How To Keep Existing Customers

keep existing customers for longerGiven it costs between five and eight times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer the issue for many businesses is how to keep existing customers happy and onboard. Levels of service obviously have a major impact on customer retention but perhaps less obvious is the impact of ongoing communication. Research from Peppers and Rogers group shows that over 60% of existing customers’ state they move suppliers simply because they either do not feel valued or their supplier does not communicate with them on a regular basis.

Kevin McKeown’s excellent post  reviews the research available on the subject but suffice to say increasing customer retention by only 10% can have a major impact on business turnover and profitability. The challenge then is how to communicate effectively with existing customers on a regular basis.

The traditional approach, in B2B markets, has relied on the sales force to reach out to their customer base on a regular basis but there are several problems with this approach including

  • Competing priorities.
  • Customer resistance.
  • The costs involved.

Ultimately, people buy from people and the power of personal relationships should never be discounted but with sales people routinely incentivized to bring in new customers the time available to service the existing customer base can be limited. With many existing customers in a given area the time available to communicate with each effectively can be minimal.

In many B2B market sectors buyers, and other members of the customer decision making team, are less open to potential supplier visits than they once were. They too have competing priorities and high demands on their available time. With the mass of information available online and an increasing resistance to push marketing they are also likely to seek out the information they need long before engaging with a supplier.

While relationships are important the costs associated with driving to, and meeting with, a customer can be significant. If that visit is simply to maintain a relationship, or deliver information, when there are no projects or opportunities in the pipeline then it is important to evaluate if that cost can be justified. A better approach can be to deliver valuable and engaging information to existing customers on a regular basis without the direct involvement of sales.

The challenge then is to decide what to communicate and how it will be delivered. As the target is existing customers it is reasonable to assume that appropriate contact details will be available and permission to communicate will not be refused. An E-Newsletter is often a cheap and effective way to communicate on a regular basis but it is only of value if it links to helpful, engaging content.

Assuming an appropriate CRM system is in place contacts within the customer base may be segmented according to their role and their place in the order placement decision making team. Different sets of content may then be delivered to different groups depending on their information needs. The sales team can have a crucial role in both helping to build a content plan and the contact segmentation process.

Most businesses will employ key people with a valuable view on markets, products or services who could be persuaded to write something of value, perhaps on a monthly basis. Of course a marketing person could write an adequate post that may be of interest to an existing customer quality department but a post written by the Quality manager could delve much deeper into a subject and would be of significantly higher value.

Webinars, seminars and in person events can also be excellent methods to deliver information to the existing customer base. A 2014 survey from Softwareadvice.com found trade shows and in person events ranked as a key driver of high quality sales leads in B2B markets. If existing customers sign up for a webinar / seminar or attend a show then that is a great place to start. The key is appropriate promotion of events and generating quality feedback on the subjects existing customers would like to be covered during such events.

The final, and possibly most important, element of the keeping existing customer mix is generating (and acting upon) genuine customer feedback. That feedback may come in directly in response to an issue, it may be solicited directly or it may come indirectly via the sales force. Whatever the source it is crucial it is recognized and acted upon as a matter of urgency.

Given the potential lifetime value of an existing customer and all the time and resources required to replace them if they do leave there is absolutely no excuse for ignoring feedback (or a complaint). Of course customers can be difficult, of course their complaint, or feedback may be unjustified, of course they may be irrational but that comes with the territory, deal with it and move on.

The keep existing customers and extract more from those customers both high levels of service and ongoing communication is key. However, simply communicating is not enough as it is important to employ best content marketing  practice to deliver information that is both useful and engaging. It is important to decide exactly what information is of use to customers before starting the process.

This post is an update on a post first published in 2013.

Use The 3C’s To Get More From Existing Customers

There are many studies that claim it costs anywhere between five and seven times more to obtain an order from a new customer than it does from an existing one. Therefore, the challenge for many businesses is how to get more from existing customers.

Assuming that the prerequisite of a solid strategic plan and appropriate customer targeting is in place then the 3C’s sales model can be an excellent place to start. It simply states that it is vital to remember three things – Contacts, Communicate and Consistency.

Existing Customer Contact Details

Extract more value from existing customersCustomer contact details may reside in several locations. Sales may hold some information, accounts may have more, some records may be held by operations or dispatch and higher management may have closely guarded contact lists of their own. The challenge is to bring all information together at one central point.

At first, this can be a time consuming task with records held on various spreadsheets, on standalone software or systems or simply on the good, old fashioned, business card. The information needs to be collated in some way and input to a central system. Although this may be resource intensive the return on investment in the longer term can be significant.

Store Customer Details

A CRM (customer relationship management) system is the best option to use as a central store as data can be stored reliably, sorted into categories and used directly to support marketing campaigns (see below). Customer interactions can be recorded and the results of Email marketing campaigns analysed.

There are many CRM systems on the market, some packed with features (and expensive) and others targeted at the small business for a relatively low monthly cost.

Communicate With Existing Customers

There are some frightening statistics on why customers leave a business. Service issues or perceived poor levels of service are at the top of the list but over 60% of those leaving a small business state they do so simply because they do not feel valued or the supplier fails to communicate with them on a regular basis.

There are three major decisions to be made:

  • What information should be delivered (communicated).
  • What is the best way to deliver that information to ensure it has the highest chance of reaching and engaging customers.
  • How will the information be delivered (in what formats).

