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 customers, 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 piece of gum, 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 communication.
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 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 a customer contacted you last 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, 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 business’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 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.
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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
If you want to make the most of your digital marketing efforts, you have to make all your tools and platforms work for you. This is why it’s important to understand how to optimize your digital platforms.
Here are our 4 ways you can optimize your digital platform to grow and better your business online:
- Use technology and data to determine the best way to reach your customers
- Make use of Automation Tools
- Optimize your SEO
- Take Advantage of Social Media
1. Use technology and data to determine the best way to reach your customer
Modern technologies can assist you in optimizing your digital marketing strategy by allowing you to quickly identify your target market and where to reach them. You can now easily collect data on your customer’s behaviours, evaluate this, and build a deeper understanding of the media they absorb.
For example, Google Analytics turns assumptions about your target audience into solid facts. Under the Audience tab, you can quickly understand who your customers are and where they are located along with a plethora of other stats. Under the Acquisitions tab, click All Traffic then Source/Medium where you will find how your customers and web traffic were referred to your site.
With the data, you can now readily access using these technologies you can create personalized messaging and focus your investments on delivering these messages through the right channels.
2. Make use of Automation Tools
One way your business can save time and money is by making use of marketing automation tools. When you spend less time on repetitive tasks, you free up valuable time that can be spent focusing on analysing your performance data and making the improvements needed to generate more growth for your business.
Some tools can help you plan and schedule your efforts as well as track what is or isn’t successful. They will help you spend your budget smartly and increase your reach.
Here are a few tools to consider:
Related: 5 Digital Marketing Strategy Tips: COVID-19 SME Support
3. Optimize your SEO
While SEO optimization may be more prominent in B2C organizations it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure your B2B business has a good SEO ranking. If it’s not something people can find on the web, a B2B enterprise runs the risk of falling between the cracks.
Having an SEO specialist on your team (or using an agency) will ensure your content is optimized with; Focus keywords, Google-friendly HTML formatting, and a URL structure that correlates with your product keywords – all of which makes it easier for your target audience to find your business in search engines such as Google and Bing.
Using free tools provided by SEO specialists like Moz, as well as Google (Google Analytics, and Search Console), you can assess the overall score of your product pages and decide where improvements are needed.
Make sure you use the same SEO auditing process for all digital assets involved in your campaign, including case studies and blog posts.
Related: The rise of eCommerce
4. Take Advantage of Social Media
Since its inception in the early 2000s, social media has transformed the way people communicate. Simultaneously, it has generated novel possibilities for digital marketers.
People pay a lot of attention to social media, making content here even more effective. Marketers can use social media to reach as many, or few – if you want to be very targeted customers as they choose. (depending on your budget). It is a strategy that is beneficial to all companies, large or small.
Social Media can be used to; Build a fan/customer base and continually engage with them in a cost-effective way, reach new audiences, enhance your customer service, gather feedback and enhance your overall online presence. Social networking is something you can’t ignore when it comes to improving your digital marketing plan.
Reading Time: 4 minutes
With winter just around the corner, many businesses will be going into the low season. This means fewer customers, therefore, less revenue. The trick to not just surviving this period, but making it work to your advantage, is to have a plan for managing your cash flow as well as using the time to prepare for future success.
With this in mind, we’ve put together four tips for businesses to manage through their quiet months:
- Stick to a plan
- Take advantage of the downtime
- Plan for the busy season ahead
- Learn and learn again
1. Stick to a plan
Low seasons come around every year and should not take you by surprise. Every successful business should have a plan in place, much like they’d have a plan for the busy season. To start, don’t base your slowest season’s plans on your busiest season’s results. It won’t take long for this type of planning to cause serious problems for your business finances.
Your plan should anticipate seasonal fluctuations and adjust accordingly. If revenue is lower, you will need to cut costs. Potential areas for seasonal cost savings include:
- Fewer operating hours
- Reduced workforce
- Fewer or smaller inventory buys
In addition to cutting costs, consider where you can leverage existing assets to generate income. You could leverage assets by:
- Selling off excess or aging inventory at a discount
- Securing a line of credit against inventory, equipment, and property
- Renting unused equipment to other businesses
Related: Winter is coming: How to prepare your restaurant for the seasonal slump
2. Take advantage of the downtime
The slow season is the one period of the year when you have time to focus on areas you may ordinarily not have time for. As you get close to the slow season, prepare yourself to take advantage of the time it provides.
Plan to Plan
The slow season is a great time to develop roadmaps for your business. Now is the time to determine what aspects of your business need attention. Think about how you can best prepare your business for the uptick in customers, transactions, complaints, and everything else that comes with the busy season. Be prepared to plan for these busy season realities as the slow season arrives.
Here are some common areas that often go overlooked as you grow your business:
- Employee benefit packages
- Updated business plans
- Marketing strategies
- Organizational roadmaps
Areas that deserve your attention vary depending on your business’ industry, maturity, growth, and other unique factors. The best way to prepare for your slow-season planning is to identify areas that deserve your attention.
Take control of administrative tasks
Before the slow season begins, identify administrative tasks that need your attention.
Your administrative tasks will vary depending on the nature and stage of your business. But, there are some common administrative tasks that many business owners avoid during the busy season because they are either too time consuming or boring:
- Tax strategy
- Staff growth and outsourcing needs
- Internal policies and procedures development
Whether you have neglected these tasks in the past, or you simply need a good chunk of time to get these tasks completed, be ready to knock them out when the slow season provides time.
3. Plan for the busy season ahead
Once the busy season arrives, it’s too late to prepare for it. The slow season is a perfect time to ensure that you make the preparations and adjustments needed to hit the ground running when the busy season comes back around.
All employees benefit from training, but finding time to train isn’t easy. During the slow season, you have the time to offer training options that meet your employees’ needs. Newer employees may need some basic onboarding training. Your more seasoned employees likely need more advanced training to improve their skills. Identify the training needed across your workforce, and plan that training before the slow season hits.
The slow season is a good time to dive into your inventory strategy, if it’s relevant to your business. The goal of an effective inventory strategy is to identify the most effective and profitable inventory method for your business. While the slow season is the time to conduct an inventory analysis, you must develop a plan beforehand that will serve as your roadmap to execute this.
Here are some common metrics and processes to consider when reviewing your inventory practices:
- Inventory turns
- Average shipping time
- Cost of inventory
- Volume discounts
- Fill rate
- Shipping accuracy
The list above is a starting point for analyzing your inventory practices. Before the slow season arrives, determine which metrics make sense to review when the slow season gives you a window of time to do so.
During the busy season, track the metrics applicable to your inventory strategy to ensure you are ready to execute your review when the low season arrives. An effective inventory strategy will be unique to your business.
Related: Practical cost-saving tips for your business
4. Learn & learn again
Perhaps the best rule of thumb when preparing for the low season is to remember what you did to prepare for the last low season.
- Did you stick to the plan?
- Did you take advantage of the slow season?
- Did you utilize the slow season to prepare for the busy season?
In answering these questions, you can repeat successful behaviors and identify your opportunities to improve.