How to Keep Customers Coming Back: A 6-Step Guide to Customer Retention

Whether you are an entrepreneur, small business, startup or corporation, retaining customers is core to staying in business. Keeping your customers coming back for more is central to a steady cash flow, which means a balanced business and a reliable paycheck for you and your employees. Oftentimes business focus most of their time on building relationships, when maintaining them can be both more efficient and effective.

When thinking about how to make your customers come back for more work from you - whether that's a service or product - you'll want to focus less on the fundamentals of building your business and instead on nurturing relationships. It's important to make sure they have access to help and answers when they have questions, your information at their fingertips, an easy way to communicate, and a place to engage with you on social media.

This guide will show you how to keep your customers while continuing to build strong relationships so they'll continue to do business with you - and not a competitor. With a step-by-step process that's easy to follow, you'll learn how to implement simple services that will help you retain customers so the work easily comes back to you instead.

Step #1: Hire a 24-Hour Support Team

When you're running your own small business, managing customer support can be an incredible drain on time and resources. It's also incredibly important to be sure your customers get their questions answered, help with billing, and request for a future project followed up on as quickly as possible.

Of course, you can't always answer the phone or email 24/7. With a virtual assistant, you can easily outsource this aspect of your business. Virtual assistants often manage the administrative aspects of a small business, and many are especially experienced in managing incoming emails and phone calls, even from around the world.

Some of the tasks that virtual assistants can assist with to boost your productivity while ensuring your customers receive the best support possible include answering phone calls, emails, billing questions, and managing social media.

Insider Tips

  • When hiring a support team, be sure to ask what hours they will be available. Not all virtual assistants or teams offer this level of support.
  • Be sure to clarify that your team can handle the work that you specifically need done. Do you need Snapchat managed because several of your clients snap you questions? Be sure to ask if they can do that.
  • Ensure that there will be no communication barriers between your support team and your clients, especially if phone support is involved. It's important that everyone can understand the questions and answers!

Your Next Step

Step #2: Get a Memorable Business Card

In today's digital era, you probably carry your smartphone with you wherever you go - especially to networking events and conferences. While it's undoubtedly rude to use one while discussing a keynote over lunch with industry colleagues, it's easy to exchange information digitally - and just as easy to forget that person by the time you get to the airport to fly home.

The savvy small business owner knows that while it's still smart to use their phone to snap pictures of decks instead of frantically jotting down notes, exchanging info with their phone won't help them land new business. A well-designed business card - and lots of them - will help others in their industry remember who you are when you pass them out over a networking happy hour. Instead of being forgotten when their flight is delayed on the way home, they'll be more likely to flip through a small stack of business cards and remember to send a follow-up email.

Insider tips

  • To stand out best, consider including a professional headshot on your card, or use a style of paper or cut rarely used, such as a plastic card or a square cut.
  • Only place contact information you want people to actually use on the card. If you really don't want a future professional contact calling you on your personal cell - but your office doesn't have a landline - it's okay to only use your email address on the card.
  • Don't overthink your card. It can be easy to get carried away with the design and print more than you will ever need. A memorable card doesn't need to be expensive.

Your Next Step

Step #3: Keep Communication Going in Email

It's estimated that approximately 120 billion emails are sent per hour, and recent research from Forrester revealed that emails are more effective at converting leads into a new or repeat customer than social media. At the corporate level, a well-designed email campaign can lead to conversion rates in the double-digits from just one e-mail… which is a compelling reason for your business to use email to regularly keep in touch with existing customers to keep them coming back for more work from you.

When thinking about using email, it can be overwhelming to think about manually sending an email to each and every person you've ever done business with. This is why it's helpful to hire someone who knows how to manage an email campaign, design a great template and maybe even knows how to write killer copy for not just the email, but the subject line too - this way, people will both open your email and click on your product and offer, leading them to be more likely to give you a call about working together again.

