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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Keeping customers - the importance of loyalty

Keeping your customers happy, so that they keep coming back to you time and again, makes good business sense - but it's not always easy to achieve. Here are our tips on how to turn satisfied customers into loyal and profitable regulars who keep coming back to your business

You've spent lots of time casting your lines, making your catch and reeling your prospects in. But now you've got those customers, how do you keep them?

Many companies don't know how to retain customers. It seems this is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and few firms find it. But why bother? What are the real advantages of customer retention?

Studies across a number of sectors show that the cost of keeping an existing customer is around 10% of the cost of acquiring a new one. So, economically it makes good sense. Putting together a good retention strategy will also lead to increased customer profitability, as the longer the relationship, the lower the account maintenance cost.

Here are a few more reasons why holding on to your customers makes good business sense.

Loyal customers spread the word

There are other associated benefits to fostering a lasting relationship with customers, including the fact that long-term customers are more likely to

  • introduce your business to others via word-of-mouth recommendation;
  • purchase other products from you.

If they're completely happy with the service they're getting, then why would they even think about switching to a competitor?

If the business is maintaining good customer relations and keeping people loyal and satisfied, this also creates a happy workforce, with increased job satisfaction. If the customer has been loyal to the business for some time, he or she will require less help and have fewer problems to deal with. On the other hand, a steady stream of queries and complaints from one-and-done clients is wearing and demoralising to your workforce.

Clearly there are a great many benefits to keeping hold of current customers. But modern customers are smart - they're not dealing with you simply because they know you or your office is nearby, or even because it's the easiest option. Consumers know how to get the best deal, and will be happy to go to a competitor quicker than you can say "nice knowing you" if you don't give them what they need.

So, short of locking the doors and refusing to let people go until they pledge to stay loyal to you for the rest of their days, how do you keep people coming back for more?

Make customer promises you can keep

Firms that can boast great success in their customer retention endeavours often have one thing in common - great customer service. It's no good promising a customer the world at your initial meeting if three months down the line they discover you don't have the manpower, skills or knowledge to go about fulfilling your pledges.

You have to make promises you can keep, and truly understand what the customer wants and needs, both from your product or service itself and from the overall experience of dealing with you. And you must do it better than any of your competitors.

Offering great customer service

The first thing you need to do is look at your workforce. Employing customer care staff who are enthusiastic and who know what they're talking about will do wonders for the reputation of the firm. How many times have you walked into a shop and asked for some advice, only to be met with a blank stare from the shop assistant?

It's frustrating if the front line person has no clue about what they're actually selling or doesn’t have the right helpful, problem-solving attitude - so hire wisely and train staff well.

In fact, staff are frequently listed as a company's biggest asset and, as such, they deserve a good chance to develop in their roles. Business representatives need to be taught to exercise good judgment and take the initiative to ensure the customer feels understood and valued.

Communication is a vital part of keeping customers satisfied. It's important to listen to your customers. Make sure you communicate well, too, with a regular email newsletter to keep subscribers informed. Don’t just use it to sell - offer valuable content that shows you understand what your customers are truly interested in and the issues they face.

An employee newsletter is also an effective way of keeping staff in the loop about new products, changes and good practice.

Rewarding customer loyalty

Tried and tested methods of customer retention also involve rewarding people for their loyalty and giving customers something tangible - a real reason to come back to your firm. Incentives to return could include add-ons, vouchers, loyalty discounts or cards, special pricing, bonuses or gifts.

Above all, actions speak louder than words. A proven rather than promised commitment to serving your customers’ needs will put you way ahead of the competition.

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