April 4 by Paul O'Brien
Want your customers to stick around? Sure you can perform crazy stunts to grab publicity or promise them the moon and stars. This could potentially work and create an environment where they remember and want to come back to you – but only for a certain time.
However, there’s one thing you can do that is guaranteed to go a lot farther: knowing your customers. When the people who buy your stuff are like family to you, you know exactly what will bring them in every time.
Considering 5% customer retention can potentially bring in over 100% increase in profits, it’s something to strive for. So, how do you really get to know your customers?
In this day and age, it’s all about the online presence and indeed, you know you need to be using Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for our business. However, we’re not talking about the social marketing that involves posting links, updates, and sharing tidbits you find interesting. Getting to know your customers through social media is about listening to your customers – to their wants and needs.
You may have had some complaints in the past. It’s bound to happen once in a while – it’s practically inevitable. However, if you go back and look again, you may recognize a pattern; a pattern that can be remedied or a segment of your customers who experience the same challenge with your business.
Four months ago, a few people posted on your Facebook page they didn’t like the design of your latest product. You took that into consideration but decided reverting it. That’s fine, you can’t change everything simply because a few people said so.
A few months later though some other comments show up asking when you’re going to bring out a new version of your product. “We’re waiting for the upgrade,” they say. Seems something is just… off about the current version. One segment of customers led another set of prospects to wait, expecting a change. Knowing both segments turns a group of detractors into evangelists and potential users into fans.
Pro Tips: Set up Google Alerts and Twitter searches for keywords in your industry and check them often. Use social media to follow bloggers and other people in your industry, including people who follow your partners and competitors. Social media may seem like a tsunami of white noise, but valuable lessons can be gleaned simply from listening in the right places.
If all else fails, just ask! Your customers won’t be shy when describing how they could enjoy an already favorite product or service more. Send out some customer retention emails and create some surveys to get a better idea how to get them back in your store. The answers might sting, but you have to admit, it will be worth it in the long run.
The important thing to remember is that the changes you make from listening to customers can’t be superficial. If customers get the idea you’re just pandering to them, your retention rates just aren’t going to be as high. After a while you’ll get the reputation of being a flake and untrustworthy – a death sentence for a company, especially a fledgling one.
Use the information you’ve gathered to grow. View it as an opportunity to get inside the heads of your customers, not as a burden to be taken care of later.
If you do, and your customers know you can be trusted to actually listen to them, they’ll return – likely with their friends and family in tow. Then you have something even better than retention – recommendations, trust, and loyalty.
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