Think of how many times this has happened: you’ve eaten at a restaurant, you leave, and you never hear from them again. They’re not doing data capture and they’re missing a fantastic customer retention opportunity.
It’s a common occurrence, and it doesn’t just happen with restaurants of course. Many businesses across a range of industries fail to keep in touch with their customers and instead focus all their time and money on gaining new ones. All too often customer acquisition is the golden child of marketing, while customer retention is seriously overlooked.
Relationship marketing vs acquisition marketing
According to econsultancy, ‘70% of companies say it’s cheaper to retain a customer than acquire one’ and that they achieve far better ROI by investing in relationship marketing over acquisition marketing. (1)
Despite this statistic, just 30% of businesses claim they are ‘very committed’ to relationship marketing, 46% say they are committed ‘to a certain extent’ and 22% say they don’t do any!
The figures are telling us that even though businesses know that customer retention saves money, most aren’t really bothering.
The report also cites the top reasons why companies don’t engage in relationship marketing. The top three are:
· a lack of resources (22%)
· no clearly defined strategy (19%)
· technology limitations (13%)
But these problems aren’t specific to relationship marketing – they’re the same reasons why companies let a number of things slide or put onto the backburner. I imagine, like us, your “To Do” list grows by the minute! That said, often – with the right tools and processes in place – time can be found. It is a case of priorities.
Making customer retention easier
A business doesn’t need complex software and a whole team of people to stay in touch with existing customers. All that’s needed is a bit of data capture and a mass email system, which doesn’t even have to cost anything.
Step 1 is asking for a customer’s email address. Most professional services ask this anyway – it’s part of their sign-up process. But many customer-facing businesses don’t ask for an email address or are too busy to think about asking for one.
Online sign-up forms are prevalent these days, as are feedback cards. The latter definitely suits B2C, from restaurants and hairdressers to tradespeople, shops…. You just have to make it clear on your form or card that by providing their email address they are agreeing to be contacted by you.
An online sign-up form can easily be installed by your website designer. ‘Sign up for our free news and offers’ is a good hook. As a visitor to your website may not be a customer, it also allows you to pro actively target prospects as well.
Once you’ve got their email address, Step 2 is to use a legally compliant mass email system such as MailChimp. It’s free if you’re emailing under 2,000 people. You don’t want to be mass contacting people by Outlook, although some businesses still do. No ‘unsubscribe’ option? That is dangerous territory. MailChimp has all that covered. You can send out mass emails to a list of subscribers… by first name, if you want, which we’d always encourage as it makes everything more personal rather than a vague ‘Hi there’ or ‘Dear Sir / Madam’. Should someone wish to unsubscribe, they can, and they’ll never be contacted by you (via that system) again.
And hey presto, you’ve just done your first bit of relationship marketing!
Keeping existing customers happy
Perhaps one reason businesses don’t conduct much relationship marketing is they don’t understand how to court existing customers. “They’ve already bought off me. Job done. Who’s next?” But instead of “Who’s next?” it might be prudent to ask, “What’s next? You need your customers to keep coming back. I don’t mean bombard them with sales rubbish twice a day. Give them something interesting or of worth once or twice a month.
Many companies who run successful relationship marketing will, for example, send exclusive deals to their customer database. If the customer feels they’re getting something useful, they’re less likely to unsubscribe, and more likely to come back and use your services again or recommend you. Staying front-of-mind is crucial in these fickle days. If a new kid appears on the block and undercuts you by 20%, you can’t just rely on your your dazzling smile and service to stop customers jumping ship.
Informing, not selling
My family likes staying at the Bluestone resort in Wales. We get an email from them once a month or so. Sometimes I open it, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes there’s a deal in there that makes me buy. So far, we’ve been back to Bluestone eight times…. There’s never anything offensive about them sending me emails – they’re simply letting me know stuff. I’m sure people unsubscribe from their communications but you know something? That’s OK. You mustn’t get hurt just because someone decides they don’t want to hear from you anymore. Unless you were spamming them, they were unlikely to buy from you again anyway.
So to reiterate, you’re not selling – you’re informing. You are reminding people that you’re still trading successfully and why you do what you do. And if you can save them a bit of money, so much the better. Relationship marketing and customer retention is all about being pro-active and treating your customers with respect. Not only is it more cost effective than finding new customers, it’s common sense. Just like you stay in touch regularly with your best friends. The people you speak to once a year… you’re probably not as close to. Facebook knows which friends you engage with the most and accordingly puts their news higher up in your timeline. Same thing.
Think about it: you don’t have to prove yourself to a customer as they’re already bought off you. Chances are, if they’ve used you once and had a good experience, they will again or at least recommend you to others. They just need a friendly nudge….
(1) Moth, D. (2013) Almost a quart of businesses don’t carry out any relationship marketing: report – Econsultancy. Available from: https://econsultancy.com/blog/63303-almost-a-quarter-of-businesses-don-t-carry-out-any-relationship-marketing-report#blog_comment_958818 [Accessed 16th August 2016]