“It is so much easier to be nice, to be respectful, to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and try to understand how you might help them before they ask for help, than it is to try to mend a broken customer relationship”. – Mark Cuban
This quote accurately depicts the crux and essence of customer service and the relationship a company should have with their customers. It seems highly unlikely that there is any company with an unconstrained marketing account aimed at gaining and retaining new customers. In order to buy advertising space, run promotional campaigns, host public relation building events and other such on-line and real world efforts, a company must work within the confines of a restricted and limited budget. Even if a company has the best marketing schemes and ideas it would not be possible to implement them beyond the resources they have. It is crucial therefore, that companies have strategies aimed at gaining and retaining new customers to match their finances. It then becomes imperative that the leaders and managers of the business acquire this skill and consistently upgrade it.
So why is, gaining and retaining new customers so important if a company is already holding on to an existing customer base? If a company were to rely on just their current base or only a few customers, it could leave them in a vulnerable position, if it lost even a single customer. It is a known fact that the loss of even one customer could potentially mean that this customer is able to influence others to leave too. Even if this situation does not arise, gaining and retaining new customers is amongst the top methods to ensure stability, growth and sustainability for a business. Given that a company would spend valuable resources on the effort of acquiring new customers and keeping them, it must have robust strategies and plans in place such that they use these resources to their optimum.
Customers, as is now known, have become smarter and less easily pleased. Even when they do buy from a company, it is tough for a company to make a profit until the customers make repeated purchases. In their effort to gain and retain their new and existing customers, companies must set the foundation by first attentively listening and responding to their customers, ensure easy customer service and put in place calls to action such that their customers remember to let others know about your company too. Gaining and retaining new customers may seem like an expensive proposition but there a number of ways that a company can do so without breaking the bank.
The most obvious factor in gaining and retaining new customers would be to first, understand who your customer is. Collecting and analysing customer data is of prime importance. Post this exercise a company must know and be able to convey what value they would offer to their customers, how different or similar the competition is and what could be the factors that could prevent them from gaining and retaining new customers. It is critical for a company to be able to anticipate the customer’s needs and expectations and deliver on these, better and faster than any other player in the market. Your company could use the services of a professional agency if you are not equipped to conduct market research to collect customer and competitor data.
Customers love to feel pampered and enjoy the feeling of being your most important partner. To assist in the gaining and retaining new customers exercise, companies must offer ‘that something extra’ to their customers in order for them to perceive more benefit in doing business with you. Incentives like discounts on purchases, freebies, sops for new customer referrals and other such benefits ensure that your customers not only enjoy doing business with you but also are also happy to spread positive word of mouth for the positive experiences.
The importance of revamping content and the brand image cannot be overemphasized. If customers perceive your company’s ‘gates’ – website, social media sites and other online content – to be staid, boring and dull – they would soon lose interest in your company. In this age of options, customers are not interested in a company that does not appear to be abreast and in line with them and the changing times. In addition, it is important for a company to set some benchmarks or targets that would act as catalysts in their endeavour towards gaining and retaining new customers.
While on-line marketing via emails and content are great methods to grab the attention of prospective customers, it always helps to have in-store promotions, special ‘early bird’ offers, free samples and even artistically done flyers and pamphlets. It is about gaining and retaining new customers – so even going back to the most basic methods is worth a shot. For online advertising, you could choose ad networking with non-competitor companies – advertise on their websites and allow them to advertise on yours. This is a highly effective yet cheaper method, would help a company stay within their promotional budgets.
Remaining current and in the forefront is essential for companies if they wish to stay ahead of competition. Your company could present itself as an expert on a subject of interest for both existing and prospective customers. This would allow customers to ‘listen’ to the company and return to it for information, raising the levels of trust and dependability. It is a known fact that customers prefer doing business and staying with a company that they like and can trust. In addition, the leaders of the company must use every opportunity to network with other market leaders. Attending programs, shows and publicity events of prospective customers and existing ones, gains new insights and market information for a company looking to gain and retain new customers. The contacts and referrals from such events could become customers and prove to be helpful in gaining more references and contacts.
Gaining and retaining new customers may still be a tough task but it has become a lot simpler to communicate with existing and prospective customer groups. With so many channels to communicate and sell, it has become possible to reach and market to a much larger customer base. In addition, customer segmentation allows companies to personalize their customer service and customize the products they offer for the particular customer segments, making them more appealing for customers. Customers view such offerings and customer service favourably and are more likely to get attracted and remain with a company that appears focused and committed to their needs and expectations.
Gaining and retaining new customers as any company would know, is a not an easy task and neither should it be a one-time exercise. This is a process that requires relentless effort, commitment and dedication from a company and its employees if they wish to have customers that are raving fans and profitable business partners. As a process, gaining and retaining new customers, requires consistent follow-up and a regular flow of communication. It would be a wasted activity to simply send a communiqué to a customer and then never follow it up with another round of communication reminding the prospective customer in case they have not responded. Persistence and commitment of purpose are two very attractive qualities of a company and lead customers to believe that they can depend on the company. However, in order for customers to remain with a company, the initial commitment must reflect in the service and products offered by the company.
Businesses that become great reach these dizzying heights because of their fanatical approach to gaining and retaining new customers. They expend time, effort and other resources in bringing in new customers and providing them with the best service, incentives and offerings that ensure that these new customers become loyal fans and willing brand advocates.