Reading Time: 4 minutes
Simply put, customer retention entails keeping as many customers as possible. It begins with a client’s first interaction with your business and continues throughout the lifetime of the relationship.
In this article, we’ll look at five effective techniques to increase client retention, loyalty and transform existing customers into brand ambassadors:
- Manage expectations
- Maintain top-of-mind awareness
- Maintain customer communication
- Implement great customer support
- Implement customer rewards programs
First impressions are important, but if a prospect already has expectations, make sure they are manageable. You want to wow your consumers, but if you promise more than you can give, a prospect or client will quickly abandon you.
Prospects will likely believe you can’t supply what they need if you establish expectations that are too low. You need to offer high-quality performance over the long term while maintaining reasonable, realistic expectations by:
- Not making exaggerated claims
- Understanding and focusing on what really matters to clients
- Being aware of your limitations
- Being open and honest
- Being adaptable in terms of timing
- When your plate is full, be honest & say no.
Maintain top-of-mind awareness
You know how everyone commonly refers to chewing gum as Chappies. That’s because the Chappies brand is so strong that when someone wants a breakfast cereal, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Can I have some Chappies?.”
Top-of-mind awareness is a metric that assesses where your brand ranks in the minds of consumers. Being top-of-mind isn’t only handy; it’s also necessary. When it comes to communicating with a prospect, sales professionals have a 50% better probability of converting the opportunity when a brand has a high top-of-mind score. The more well-known the brand, the more likely the general public will purchase their product or use their service.
It is critical to build tactics that engage both your potential and existing, customers on a consistent basis. Some effective techniques to develop your brand and maintain top of mind awareness with your customers are:
- Don’t wait for your customers to ask for it; instead, proactively provide value to their lives and solve problems for them.
- Create meaningful human interactions.
- Send regular product and business updates to your customers.
- Check up on your customers on a regular basis without becoming overbearing.
- Personalise your marketing and communications.
No matter how far you get with a customer, don’t jeopardize the connection by focusing purely on the next prospect. Maintain meaningful connections with all customers, even after a sale has been made or a project has been completed.
Maintain customer communication
Even if your customers aren’t coming out to you, you should be proactive in reaching out to them. If your clients haven’t connected with your brand in a while, reach out and re-establish your relationship. Consider using a communication calendar to manage client encounters and create upsell and cross-sell possibilities. It’s important to continually make your customers feel recognised and valued.
A communication calendar is a document that records customer communication. It shows you when the last time a customer contacted you and alerts you to when current clients haven’t connected with your business in a while. This makes it simple to roll out promotional offers and proactive customer support solutions before customers disengage. For example, if a customer’s membership is about to expire, you can send them an email informing them that their account must be renewed and the benefits of doing so.
A Marketing Automation, or CRM, the platform can help streamline the task of delivering personalised, proactive customer messages at scale.
Related: Why your SME should consider a Customer Relationship Management platform
Implement great customer support
Fast, reliable & accurate customer service will make the largest difference in your company’s success. Look at ways to use technology and Artificial Intelligence solutions to help your support and service staff to offer better support to your clients.
Chatbots: Using chatbots to solve simple inquiries can assist in shortening the time it takes to respond to queries and issues.
Respond quickly to customer complaints: The longer you wait to answer, the more irritated the consumer becomes. This is very damaging to a customer’s reputation. When you reply quickly and fully to a complaint, even if the customer is still irritated, it demonstrates that your support team cares and takes significant and thoughtful action.
Answer questions with enough information: If someone asks you a question you thought was apparent, take it as a sign that it might not be that clear after all. If they ask you a question you’ve previously answered, you might not have answered it properly or clearly enough.
Related: How to Drive Sales Through Customer Retention
Implement customer rewards programs
By creating a client loyalty program, you can offer rewards to individuals who have been with you the longest. This encourages existing consumers to continue buying with you. Your CRM system can assist you in identifying your company’s most valuable clients.
For example, airline Frequent Flyer programs provide miles, points, and other forms of recognition to their passengers. Another example is offering unique, personalised, discounts to your most valuable clients. Putting in place a loyalty rewards program is an effective (and automated) strategy to keep consumers since it benefits them on a continuous basis.
Your rewards program does not need to be complicated. A simple stamp card with discounts always does the trick. You can always use a simple program, to begin with, while you continue to prove the value they offer to your customers. There’s also the option to outsource a more advanced rewards program. Companies like Yoyo Group can help you set up, manage and facilitate your loyalty programs.
While there are many ways to keep your customers hooked on your business, it’s important to consider the techniques you use to maintain those relationships. Long-term customers are almost always more profitable and buy more regularly than new ones. Neglecting your existing customers in favour of continually acquiring more clients will lower your profitability and eventually l leave your sales funnel empty.
Reading Time: 3 minutes
The latest guide in our Business High Five series, The SME Guide to Sales Optimisation, offers practical tips on how to boost your sales by optimising your sales funnel.
In this guide, your SME will benefit from insights on the following:
- Understanding a sales funnel
- How do conversions occur?
