to stick around is just as important as finding new ones. (It’s more cost-effective, too!) “Retention matters as much, if not more, than acquisition, so make sure it’s a focus,” he says.
Todd underscores his point with a word of caution: “Don’t assume your business will be successful just because you’re acquiring new customers. If you can’t keep bringing them back, you’re more likely to fail.” When you’re solely focused on acquisition, eventually you’ll reach market saturation, and bringing in new business suddenly gets a whole lot harder.
Want a no-sweat first step for customer retention? Reach out to past clients you haven’t been in touch with recently. Announce a new service, offer a special discount or simply say a friendly “hi.”
Consider the Customer Journey
It’s easy to assume we’re providing a totally positive experience when customers engage with our business, either in person or online. Careful, says Todd. Instead of simply trusting the journey is smooth (and, hopefully, delightful!), map it out. “On a piece of paper, build an engagement model to look at each one of the touchpoints in depth,” says Todd. Your map should include the first moment a customer becomes aware of your company, right up until a sale is completed. Even the smallest interactions – such as seeing an ad or liking a Tweet – count.
Why chart every single opportunity for customer engagement or interaction? Because each moment represents a chance for you to win the heart (and dollars!) of a new client and secure repeat business for the future. “Once you’ve mapped out every engagement, you can start to see where you might be missing opportunities,” says Todd.
Talk to Your Customers
When was the last time you talked – really talked – with your customers about how you’re doing? Chances are, it wasn’t recent enough. “Small business owners have to remember to talk to their customers,” says Todd. “They shouldn’t ever assume they’re doing a good job.”
Todd reminds us that we often learn more from customers who leave than from those who stay. “Find out where you fell short of expectations and then fix it,” says Todd. “There’s nothing more useful than talking with customers about why they chose you, how you helped them and what they’ve done since you worked with them.” Here are two tips for getting the most from customer feedback:
- Call a customer. Ask for 15 minutes of their time on the phone, and come prepared with a list of targeted, relevant questions.
- Set up a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey to send to your existing customer base. NPS uses a very simple method to find out who is a promoter of your business, who feels neutral and who is a detractor.
Close the Sale, Then Stay in Touch
Small business owners often miss the opportunity to communicate with a customer after they’ve made a sale. Yet, this “post-purchase” period is a critical time for outreach. “This gray area is worth drilling into,” says Todd. “It’s where the magic happens when it comes to thinking about how to get your customers coming back.”
For example, you might send an email to one-time customers about how to best use their new product or service. Such “lifecycle” marketing is a great way to stay engaged. Another approach: determine what repeat customers have in common and use that knowledge to inspire similar purchasing behavior. The goal, says Todd: “Stay top of mind and be helpful so that if the next time customers have a need, they will think of you.”
Start a Blog
Another great way to stay engaged with customers is to provide helpful, relevant information on a blog or in a newsletter. Both allow you to communicate with customers, while remaining relevant and top of mind. “Blogs are particularly successful if you are helping people solve day-to-day problems related to the services you offer,” said Todd. If writing a post or an article is daunting or too time-consuming, think about hiring a writer or brand strategist to help you share your ideas with the world.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on the QBCommunity.