17 ways to generate repeat business

17 ways to generate repeat business

Thank You

Q. I am finding it tough. Sales are slowing but I can’t figure out exactly why. No one seems to be unhappy with what we do, and no competitor has entered the market as yet. People seem to be buying less often and in lower numbers.

Did you know it is far easier and less expensive to have an existing customer purchase from you again than to find new customers? Your existing customers are your most valuable asset!

This blog lists 17 creative ways to gain repeat business from existing customers, or to help your customers to think more positively about your business – enough to perhaps even refer you to family and friends.

Here’s a tip: the golden rule for success in business is to get your customers to believe that they are more important to you than anyone else.

Because small businesses are very diverse, not all of these tactics will be relevant to your particular business. Choose at least one from the list that makes sense for your particular circumstances, and make a commitment to give it a try.

  1. Send a thank-you letter within two days of the customer buying from you. If at all possible, send a note the next day. It only has to be a handwritten note on a standard card, or a professionally typed letter. Other variations include sending a cartoon with your caricature to say thank you, or even a cartoon card (depending on who the customer is and how much they have spent).
  2. Send an offer of a product or service that’s related to what they bought, usually after one month. Offer a discount or special deal. If you don’t have any complementary products or services, then find a business that does and offer their products. Then get that business to do something similar with their customers, but this time with your products or services as the offer. This way, you will build strategic alliances!
  3. If you sell products (such as printers) that use consumables, use your database date-of-sale records to predict when they might be ready to buy these consumables so that you can send them a ‘special offer’. Use the same technique for products that have a definite use-by date (such as timing the letter for when a lease arrangement on equipment is about to expire and newer technology is available).
  4. Send out a questionnaire once every three to six months to see what your customers now want, and to see if your market has changed. Use the feedback to update your database and refine your product and services mix. You can also use surveys to discover how your customers rate your level of service – was it exceptional? What improvements could be made?
  5. If you have a small number of highly loyal customers, then continue to acknowledge their custom with simple ideas like sending birthday and Christmas cards to them. You would be surprised at the impact something so simple can make!
  6. Try a telemarketing exercise. Ring up the customer with a brief message about a special or new product they may like to try. If possible make the offer free, or offer some incentive that provides a genuine saving or deal for existing customers only.
  7. Send out an email newsletter to your customers (even if it is once every six months – remember, you don’t want to be emailing them every day!). Inform them about what is happening in your industry, community or area. Give tips relating to whatever business you are in. If you run out of ideas, then contact another business to share the newsletter (you can also share costs). Note: an email newsletter costs only a fraction of a conventionally printed and posted newsletter and the Internet offers a huge resource of useful information.
  8. Run a customer contest that only existing customers can enter. This rewards them for being your customer — not the competition’s. Make sure to check your state rules around competitions, as well as platform rules (e.g. if you are running it on Facebook or Instagram).
  9. In appropriate instances you may be able to ask for referrals. Something along the lines of: ‘If you thought that we did a great job, then we’d really appreciate it if you could send us the names of three people who could also benefit from our product/service?’. Or you could simply ask for your name to be passed on to any people the customer may see as needing your help. Sometimes you can also include a special deal for their friends. Be careful here, though: don’t make this deal better than the one the original customer received!
  10. If you have a new product or new technology just about to be released, then hold a ‘customer-only’ preview. Supply refreshments. This could even relate to someone else’s technology. For example, if you have just bought a new colour printer, invite your customers to see what it can do. Get them to bring in some printing so you can demonstrate on their work. You can also the supplier of the equipment to share the costs – it’s promotion for the supplier too.
  11. Hold a customer-only sale. Send them an invitation and remember to note that it is an “exclusive” event for customers only.
  12. A variation on the above is to offer existing customers first choice at your sale for a certain period (such as a few days or a week) before the sale is opened to the public.
  13. Send a letter, card or email that keeps customers informed of interesting facts or information for their use. Do not try and sell anything – you do not want your correspondence to be automatically assumed as hard sell spam. This way, your customers will instead look forward to receiving helpful information from you.
  14. If your customers spend a significant amount of money on your products/services, and the profit per item is large, why not send your customers items that will be useful for their circumstances. For instance, if you sell to other businesses, you could send them CDs or videos on sales, marketing, or even motivation. In the case of especially good customers, find out from the survey you sent earlier what interests they have, and send something that corresponds to this. It doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated (e.g. if they mentioned they love golf, their birthday card might be golf-related). Little things such as this show you care and are paying attention.
  15. Send customers a catalogue of all your products, and offer to direct mail to them anything they need. Consider sending samples where applicable.
  16. A variation on this if you have a website is to offer preferred customers a special PIN number or password that allows them to log in to sections of your website (special discounts, sales, etc.) that others can’t access.
  17. Consider a “Special Anniversary Offer” one year exactly after the customer first purchase from you. If the offer is taken up, repeat the idea every year.

PLEASE NOTE: Many of these suggestions involve using your database of customers. It is essential to ensure you are complying with The Privacy Act. 

There must be something for every business in this list! The idea behind each of these suggestions is simply to keep in contact with your existing customers, to build goodwill and positive word of mouth. By making them feel privileged and special you’re preventing the possibility that YOUR customer will be lured away by the competition.

Letters - Customer Retention

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