July 13, 2009

Five Inexpensive Ways to Keep Customers Coming Back


Hostway Team

By Hostway

If you're like most businesses, you know that customer retention is important, but you just haven't found the time to create and implement a strategy. You can bet that your customers are comparison shopping online, but even small efforts can make a big difference when customers are weighing you against your competitors. Here are some simple ideas you can use to start a customer retention plan for your online business.

1. Offer Special Incentives for Frequent Buyers

Many small businesses offer loyalty programs. Think of the business cards with icons to punch out each time a customer makes a purchase. These programs keep people coming back again and again to redeem their prize.

If you're an online business, automate the process. Keep track of customer sales over time and offer special deals or discounts when customers reach a designated level of sales. Most importantly, make sure you announce this program to your customers by placing it on your Web site or sending an email message to your email list.

2. Send Email Messages to Key Customers

You can build an email list of customers simply by asking for their email addresses and permission to send them messages. Send your list messages announcing special offers, sales or newly released products and services. Sometimes all it takes to get a customer to return is a reminder that your business exists. Some customers will return for your special offers.

If you do not have the resources to maintain a large email list, try creating a small one using the contacts in your email system. This list can include your top customers. Remember to respect their rights and honor any requests to unsubscribe from your list. It is also important to blind copy everyone on the list so others cannot copy your list and send members unwanted email messages. Simply paste your email addresses into the "BCC" rather than the "To" field before you hit send. Recipients will see only your address and theirs on the message.

3. Write a Blog

Maintaining a company blog is a great way for online businesses to establish themselves as industry experts and keep customers returning to their Web site for new information. Blogs are inexpensive, but require a regular time commitment. Regular postings build an audience and keep people returning, but if you let a long time lapse between posts, people can get frustrated and will eventually stop visiting.

4. Remind Them of Important Dates

There are many ways to use printed pieces to increase customer retention. Try email messages for the following:

  • Holiday or birthday card with a coupon. Cards can set you apart from the competition by giving your customers the impression that you care about them. The coupon is an excellent enticement to get them to buy from you again.
  • Appointment reminders. Doctors, dentists and oil change companies often send previous customers a little reminder in the mail when their next appointment is due. These reminders are helpful for customers, and they're likely to think of you first when they're ready for that office visit or purchase.

5. Conduct a Survey

Ask your customers what they think about your business or any changes you plan to make. By finding out what they like about your business and what they don't, you can figure out what causes customers to stop purchasing from you and how you can keep them coming back.

Focusing on keeping current customers happy can be more profitable than acquiring new customers. But the best business strategies offer a balance of both. Check out our ideas on acquiring new customers.

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