Getting Customers, Keeping Customers

One of the top challenges for many business people these days is getting new customers. Finding new clients takes a significant amount Finding new customers takes time and energyof time and energy, not to mention monetary investment. And to keep that pipeline full, you’ve got to be consistent and creative in your efforts.

There’s certainly no shortage of information out there on how to attract new business. Some sources make it sound like getting more new customers is as easy as turning on the water faucet. That’s not exactly been my experience. Has it been yours?

You might be interested to know there is an easier and more cost-effective way to build your business. It’s called customer appreciation. Focusing on keeping the customers you have is a far better investment of your limited resources.

How does it work? Good question.

When you put your efforts into building stronger relationships with current clients, they stay with you longer, they buy more from you, and they recommend you to more of their friends and colleagues. Those factors stronger relationships with clients means more businessequal more money in your pocket.

Think about it. Someone who is already a customer is already sold on your product or service. She already likes and trusts you. He already knows you’re reputable and deliver value. You’ve got an established relationship going, so it’s a good bet she will take or return your call. Someone you’ve never done business with before is going to be harder to reach and more skeptical of your pitch when you do get through. The sales cycle is naturally going to be longer because you have to lay the groundwork and establish the rapport.

What happens when you’re the consumer? How do you make your buying decisions? You probably turn to friends or colleagues who’ve bought a similar product or service for recommendations and advice. You likely search online for reviews and comparisons. Your prospective clients are no different. They want to make sure they’re making the right decision and will take their time to do so.

Just yesterday I needed to replenish a product I use in the business frequently. There’s no reason for me to spend time going online to search for another vendor and seeing if I can find a better price. I’m comfortable with the supplier I’ve been using recently. Even if I could save a few cents somewhere else, I’d rather buy from a reliable place where I know the guy and already have an account. In fact, I used to buy this product from someone else, but she was hard to get hold of and wasn’t very good at returning calls or emails, which made it difficult to order. She was probably always out chasing after new customers instead of taking care of the ones she currently had.

No matter what your business, look to your existing customers as one of your best sources of new revenue. The longer they stay with you, the more they spend and the higher the likelihood they will refer you new business. Sounds like a good investment to me.

Saying Thank You to Clients on Valentine’s Day

ValenValentine's is a great time to show appreciation for customerstine’s Day is right around the corner. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of what I consider a “Hallmark Holiday.” However, I do see this holiday as an opportunity for savvy business people to tell customers how much they love doing business with them. Reaching out on Valentine’s Day and saying thank you to clients works for a few reasons.

    1. Hardly anyone else is doing it. I’m a strong advocate for going against the grain when it comes to marketing. If everyone is sending client appreciation gifts at Christmastime, then I recommend NOT doing that. The whole point of marketing is to stand out so you can catch your audience’s attention and get them to take action. So, first you have to do something noteworthy and showing up at their doorstep with Valentine’s cards or gifts is memorable.

 

    1. You can have fun with this. It’s Valentine’s Day, no reason to be all serious or traditional. Remember we’re talking clients here, not romance, so use some humor. If you’re feeling creative, you can take a stab at writing some poetry. I actually stopped as I was writing this post and made my attempt at this genre. Um, it’s not exactly Emily DickinsonWrite a poem to clients for Valentine's Day or Maya Angelou, but if you are one of my clients, you may have the good fortune to see it when you open your mail in a few days. I’ll share this; it starts out “Valentine’s Day is here…”

      You can certainly go with candy, nothing wrong with chocolate M&Ms, but chocolate kisses might send the wrong message. Go with a message like, “Valentine’s Day means chocolate. It’s also a great time for us to share with you how much we value you as a client.” Or how about a book – “I loved this book and thought you would too. Letting you know how much we appreciate your business.”

 

  1. Some people don’t have a Valentine. Okay, I said it’s not a time to be serious, but in reality this day can be hard for people who don’t have someone significant in their lives right now. Some of your customers may not get any kind of acknowledgement of their specialness today and that could leave them feeling lonely. You can remedy that by letting them know they are important to you and they will remember you kindly for doing so.

This Valentine’s Day, make the most of the chance to strengthen relationships with your clients. Let me know what creative ideas you come up with, or what you are lucky enough to receive from one of your vendors. Share in the comments section here or on our Facebook page.

Strengthening Existing Client Relationships

Looking to improve your revenue this year and build a bigger business? That’s fantastic. How are you going to do it? What’s your plan? Most people answer that question with “get more customers.” And typically “get more customers” means do more marketing.

