I popped into a chain retailer recently to pick up some napkins for a get-together I was hosting, and as the cashier rung me up, she mentioned that she was putting a coupon in my bag for 20 percent off my next purchase if I came back within the next two weeks.
I bet you’ve had that experience too: you buy something and at some point after the purchase — either immediately or within a few days or weeks — you receive an offer from the store to come back and make another purchase.
Lots of big retailers do this sort of thing because it works, and because they know something that many small business owners don’t: it’s much easier to turn an existing customer into a repeat customer than it is to win another new customer entirely.
You may not want to put 20-percent-off coupons in with every order, but there are many ways you can nurture your current customers into becoming your best customers.
Keep reading to learn more and download the free checklist I created to help you nurture your existing customers.
Are your sales and marketing efforts focused on getting new customers, or nurturing the ones you already have? While, of course, it’s important to get new customers to your door (real or virtual), I see many small business owners neglecting their current and former customers — when those are some of their hottest prospects.
That means it’s well worth your time to expand your marketing efforts to nurturing your existing customers, not just wooing new ones.
Understand Your Customer Purchase Process
Whenever we go to buy something, we go through a predictable cycle of interest and intent I call the Customer Purchase Process, and so do your customers. See the following graphic for an example.
Most small businesses focus their marketing efforts on the first five steps of the process; they create content including blog posts, social media and advertisements to try to capture customers’ interest and attention during those phases of the Customer Purchase Process. If they’re successful, the customer moves to step six and purchases the product.
And this is where many businesses stop. They have the sale, so that’s the end, right? WRONG.
There is another step in the Customer Purchase Process that comes after the sale: the Experience.
What if, a few weeks after you got your lotion (as in the infographic above), you got an email from the company reminding you of an end-of-season clearance event, or suggesting you purchase an exfoliating brush that will also help with your dry skin? This kind of marketing is nurturing you to become a repeat customer, to shop with them again and again.
And then, what if, because you love their products and service so much, that company becomes your go-to place to shop for skin care products? You buy all your product there, and so you start getting emails inviting you to take advantage of sales events early, before the general public, and sample new products. In that case, you’ve become one of the shop’s hero customers, the top 1% of customers, entitled to very special treatment. Your top 1% of customers can generate as much revenue as the bottom 50% combined. (RJmetrics).
These strategies are all a part of enhancing the customer experience so that they will continue around the cycle with you again — this time, initiating their Examine and Search stages with your store, rather than the Internet at large.
You wouldn’t give the same emails, offers, or advertisements to a new prospect as you would a repeat customer, because they’re at different stages in the buying cycle.
The more you know about your customers, the more you can customize the messages and offers they receive so that they’re seeing the things they care about most, and the things that are most likely to entice them to buy again.
How to Nurture Your Current Customers
Nurturing your existing customers to become repeat customers doesn’t have to be complicated. There are tools out there that can get incredibly sophisticated about tracking which customers visit which pages and buy which products — but you don’t need fancy tools to get started marketing to your existing customers.
What you do need is a good understanding of who they are and what they want.
You’ve probably heard the advice to create a profile of your ideal customers, but likely when you did, you were creating a profile of a prospect. Try going through the exercise again and creating a profile of your ideal repeat customer. How are they the same, and how are they different?
You can also look at the information you do have about people who are repeat customers. How long is the average time between sales? If they buy product X first, what do they buy next? You could even send out a survey after people purchase, to help you understand them even more.
During the Experience phase of the Customer Purchase Process you have several opportunities to nurture your customer and improve their experience based on what you know about them:
- During the Purchase: you can increase your average order with upsells and cross-sells inside the shopping cart process.
- Upsells are when you recommend a more expensive version of the product the customer is browsing, or add extra features to that. In the example below from Nordstrom, the site shows two additional brushes that are more expensive than the one the customer is browsing, assuming that the customer might want to upgrade if they knew the option was available.
- Cross-sells, on the other hand, recommend additional products that are different or related to the product the customer is browsing or has already put in her cart. In the Juice Beauty example below, the site shows two other products from the same line that complement the hydrating mist the customer is browsing.
2. Post Purchase: you can include a “lift letter” inside the package, personally thanking them for their purchase, making suggestions for subsequent purchases, or offering a discount on their next purchase (similar to the coupon placed in my bag at the retail store). Your lift letter might:
3. In-Between Orders: You can send a “We Miss You!” email or suggestions of products they might like based on previous order history. For example, if you know that an average bottle of lotion lasts 45 days, you could send a reminder to existing customers that they should order more at around 40 days after their purchase — and suggest that they might also enjoy the cleanser or serum in the same line.
These ideas are described in more detail in the free checklist, which you can download here. They are all aimed at turning a one-time customer into a repeat customer during the Experience phase of the Customer Purchase Process.
And don’t forget about your hero customers. Consider what sets them apart from the average repeat customer. Do they have more disposable income? Are they in a particular profession or of a certain age?
Hero customers are worth so much to your brand, it’s worth it to ask yourself what they might value in the Experience phase above and beyond what you do to encourage repeat customers.
If they have plenty of disposable income, a discount might not mean much to them — but a personal phone call thanking them for their business, or some kind of “concierge” service might make them very happy. In fact, they might be interested in some kind of subscription service, whereby they don’t even have to remember to place an order, it’s all done for them.
Marketing is all about meeting your customer exactly where they are, and understanding your Customer Purchase Process is one more tool to help you do that.
Don’t forget to download your checklist, 3 Times to Nurture Your Current Customers to see more details and examples to inspire your own customer experience.