Maximising customer retention is essential for long-term success and sustainability of a small business. Building strong, lasting relationships with customers can lead to repeat business, positive word-of-mouth and increased profitability.

You have done the initial hard work of overcoming objections and securing a piece of work. Assuming you delivered on your promise (if not, then nothing will help) during that work, you have built a positive relationship.

People buy from people and (in general) they are lazy. When building a customer retention process, use those traits to your advantage.

A Customer Retention Process

You know who your existing customers are. They should be happy for you to communicate with them. You should know what information they need, but if not, you can engage and receive reasonable feedback.

Retention Strategy

Delivering random communications is likely to be a waste of resources. Decide what action you would like past clients to take. You cannot control if or when that action will take place, that will be driven by events in the customer’s life. But you can build awareness that you should be the firm of choice when the time comes.

Content

Content is the fuel for your existing customer retention process. It should have a significantly higher chance of engagement than prospect-focused content.

The biggest problem with any content marketing process is how to deliver to your desired audience. That should not be an issue with existing customers.

Ongoing Customer Contact

You will need an efficient contact relationship management (CRM) system. Ideally, a system that integrates with existing systems to avoid double entry of data. There are many simple and relatively cheap CRM systems on the market.

Content, in all its forms (online and offline), will be dripped out to clients. You will need a system to control the process. With a little extra effort, you can use a CRM system to send thank you messages or to personalise communications to enhance their impact.

Systems save work and ensure events happen to plan but (again) people deal with people. At some point, there has to be a personal engagement. Don’t let systems get in the way of that engagement.

Events

Events, including social events are an important existing client retention tool. It makes past customers feel valued and keeps them engaged (with people rather than machines). It helps build community. It makes the past customers feel important. It triggers demand for services that otherwise your firm may miss.

Existing Customer Community

Related to events is community. There is little doubt building and maintaining a community is difficult, but if it can be achieved, the potential community retention benefits are significant.

The difficulty is in ensuring the community delivers consistent value and community moderation. There are no easy answers, but (in our humble opinion) the future of marketing is community.

Monitor the developments in the marketplace. There is lots of activity, but nobody has all the answers. Yet!

Improve services based on feedback

Develop a process to pick up on customer feedback. That may come in directly via reviews or complaints or indirectly. You can survey customers directly to obtain their views using simple tools like Survey Monkey.

Monitoring social media (indirect) to see what customers say about you is time-consuming but worth at least some effort. There are some tools on the market to help.

Most important of all act on the feedback. If there is something you can change to improve the customer experience, then do it.

Loyalty Programs

Where it makes economic sense, start a loyalty program that rewards existing customer loyalty. Try to make the reward something of real value. If perceived by customers as not worth the effort, it can be counterproductive.

In Conclusion

Existing customer retention is often ignored and that is a mistake. Even if your firm has all the business it needs, make every effort to engage past clients. Every market event drive, so what happens if the market turns? Remember also that existing customers are your best salespeople.

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