Todd Martin

Todd Martin

Sales Strategy

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Make New Friends – But Keep the Old

July 1, 2016

One is silver and the other’s gold.

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If you’ve ever had a daughter in Brownies or Girl Scouts, you probably remember that song. That sentiment—reach out to new people, but cherish your long-time friends—could apply to your relationships with your customers. Besides the fact that it’s much more expensive to cultivate a prospect than it is to keep a customer, it’s just good business practice and good human relations. Be good to your existing customers.

How do you do that? Here are some things I’ve tried that had varying amounts of success.

Treat the honeymoon period with care. Start off on the right foot with new customers. You don’t have to send flowers, but do send a handwritten note thanking them for their business. Make sure that the order is correct and packed carefully and smartly. Consider a one-time shipping upgrade. If you have hundreds of customers, not all of this may be realistic, but try to at least do the handwritten note part, or have a standard little packet that can be slipped in with that first shipment addressed specifically to new customers.

Keep educating customers throughout your relationship. Your products certainly come with easy-to-understand instructions (if required). Don’t let your education efforts end there. If you don’t already, create and post content like:

  • General use directions, for those who threw away their original instructions.
  • Troubleshooting (point them to an if-all-else-fails phone number or email address).
  • Case studies. How have your products and/or services improved the personal and professional lives of your other customers?
  • How do your customers know when it’s time to upgrade a product, get a refresher course, etc.? Write some content about this.
  • FAQs. I always gravitate to these on websites, and I imagine a lot of people do. Keep your questions and answers short and to the point. Save your lengthy exposition for ebooks.

Be sociable and helpful on social networks. I’ve talked about “social selling,” before, about how it may be good in theory, but I believe it’s unrealistic and often not fruitful in practice. But do find the experts in your field and follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn. If there are forums that deal with your industry, evaluate them and participate if they look good.

Make sure that your own social streams and blog are kept up-to-date. You look shaky if they’re not. Comment on comments. As I’m sure I’ve said before, your social activity should do two things: Establish you as an expert and establish you as a human being. It’s possible to do both, but avoid being overly familiar with prospects.

Do unexpected follow-ups. Customers are accustomed to being contacted at regular intervals, like after a purchase, on their birthday, near seasonal discount time, etc. Surprise them once in a while and contact them out of the blue. Lay in a supply of inexpensive promotional items and drop one in the mail with your business card when you haven’t heard from them for awhile. You might include a link to an ebook or some other helpful resource. Don’t try to pitch them; just let them know you thought about them. You never know what might trigger a sale.

Create exclusive sales events. And make them truly exclusive. Nothing like inviting customers to a “special” sale, and then having them see the same prices on your website.

Bow out gracefully. If you have a customer that’s so screamingly dissatisfied with your products or services that they send an email or call and say they’ll never darken your virtual door again, acknowledge their exit. Thank them for their patronage, apologize (if something was indeed your fault), and tell them you’ll be glad to see them again should they return. Get them off of your frequent email list if they’re on it, and make sure the sales team is alerted. You can occasionally—gently—let them know you’re still there, but give them a chance to breathe.

Every business welcomes new customers, and you should certainly put forth a lot of effort in cultivating them, but take—at least—equal care of your faithful buyers.

What do you think?

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