Effective customer follow-up is an essential activity to growing your business, especially in a challenging economy. As you cultivate relationships with clients, you reap the benefits of repeat business and referrals, lowering your customer acquisition costs and shortening your sales cycle. After all, it takes far less time and money to sell to an existing customer who knows and trusts you, than to a cold prospect.
What are some affordable and effective ways to follow up with customers – and motivate them to keep coming back to you? Here are 9 tools to get you started:
- Thank-you notes: This is a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many entrepreneurs neglect to write thank-you notes–especially when they get really busy. Take the time to show your customers that you genuinely appreciate their business. They’ll remember your thoughtfulness because most of your competition won’t send out thank-you notes. For extra points, take the time to hand-write them.
- Postcard mailings: If you target consumers, send out monthly mailings that make good refrigerator fodder, such as “Quote of the Month,” “Recipe of the Month” or useful tips on such topics as time-management, gardening or anything else that interests the bulk of your customers. Avoid being too promotional here. Just provide the kind of information that customers will want to hang on their fridge. The added benefit to you is that whenever guests visit your customers’ homes, they’ll see your name, potentially leading to conversations about your business.
- E-mail updates/e-newsletter: Think of your e-mail update as a press release that you send to your customers. Providing them with regular product, service and customer updates via e-mail at least once per month will convey a sense of positive momentum. This keeps customers in the loop and, over time, gets them excited to be involved with you and motivates them to pass on referrals. (For ideas and tips on your e-newsletter, check out this article by Gail Goodman on Entrepreneur.com: Keep Your Customers Reading.)
- Getting together over coffee or lunch: Try to spend face time in a non-sales environment with your customers. Ask about their family, hobbies, personal goals and so forth. When you show customers that you really care about them on a personal level, they’re yours for life.
- Birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions: These occasions are very important to your customers and their families and friends. Be among the few who actually remember a customer’s special days, and that customer will never forget you!
- Follow up on well-being: For example, if you find that a customer’s wife has been sick, call periodically just to find out how she’s recovering.
- Pass referrals: One of the most powerful ways to encourage loyalty in customers is to pass them referrals. When you get a chance, scroll through your customer database and think through people you know who might add value to your customers.
- Entertaining at your home: Throw a party for your best customers. You’ll be amazed at how much rapport and goodwill you can build with people when you get them in your home environment. Your guests will also find value in your party as a networking opportunity for them.
- Post-sale feedback: Demonstrate that you care about the quality of your service. Call customers and ask them questions like:
- Are you pleased with the service you received?
- What did you like most about working with us?
- What would you like to see improved?
Without this invaluable information, you’ll have a hard time improving your products and services. Besides, when you ask customers for feedback and implement their comments, they feel a sense of ownership in what you’re doing and thus become more loyal to your products and services.
Sean M. Lyden is Chief Operating Officer at Marketing Matters, a Hollywood, FL-based integrated marketing agency that offers clients a full range of tools (PR, Advertising, Interactive, Social Media, Custom Publishing – or whatever it takes) to fill their pipelines with new business. A nationally recognized author and speaker on sales, marketing, and business management issues, Lyden’s articles have been published in Entrepreneur, Yahoo! Small Business, Enterprise Systems Journal, Automotive Fleet, and several other media outlets.