Hold Onto Your Clients: Creative, Cost-Effective Tips

Marketers are great at attracting new customers. A killer product, lots of buzz, and creative campaigns can bring a lot of customers in the door. However, many companies still struggle with how to keep customers -- especially startups or small companies that don’t have a huge budget for customer loyalty programs.

It goes without saying that neglecting your current customers is not a good strategy for long-term growth. Every marketer knows that it costs a lot more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. You don't have to spend a fortune building an elaborate customer loyalty program.

Here are four creative, cost-effective strategies that will boost customer retention.

Help them grow. Think of every customer as a partner. If you help your customers grow their businesses, they will not only stick around, but will invest more deeply in your products and services. Find out what your customers’ pain points are and how your product or service helps them overcome these challenges. This feedback provides insights you can use to improve your products to better help customers attain their business goals. (To gather this feedback, you can use social media, surveys, and plain-old phone calls and meetings.) Be sure to listen to your customers and integrate their feedback into your product offerings, and to follow up to determine whether the improvements were valuable. Always be on the lookout for ways to help your customers improve their businesses. Sending a customer a lead, a product or service recommendation, or a relevant article shows you care about their success.

Focus on your product. One of the best ways to keep customers from straying is to continue to deliver an amazing product. Don’t let your product go stale -- keep innovating, investing in development, collecting feedback, and iterating. That doesn’t mean you have to introduce dozens of different versions of your product every year, but it does mean focusing on quality. Make sure your product -- whether it's software, a service, or an actual product -- evolves with your customers’ changing needs. Every time you release a new version, ensure that your customers get up to speed quickly by offering free demos, online learning centers, hands-on support, live chat, or whatever else you need to do to ensure customers don’t feel "blindsided" by product changes. Finally, don’t pass development costs onto customers, because providing a quality product at a fair price is the ultimate customer retention program.

Be transparent. Give customers insight into your company’s business processes. Customers today, more than ever, want to know where the products they buy are being sourced -- whether you’re selling online leads like my company does, designer sneakers, or any other product. Especially for startups, which have not had time to establish credibility in the market, showing customers exactly how you do business and with whom is critical to building trust. Spell out your company’s policies on your Web site and answer all questions from prospective clients honestly. Being transparent about your business practices builds trust, which is essential for long-term client retention.

Engage customers in your brand. Just as you view your customers as partners, make sure they feel the same way about your company. Work to create an open dialogue so customers view your company as an ally. Invite customer feedback at any time, and respond to all comments and questions. Have account managers build personal relationships with customers so they feel they are part of your company’s growth, and use social media to build broader connections to all customers. When customers feel they have a stake in your company’s success, they will be more likely to stick around.

You may not have the time or resources to build a large, multi-layered customer loyalty program, but that doesn’t mean you should leave client retention to chance. By following a few simple strategies, you can reduce customer churn and build a stronger, more profitable company.



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