You could certainly spend time and money on chasing down new clients. OR, you could invest in the relationships you have with your current customers and strengthen them. When you do that, you’ll see existing clients buying more from you, maybe more frequently. You’ll also see an increase in referrals coming from those current clients. Business grows and you don’t have to work as hard. How great is that?

Here are a few ideas you can use to fortify those bonds.

Call them on their birthday. Everyone likes to receive happy birthday wishes on THEIR day. With the advent of Facebook, you’re probably getting a lot more than you used to, but most of them are not all that sincere. How many phone calls did you get on your birthday? Mine was last week, so I can tell you it was exactly seven – four family members, two friends and my financial adviser. Since only one was from someone with whom I do business, it stands out in my mind. I’m guessing he has a list he prints out every week and he sets aside 10 minutes a day to do those calls. Doesn’t take long and makes people happy.

Send a handwritten card or small gift on their birthday. Depending on the value of a client to you, you may choose to do something more than a phone call. One of Zen Rabbit’s clients sends a small package of Gratitude Cookies to each of his clients on their birthdays. Small gesture makes a big impression. If you are going to send a card, for gosh sakes, make it personal and don’t send something printed and signed by a computer!

Surprise them with random gifts of appreciation. These gifts don’t need to be expensive or extravagant. If you have products that are physical delivered to your customers, or you’re on site with them frequently, you can include surprises in what you send out or bring with you. One vendorGlass Teapot I know included a few lolly pops in each shipment. Otherwise you can do a special mailing. January is Hot Tea Month, so you could share your favorite tea. It’s also International Creativity Month, which begs for sharing a box of crayons or colored pens. Or how about sharing a delicious recipe or even an entire little cookbook of soup recipes for National Soup Month.

Print out or clip articles you see about your clients’ or their children’s achievements and mail them in an envelope with a note. Are you getting the drift here about delivering items in physical form via mail or other delivery service? It makes a difference! Electronic communications are fine and useful. But connecting on a more personal, tactile level is essential to human connectivity.

Going about business as usual, counting on clients to “know” you value their business is much like not changing the oil in your car when it’s time. The performance of your car isn’t affected right away. You may be able to drive for quite a while without issue. But sooner or later, that kind of neglect is going to cause major problems and will be pretty costly to fix.

Take care of your existing business connections, sincerely say thank you to customers for business, add the elements of fun and spontaneity to your client relationships and see how your business is rewarded with more.

What creative ideas have you used? Share here or come over to Zen Rabbit’s Facebook page to tell us about it.

Do More Than You Think Necessary

With Ruth Sherman at her Charisma Event

Ruth Sherman came to the DC area last week to present her “Cash in on Charisma” program. Here are three points she shared that really resonated with me and could be of value to you.

One of the big reasons why video works so well for disseminating your message and building relationships is that humans are wired to connect face to face. I’ve been saying this for a while. All this electronic technology is great, no question, but at the end of the day, people need to connect on a more human level. They need to see each other, shake hands, reach out on a physical level. That human need is why sending thank you cards and gifts to customers is so powerful. It is a tactile form of communication.

Next, Ruth implored that when preparing for live presentations, YOU’VE GOT TO PRACTICE much more than you think you do. I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of not doing that enough. I know my subject matter and can deliver well, but I know I could do much better if I spent more time practicing. When I took piano lessons as a child, I hated practicing. I must have had some natural talent because I remember playing pieces such as Debussy’s Clair de lune, Beethoven’s Fur Elise and Joplin’s The Entertainer in recitals. But I hated practicing and after a couple of years I convinced my mom to let me quit.

Public speaking ranks at the top of the list of things people are scared to death to do. But I absolutely love it! So here and now, I commit to spending more time practicing my stories and material, because I realize the people in my audience are giving me their time and attention and in return, my goal is to deliver great value for them.

The lesson for you – whether or not we’re talking about practicing presentations – is you need to do and give more than you think necessary. Start thinking what you consider good enough is probably the bare minimum you can get away with. To really build those client relationships, you need to step up the game. Communicate more. Reach out to customers and potential customers more. Engage them in conversation! If they don’t want to hear from you, they’ll tell you. In the meantime, deliver more value more consistently.

Lastly, your communications don’t need to be long. Who has the attention span anymore? While there are still places for sharing in-depth explanations and details, most of your videos (or other regular communiqués) need only be a minute or two. Just pop-in, share quickly, and step out. That means they won’t take you long to put together either. Hmmm. Now you have no excuse to not do more.

