Imagine having a steady stream of repeat customers who would never consider going to your competition and consistently refered new business to you. Does that sound too good to be true? If so, perhaps it’s time to rethink your approach to marketing your business.
After all, if repeat customers and word-of-mouth referrals were the most effective routes to profitability, wouldn’t it make sense to focus on driving business through them? Yet, so many marketing efforts run counter to this ideal.
If your time and money are spent primarily trying to reach the masses via ads run in your local newspapers or phonebooks, direct marketing to purchased lists or spending too much time trying to build a random collection of Facebook fans, it’s time to reconsider your approach.
It’s not as if those efforts don’t pay off in terms of getting the word out about your business and attracting new customers. Rather, it’s the time invested in them that isn’t proportional to the profits they generate. This is largely because they're aimed at reaching random, unidentified potential customers.
To build a base of lifetime customer relationships, focus on creating genuine connections with your existing customers based on their interests and then tailor your marketing efforts to their needs.
When you establish strong ties to your satisfied customers, they'll be more likely to return to your business and tell their friends about the quality of your service and products.
The most direct and effective way to do this is through the following three-step process:
1. Stop marketing and start engaging
Focus on making every customer experience worthwhile and personalized.
2. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers
Ask about their interests and needs to find the right match with your products and services. Keep track of their questions and other insights you pick up from your interactions so you can really get to know them as individuals.
3. Earn the right to connect
Before your customer leaves, ask about his or her experience in your store or on your website. If it’s positive, ask if you can keep in touch via your newsletter or e-mails containing special offers and promotions. If the feedback isn’t positive, view it as an opportunity to improve your service and potentially turn around the customer’s opinion.
Once you earn the right to connect, be sure to maintain the goodwill you’ve established during the sales process as you keep the connection alive.
To do this, follow through with personalized messages based on the customer’s particular interests and make sure he or she is getting a balance of relevant information and special offers not easily found elsewhere.
Just be sure you’re not inundating customers with messages or they will tune you out—or worse, block you from contacting them. Depending on your type of business, you’ll find anywhere from once a week to once a month is the right balance.
So instead of diving head-first into your next marketing campaign, consider the benefits of first establishing quality lifetime relationships and a steady referral stream by engaging each customer in more meaningful ways.
Maintain those connections by using the most cost efficient and effective marketing vehicle: e-mail. When you take this approach, your other marketing campaigns will yield stronger results because you’re reinforcing the value of your products and services.
From there, you can build longer-term, more profitable relationships based on happy customers who will gladly refer new business to you.