- Improving each stage of the sales funnel
- Practical tips on how to convert leads to customers
- How marketing can support your sales optimisation
Understanding a Sales funnel
A sales funnel is a medium for visualizing where customers are in the process of making a purchasing decision.
Related: How to Drive Sales Through Customer Retention
How do Sales conversions occur?
Businesses all too frequently want to turn an opportunity into a deal straight away. Consider moving your prospects through your pipeline with a sequence of minor conversions. This will eventually result in a deal being completed. It’s easier to understand this by looking at a sales chart.
Improving each stage of the Sales Funnel
Let’s take a closer look at each level of the funnel and the strategies you can use to boost conversions at each stage.
Step 1: Increase Awareness
Ultimately, your goal is to ensure your target audience is aware of your business and what you offer. People cannot buy from you if they are unaware that you exist.
Step 2: Encourage Consideration
Once your audience is aware of your business, it’s vital that you generate enough trust and interest for them to consider you as an option
Step 3: Drive Preference
Now that you have your prospect’s attention, it’s time to educate them about your product or service. They have indicated they are receptive to more information, so you need to provide this quickly and in a compelling way.
Step 4: Simplify the Purchase
Now is the time to seal the deal and make the conversion. Remember, before they are willing to buy, the average buyer wants to view a deal at least SEVEN times.
Step 5: Build Loyalty
You’ve done well, now you need to keep the customer coming back to you. It is much cheaper to market to and retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one.
Related: 3 Ways To Cut Unnecessary Spending In Your Business
Practical tips on how to convert leads to customers
According to Lulalend’s Sales Operations Manager, Jasmine Beckett, spending time and money generating leads for your business is only worthwhile if you can turn these potential buyers into paying customers. Here are her three top tips for converting leads to customers.
- Qualify the prospect
- Follow up fast
- Structure your team
How marketing can support your Sales optimisation
Perhaps Marketing’s most important task is to clearly define who is the priority audience for the business’s products and services. “Develop a complete understanding of this audience including; What problem your product or service solves for them, how do they currently solve it, what are the end benefits to the customer from solving their problem and where will you find this audience.
Download the full SME Guide here.
As always, we want to help your SME succeed.
To help SMEs get the funding they need to grow their business sooner, rather than later, we offer a 60 day delayed repayment option to all first-time customers. So if you apply for funding today, you won’t have to start repaying for 2 months. If prompted enter promo code LULA when applying.
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Investing in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can be one of the most effective means to increasing customer engagement and retention for an SME
. A CRM solution enables a business to efficiently collect a wealth of data on its customers’ behaviours and preferences, and then quickly respond to these via personalised communications. CRM tools can also play a vital role in aligning a business’s Marketing and Sales activities.
Let’s have a look at 4 reasons why your SME should consider investing in CRM software to grow your business:
- A single view of the customer
- Real-time data access
- Nurture leads with optimized user journeys
- Track your KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators)
A single view of the customer
A CRM platform allows a business to collate all of the data it holds on a customer, including previous purchases and interactions with the customer service team, in one place. This can then easily be viewed and acted upon by internal teams. The more you know about your customer, the easier it is to meet their future needs. Having a complete overview of all your customers also helps a business to segment its customer base and develop different strategies for each.
Real-time data access
The real-time data collection and analysis most CRM tools offer enables companies to gather information on prospects or clients straight away. You get actionable information on who is visiting the website and which content they are viewing. You will see which emails they are opening or clicking on, as well as which forms they have filled out.
You will also learn about their preferences, which goods and services they buy, and how to upsell to them. By capturing behavioral data CRM tools allow you to engage in a more personalized manner.
Related: What is Employee Experience?
Nurture leads with optimized user journeys
96% of people aren’t ready to buy from you the first time they visit your website.
The same can be said for a trade show, networking gathering, or company conference. Rather than launching your sales pitch straight away, it is important to get to know your prospects and engage with them on a more personalized basis. This is conveniently accomplished by developing lead nurture journeys using a CRM platform.
As an example: email addresses can be collected via a form on your website. When this occurs, a sequence of automated email messages can be triggered. Each message can share more about your products and services, while also being tailored to any subsequent actions the lead completes (such as downloading additional product guides).
This prompt, and customised way of following up with leads, can significantly increase conversion rates.
Track your KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators)
CRM tools can help you answer crucial business questions, such as:
- Which marketing strategies are the most effective? E.g. Paid Search, SEO, or word-of-mouth?
- Which methods of customer service do your customers prefer, such as do you need a live chat or phone support?
- Which customer segments are most profitable?
A CRM tool provides real-time filtering and monitoring, allowing you to understand important performance drivers such as:
- Which sources your new marketing leads are coming from
- Effectiveness of the sales conversion funnel
- The efficiency of your customer service team in handling queries
Related: How to Drive Sales Through Customer Retention
Here are three of the most common CRM tools SMEs can consider:
- Hubspot – assign your customers to specified stages of the sales funnel where you can personalize their user experience with your business through content and marketing material.