Doing Nothing Is Not An Option

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been meeting a lot of new contacts and in many of my conversations, I’ve heard them admitting they’re not doing a great job of marketing. “I know I need to do more, but I just don’t have time.” Or “I’m not sure what to do. I mean, I know direct mail doesn’t work and advertising is so expensive…”

Hold on there, friend. Your reasons for not marketing is you don’t know what to do and don’t have time?! You know you’re essentially saying “I don’t have time to get new clients or keep the ones I have and it’s really not important enough to figure out.” I hope you’re not planning to be in business for a long time and you like working at fast food joints.

Two things need to happen quickly if your business is to survive. One, you need to make consistent and effective marketing a priority, stat. And two, you may need to hire some help.

That help can take on several forms, depending on you and your business. Outsourcing has become a politically charged word lately, but it really just means to “obtain goods or services from an outside supplier in place of an internal source.”

Marketing is an opportunity to have fun and get creative! (It took me a while to figure out not everyone thinks that statement is true.) If you don’t agree because that’s not how your brain works, you need to engage the services of a marketing expert who can help you create a plan of action. We’re not talking about putting a Madison Avenue agency on retainer. You need someone who lives, loves and breathes marketing, knows what works well, and is excited about drawing up a simple strategy for you to implement easily. And that might be all you need – get some great ideas, knowledge about how and a schedule for when to execute them.

Ideas and plans are FAN-tastic! But if you don’t get around to using them, they don’t do anything for you. If that’s where you fall down, then recognize that and find someone with a done-for-you program. Hand over the reins and let someone with more time and a better system go to work on your behalf. That way the marketing is getting done, relationships are being cultivated and nurtured, and you’re free to go on attending to providing the service your clients expect.

Interested in learning more about how easy it can be to keep more clients for longer? Schedule a free 15-minute strategy consultation with me during August and let’s figure out the best way to build super-strong relationships with your clients. Check http://tungle.me/zenrabbit for available time-slots.

Increasing client loyalty through love for the pets

Image

Connect with your target market via their pets

Tomorrow is the day we celebrate Panther’s birthday. Last week, I got an email birthday card from our new vet. Not just a happy birthday email, a link to a cute (of course) online card. I’ve been a cat caretaker (you don’t “own” a cat) for years and never had a vet send an acknowledgement of any of their birthdays.

From a marketing standpoint, this is a genius idea. Taking it a step further, the vet office could have sent me the email card along with an invitation to stop by and pick up a little cat toy. How many people would tell all their friends about that? So it would be a very inexpensive strategy to garner word of mouth advertising, and as we all know, there’s no better new client than one who is referred by a current client.

According to The American Pet Products Association, in 2011 Americans spent nearly $51 billion on food, vet costs, grooming, boarding, pet hotels, pet-sitting, day care, toys and other paraphernalia. Canadians spent $8.9 billion.

The point is, people LOVE their pets, as much or sometimes more than their children! So even if you’re not a veterinarian or in the business of selling anything related to pets, you could communicate with your clients or prospective clients ABOUT their pets and create a strong bond.

Let’s say you’re a financial planner. You could include in the client intake info a question about your new clients’ pets. What kind of animal do you have, what’s its name, what month is its birthday? Now when the dog’s birthday comes around, you send out a card with a dog treat, or a gift card to a local pet store, or a gift certificate for a pet photography session. THAT will get you talked about more than sending a birthday card to the client herself.

No matter what line of business you’re in, if you have a newsletter (what do I mean, IF? Of course you do, right?!), you can invite readers’ interaction by encouraging them to send in pictures or stories about their pets for publication. Guaranteed, that issue will be one they hold on to and pass along, which means longer shelf-life and exposure for your messages.

I know several people who smartly use their own pets in their print, online and video marketing. Doing so allows you to share a more personal aspect of yourself and helps your target market feel like they know you better and cements a bond. Want an example? Check out this episode of Newsletter Guru TV.

In what other brilliant ways can you incorporate pets into your marketing strategy?

Client Appreciation as a Marketing Strategy

A few months ago I was interviewed by an internationally-known marketing guru. We talked about how you can incorporate client appreciation into your marketing strategy. If you’re a member of the “inner circle,” you would have gotten the interview on CD. Have you heard the recording yet? If you’re like me, and you throw them on a pile to listen to later and months later you finally get around to popping the CD in the player, maybe you haven’t heard it yet.

Incorporating Client Appreciation Into Your Marketing Strategy

I’m sharing a short clip of it here (click on the above text) because it’s so powerful, a new client signed up for the Gratitude Program yesterday after listening to just the first five minutes. Stay tuned for more short clips to come in the next few weeks.

May it be powerful enough to prompt you into action as well!