Some form of information (content) needs to be delivered and that content needs to be both engaging and useful to customers. It must build credibility and keep the business front of mind when any opportunity arises.

Creating quality content is a resource intensive activity so it is essential to spend time researching the best delivery methods if return on that resource is to be maximised. There is little point distributing content on every available social media channel if customers are not using those channels. Where do customers look for the information they need to make purchasing decisions?

In many cases Email is a cheap and effective delivery method if a good quality (opt-in) Email contact list is available. An Email newsletter delivering useful (not just pushy sales messages) content can be an excellent way to stay in touch. The newsletter may be constructed using short introductions to blog posts that reside on the company website.

A Consistent Marketing Approach

The value of a consistent approach is often overlooked. Any approach based on bursts of activity followed by long periods of inactivity does little for credibility or customer retention. Delivering content over the long term maximises the chance an existing customer will remember a supplier when the time is right to buy.

Any marketing activity has costs and content marketing can be particularly resource intensive. It is therefore important to deliver consistently to maximise returns. Once appropriate tools and systems are in place the process can be simplified and automated so there can be no excuse for an ad hoc approach.

When trying to get more enquiries from existing customers it is important to locate and store customer information appropriately and to communicate with those customers with quality content that engages and builds credibility on a consistent basis.

How To Retain Existing Customers In B2B Markets

Every business loses a proportion of its existing customers over time. This post discusses how to retain existing customers for longer using content marketing.

Levels of service obviously have a major impact on customer retention but perhaps less obvious is the impact of ongoing communication. Research shows that over 60% of existing customers state they move suppliers simply because they either do not feel valued or their supplier does not communicate with them on a regular basis.

Communicating regularly with customers therefore aids retention but it can also increases credibility and customer engagement. Any supplier able to stay ‘ front of mind’ with customers is likely to increase their chances of securing orders ahead of competition.

The challenge then is to decide what to communicate and how it will be delivered. As the target is existing customers it is reasonable to assume that appropriate contact details will be available and permission to communicate will not be refused. An E-Newsletter is often a cheap and effective way to communicate on a regular basis but it is only of value if it links to helpful, engaging content.

An information hub (usually the business website) may be linked to from the Newsletter, point to other resources, raise the business profile and present offers of potential interest to existing customers. Continually adding useful engaging and valuable content to a website will also increase its ranking on the search engines thereby attracting new customers.

Once a ongoing communication process is established information of value and existing material held within the business can be modified and released to benefit customers. Most businesses will employ key people with a valuable view on markets, products or services who could be persuaded to write something of value, perhaps on a monthly basis.

When attempting to retain existing customers high levels of service and ongoing communication are both key to success. However, simply communicating is not enough as it is important to employ best content marketing practice to deliver information that is both useful and engaging. It is important to decide exactly what information is of use to customers before starting the process.

A sample content marketing process can be downloaded here

What Is The Best Way To Find New B2B Customers – Inbound Or Outbound Marketing?

Use content to secure new B2B customersWhere should a medium sized business in B2B markets allocate their marketing spend? What will deliver the best return and in what timescales? This post attempts to answer those questions by working through a possible marketing process to deliver high value new B2B customers.

Outbound marketing may be defined as the old push style marketing that may include traditional advertising, telemarketing and direct mail. Inbound (or pull) marketing is based on delivering information, building credibility and engaging with prospects in an attempt to be front of mind when an opportunity arises. Definitions can become a little blurred (is an E-Newsletter inbound or outbound?) but the general comparison holds true.

One process to find and secure key new B2B customers may be:

  • Profile existing key customers.
  • Use the profile to identify target prospects and markets.
  • Identify and prepare appropriate engaging content of interest / use to target prospects.
  • Use targeted telemarketing to gain permission to communicate.
  • Deliver content on a regular consistent basis
  • Integrate sales to build relationships and follow through on the process.

It is reasonable to expect current key customers have strong and valid reasons to stay with the business. They must have had strong reasons to choose the business at some point in the past. If these reasons can be identified, it should be possible to find more of the same.

Identify information of interest

With a strong existing key customer profile in place, including a market segmentation analysis, it should be possible to identify what information may be useful to those customers. It is important to look beyond the trivial and identify information of real value. With appropriate content identified a process may then be started to collect and prepare such information on a regular basis.

Analysis and content will be useless without the ability to deliver that content on an ongoing basis. The typical decision making team in a target prospect should be identified and research carried out to determine where those contacts go to find information. Without this information the process will fail.

Secure customer engagement

Content may then be delivered to where it has the best chance of being consumed by the targets, and (best case) secure active permission to deliver more via sign up. In addition a more proactive approach may be employed to gain permission to communicate using a combination of professional telemarketing and sales effort.

The final step then is to ensure quality; engaging content is delivered on a regular basis via the most appropriate channels. A regular (but subtle) follow up procedure via sales and / or a telemarketing operation may then be integrated on a regular basis to improve results

The answer therefore to the question is inbound or outbound the best way to find new B2B customers is a combination of both. Outbound primarily for contact identification, permission and follow up and inbound for the content marketing process.

Related Posts

Inbound marketing – Is all the hype justified

Is inbound or outbound marketing the best way to find new customers

Comparing inbound and outbound marketing

Advantages and disadvantages of inbound marketing

B2B marketing process and automation