I don’t claim to be an expert in business, but in my relatively short adventure into the wonders of the business world I have noticed something that scares me. Existing and previous customers are severely neglected!
Here’s a (slightly exaggerated) example:
“Buy our new product and we’ll give a brand new boat!” Small print:
“New customers only”

So this example may be a little exaggerated but the principal is right. Most businesses use things like discounts and promotions to get customer’s ”˜through the door’ and who can blame them, after all no customers = an exponential increase in accountant anger. The problem is that you don’t see these promotions being offered to existing customers, so where did all the love go?

My company is mainly based in the web design industry and so most of my customers will have a website built and then go on there way. There are areas of repeat business (hosting, domains, etc..) but the bulk of the sales are one-off items. So some people would argue what’s the point in spending time and effort trying to keep your old customers happy when they’re not likely to buy from you again. There’s a really big point, referrals!

I’ve been in business for about 12 months now (8 full-time) and a good chunk of my new business is now coming through referrals from old customers. It’s an essential source of income for my business and it will only happen if I keep my old customers happy.

Unfortunately in a world driven by sales targets and performance tables it’s easy for this vital group of customers to be forgotten. However I have a theory that can keep all of your customers happy and improve your sales figures at the same time.

The theory is that your old customers have the power to bring in more customers than you or your sales team. Really it’s more of a fact than a theory. If you keep your old customers happy and you provided them with a good service they will recommend you to their friends, family and colleagues. These people then come to your door with a positive image of you and your products already set in their mind. In effect your old customers are like a massive sales force for your company, bringing in clients from all sorts of different backgrounds.
With some effort to make sure that you are going above and beyond to keep all of your clients happy the effect will snowball and before you know it 3 of your original customers have brought in 30 new customers!

It’s common sense really but so many people get this so epically wrong.

If you’re looking for a few pointers as to what you can do to keep your old customers happy, here’s some of the things I do:

  1. Keep in touch: You don’t have to ring them every week, once every couple of months is fine. Just to see how they’re getting on with their [website]. It’d not designed to be a sales call so don’t make it one.
  2. Ask for feedback: A simple questionnaire or a couple of questions on the phone would do the trick. I would emphasise that a questionnaire should be brief, no more than 5 questions. Nobody will fill it in if you send them 4 pages of questions! If you do need to ask quite a few questions split the questions up and send them out to different groups.
  3. Listen to their feedback: This is the most important one! There’s no point asking for feedback if you’re not going to act on it.
  4. Thank them if they refer someone: A simple phone call or email to thank someone for referring a someone can go a long way. It let’s them know that you appreciate them and value them as a customer.

This is the end of today’s ramble I hope I haven’t bored you too much. Remember:
“Look after your customers and they will look after you”

Matt West