Insider Tips

  • No two email campaigns are created equal. To find what works best for your existing customers, try to a/b test different templates, subject lines, and the time and day you send your newsletter.
  • Subject lines that work best will be personally interesting to your readers, pique their curiosity, or tease an offer they'll quite simply have to open to read about.
  • Be sure not to overlap too much text or links on pictures in your email templates. This is especially hard to read in email on smartphones and will cause your readers to stop reading, and your important links won't get clicked on.
  • Never manually add someone to a mailing list. Adding someone to a mailing list without their permission is against the law in the U.S. prohibited by the CAN-SPAM Act. If you violate this rule, your service provider can shut down your account without notice.

Your Next Steps

Step #4: Track and Respond to Social Media Channels

The use of social media by consumers is at an all-time high, and new channels like Snapchat and Instagram are quickly being leveraged by brands to engage with their target demographics. On top of those channels, the visual boards like Pinterest, pages on Facebook and chatter on Twitter can all be downright overwhelming to keep up with on a personal level, let alone professionally. Your customers are still there however, and they're likely talking about you. But how do you know?

If you don't have the time to find out - and especially respond - a social media manager can be essential to help engage with customers to keep them coming back for more business. Social media managers are often savvy with tools that can listen to specific keywords on multiple channels, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as your brand name and your competitors too - to ensure you know what you need to respond with, especially if there's a crisis with your brand or in your industry.

These tools, such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, can even listen in on what specific people are saying so that you can identify who your influencers are, which can help you leverage their appreciation for your work for more repeat business by these core consumers. Additionally, a social media manager is often strong at developing a strategy to better leverage social media; while you may think that you are using it well, you may not be using it to your best advantage. A social media manager can give expert insight as to how you should use social media to retain customers in the best way possible.

Insider tips

  • Responding to negative comments is just as important as responding to positive ones. It makes readers know you’re there for them even if something goes wrong.
  • Never be afraid to block inappropriate users. They can easily create unmanageable conversations.
  • Just like newsletters, social media is a great way to keep in touch with your current customers and remind them that you always have new ways you can help. Use your social media channels not just to communicate, but promote your business too by sharing cool photos of products, quotes, or a special discount that only your followers will find.

Your Next Step

Step #5: Be Ahead of Your Competitors

A key component to retaining customers is ensuring that they're getting the best service available in your industry. But how will you know that what you offer is unlike anything else out there?

With a market research report, you'll be able to find out what your competitors are doing and what your target demographic actually wants to buy. This research often includes phone calls to other similar businesses with specific questions about their products, customers, price points and even company information.

Armed with this data, you can design services, packages and products that are competitive and unique, instead of a cookie-cutter copy and paste option of another brand in the same vertical as your business. When you reach out to your existing customer base - who likely worked with you because of an existing unique offering - they'll be surprised to find another service they probably need, but can't find anywhere else.

Insider tips

  • Avoid using leading questions that could lead to biased results and leave a place for open-ended answers too.
  • Doing market research often (such as every month) is a great way to keep track of what your customers need help with on a rolling basis.
  • Using a third party - such as an expert researcher on Fiverr - is a great way to maintain an impartial approach to market research, which is critical to getting accurate answers.

Your Next Step

Step #6: Ask Your Customers What They Need by Doing a Survey

If you really want your customers to come back for more work from you, one of your best options is a tried-and-true method of simply asking your existing customers questions. One easy way to manage this without sending manual emails is a broad survey sent to your existing database of clients asking what their current needs are, including timeframe and budget.

This can help give you a good idea of what potential income you may have lined up, what the current state of the economy is in your industry and what clients in your vertical need on a broad level, so you can design packages and offer services that cater to the majority, without customizing your services for every past client.

Insider tips

  • Ensure your survey isn't too long. Long surveys turn customers away and they won't end up finishing it.
  • Considering offering a small bonus or incentive for finishing the survey, such as a small discount off a service you offer or even a gift card to a local coffee shop. People love to do things if they think they're getting paid for it!
  • Ensure you're asking specific questions that will help you design a new product or service you can offer to everyone in the future.

Your Next Step

You’re Done!

By following these steps to purchase services that will help your clients be sure they have access to help and answers when they have questions, your information at their fingertips, an easy way to communicate, and a place to engage with you on social media, you can focus less on finding new ways to find more clients and instead let your existing clients come back to you, again and again, without barely even lifting a finger yourself.

Ready to put what you've learned into action?
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