New customers are both hard and expensive to find. Marketing is a two edged sword; it has to find customers and also retain existing ones. Too many small businesses see marketing’s job as “bringing in new customers”. Most small business marketing plans do not include a section on retention. A solution to this is to develop and implement two plans, one for marketing and one for retention. Both marketing and retention responsibilities belong to every employee in all businesses and both plans should be understood and embraced as the most critical part of growing a business.
In a newer business, the founder usually wears the marketing hat and spends the marketing time looking for new customers. Existing customers are familiar with your products and services. You know who they are and you understand their needs. Keeping them as ongoing customers and as a referral source is both cost effective and necessary for survival.
I have shared these customer expectations in an earlier blog, now I will repeat them as the foundation for developing a retention plan:
- Reliability…. You do what you say you are going to do. ( product and service performance as well)
- Trust…having confidence in you and your products/services
- Listening/remembering… knowing what your customers need
- Accessibility….. can your customers communicate with you?
- Support… it’s there when needed
- Teaching/communications… keeping customers up to date on “what’s new”
- Preference… are they your number one priority?
- Relationships…. Can they relate directly to the company and owner?
Each of these 8 customer expectations must be included in a retention plan. Each area should be expanded into an action plan and integrated into the overall business operation. New customers come to your business with certain expectations. Do you ask the all-important question of each of your new clients: “What expectations need to be filled in order to make our relationship significant to your personal and business life?” You may want to phrase this question a little different but develop one that you are comfortable with and use it.
Having a full retention plan is so critical that if your business does not have a written plan, take time this week to work with your support system or consultant, and develop it.
Existing customers are the nourishment that feed a business and give it strength to grow. Nick J. Petra