- Salesforce – ensures trouble-free contact management by providing access to important customer details and relationship history. It provides a full description of the client, with insights and engagement-enhancement techniques.
- Freshworks – designed to help sales teams never fall behind with built-in phone and email, robust insights such as lead scoring, website monitoring, and intelligent workflows.
A CRM system can be the missing link for small companies looking to get closer to their clients, generate more leads, and increase revenue. Customer Relationship Management solutions provide you with the data and knowledge you need to automate your processes and improve your customer experience.
Reading Time: 2 minutes
The latest guide in our Business High Five series, The SME Guide to Digital Transformation, offers useful guidance on how to introduce digital technology to help your business succeed.
Some of the important topics our guide covers include:
An Introduction to Digital Transformation
This refers to an overall transformation of organizational activities aimed at leveraging opportunities created by digital technologies and data.
Here are some of the reasons why this type of transformation is proving to be so valuable to many SMEs:
- Acceleration of Change
- Global Competition
- Customer Expectations
- Digital Adoption
How to create a Digital Transformation Strategy
With the help of new technologies, you can future-proof your SME by transforming your business model to increase productivity and profitability.
By making use of the following steps, you can craft a winning digital strategy for your business.
- Get buy-in
- Make sure you have sufficient funding
- Assess the current state of your business
- Determine the objectives & desired results
- Conduct a gap analysis
- Create a transformation roadmap
Having access to data is critical to achieving your transformation objectives. But data is meaningless if it isn’t put to use. Companies who exploit their data and operate on it easily gain an advantage over their competitors.
Related: The rise of eCommerce
Examples of Transformation Across Industries
Digital innovation has an effect on various sectors in a number of ways. It provides extraordinary opportunities to follow new market models, but each industry’s solution is distinct.
In the guide, we explore examples in the agriculture & manufacturing, healthcare, and retail industries.
Tools, platforms, technologies to aid your Digital Journey
A wide range of digital tools are available across industries. Here is a list of basic, yet very important (and mostly free) technologies that are relevant across most industries and will help you along your digital journey.
Some of which include;
- Google Analytics
Download the full SME Guide here.
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Regardless of the size of your company or how great your product may be, at some point, every business will need more finance than they have immediately available. When this happens, accessing additional funding will help to give your company the fuel it needs to grow.
It may seem counterintuitive, but Trevor Gosling, Co-founder, and CEO of Lulalend – a financing partner to South Africa’s small- to medium-enterprises (SMEs) explains that fast access to capital plays an important part in any business growth strategy.
Gosling says that there is often a misconception that all debt is bad or that it is only used by struggling companies. “In fact, the opposite is often the reason why some of the world’s largest companies, including the likes of Apple and Coca-Cola, routinely seek capital infusions to keep profits within the company, maximize their tax savings, and assist with short-term financial obligations.”
Related: How to get a business loan?
When raising funds, selecting the right type of business financing plays a very important role in determining how a business accesses capital and long-term profits. “For business owners, debt can also help to improve the bottom line of a company because it makes expansion possible, can enable increased marketing efforts or the purchasing of new equipment and products,” he adds.
Loans can also support seasonally driven companies that are often extremely profitable during peak season trading but need the extra cash to buy inventory and supplies during the quieter months. This is where debt can help to bridge the gap and balance out uneven cash flows throughout the year.
Generally, the two most common ways in which businesses raise additional funding is through selling equity in the business or with debt financing. For many of South Africa’s burgeoning SMEs, what matters the most is the overall cost of business funding and the speed at which it can be acquired. While both financing options can help to give access to capital, using debt to support growth rather than equity is generally preferred.
Related: How Refinancing Can Help Consolidate Your Business Debt
“While you will owe interest on debt, unlike equity, the funding that it provides doesn’t mean you will have to lose a stake in your business. Any profits that are made after paying debt and interest will be yours to keep. It’s also now possible to acquire a business loan in as little as 24 hours” Gosling explains. Additionally, if you choose to take on a partner to increase capital, it will also mean that you lose full control of your business and be asked to share profits made going forward – which for many fast-growing start-ups is not always the most attractive option.
While loans are a great tool to finance inventory or equipment purchases, an increasingly popular debt instrument is a business line of credit or Credit Facility. Gosling says that a Credit Facility is one of the best ways to manage cash flow – especially if a business needs immediate access to funds to cover short-term expenses while waiting for customer payments.
If you manage your debt responsibly by making on-time payments this can help to improve your business’s creditworthiness. In turn, these smart credit habits can help to increase your overall funding limit, lower future costs, and help you to obtain better terms for your next loan.
Related: Practical cost-saving tips for your business
“The critical step that business owners need to consider before taking on any form of debt is to ensure that they have a plan on how to use any additional funding to generate a return and improve profits,” Gosling explains.
“If you don’t have a plan, or if you feel that your company is struggling financially, taking on debt for the wrong reasons can cripple your business,” he adds.
To assist businesses to recover and grow during these difficult times, Lulalend is offering its first-time customers the opportunity to take out funding but only start repaying after 60 days, which gives them two months of cost-free capital.