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7 Customer Retention Strategies That Work

Congratulations: you have customers! Whether your business is just getting off the ground or has been around for years, that’s always good news. Now comes the tricky part — keeping them around.

There’s a finite supply of customers in your market, no matter how big that market is, so you can’t keep finding new customers forever. You’ll need the existing customers to come back for more.

Keeping customers isn’t just an attractive idea — everyone likes the idea that someone will be loyal to their brand — it’s an economical one. Research has repeatedly shown that repeat customers buy more, buy more often, and are more likely to try out your new offerings than strangers — plus, they cost five to 25 times less to keep than you’d pay to acquire a new customer.

So how do you do it? How do you keep your existing customers engaged and happy so that they’ll keep coming back to you? Here are a few ideas.

Inspire Them

Brand loyalty isn’t just about your customers thinking you make the best product available — in fact, that’s a pretty small part of it. Loyalty is built on the fact that your customers embrace your “why” — your brand’s reason for being.

Your “why” is the core concept of your brand. It’s the reason you founded the company in the first place, and it informs everything you do. If you’re maintaining good brand consistency, your brand message is probably what attracted your customers to you in the first place. They don’t just like what you make — they like you.

Keep customers loyal by reminding them what attracted them to you in the first place. If you donate a portion of your proceeds to charity, send an email about it. If you use only clean energy, tell them about it.

Customers want to know that their purchase is more than just a business transaction — they want to be supporting a cause or part of a community. Show them that they are with little reminders.

Offer Them Convenience

Starbucks has always been at the forefront of marketing, but coffee is relatively interchangeable — customers need a reason to stick to Starbucks instead of going somewhere else.

That’s where Starbucks’ new Mobile Order & Pay feature comes in. Built into the app that most serious customers already had, the new feature allows customers to place their orders before they even arrive at the store, then simply walk in and pick them up.

The feature is perfect for customers with specific orders, customers in a hurry, and people who don’t like waiting in line — basically, all of Starbucks’ core customers. By making their product as accessible as possible and adding a feature that their competitors didn’t have, Starbucks can keep their fans coming back morning after morning.

Use Gamification and Referral

MeUndies calls themselves “the most comfortable pair of underwear in the world,” and they’re dedicated to that goal. They also reward their existing customers for spreading the word through a very well-thought-out referral program.

Referral programs aren’t new or unique, but MeUndies takes it to another level. Firstly, the reward for referring is substantial: the new customer gets 20% off their first order, and the existing customer gets $20 in store credit — more than enough for a new pair of undies for themselves.

But that’s not all. If you refer a friend, you can see how far through the buying process they are. If they’ve put the items in their cart but haven’t purchased yet, you can “nudge” them to complete the transaction.

MeUndies isn’t the only one using gamification to incentivize customers to participate in referral programs, but theirs is a great example. Keep people invested in your product and they’ll keep coming back.

Pick A Side

Remember Apple’s “Mac vs. PC” ad campaigns? John Hodgman as the outdated PC and Justin Long as the smooth, charming Mac would trade lines about what distinguished Macs — easy to use out of the box, intuitive to set up — from PCs — the opposite.

Not only did it highlight Apple’s differentiating characteristics, but it caused a lot of talk online between proud Mac owners eager to defend their choice and indignant PC owners doing the same. By creating a stark distinction between “us” and “them,” Apple increased the loyalty of their customers.

That doesn’t mean you have to pick on one of your competitors, or be petty or mean about it. But if you can find a cause to fight for or against, you’ll make your brand symbolize that cause in the minds of your customers. Suddenly the picture is bigger than just a pair of shoes or a laptop — it’s about who the customer is.

Educate Your Customers

It’s easy to mistake apathy for loyalty — just because a customer has been buying the same brand of potato chips for years doesn’t mean they won’t jump ship as soon as someone else comes along with a more appealing story.

What that means is that you can’t just sit back and assume you’ve succeeded once your customer’s dollars are in hand — you have to keep closing.

Education is a great way to do this, especially if you have a complex product. Send emails and publish blog posts that show customers features they might not have known about. Talk about your charitable initiatives. Show them how their product is made. Remind them of your incentive programs.

The more your customer knows about your brand, the more they’ll start to relate to the brand instead of just liking the product. When a competitor rears its head, your customer won’t be as likely to switch over, simply because they know you better.

Offer Support In The Right Places

Customer service and support is one of the cornerstones of customer retention — if your customers need help and can’t get it, they’ll leave in a heartbeat. But it’s not as simple as listing a phone number to call.

Just like advertising needs to find your customers where they are, support needs to be available where customers need it. You can’t just set up a support email and think you’ve covered your bases — what if customers need more urgent help?

You should know from your buyer personas where your customers live online. That’s where your support needs to be available. For example, in today’s tech savvy world, it’s extremely common for customers to complain or ask questions on Twitter. You might not like Twitter or think it’s right for your brand, but if they’re asking questions there, you’d better be there to answer.

Say Thanks

Thanking your customers is the easiest thing in the world — so why don’t more companies do it? Showing your gratitude is a perfect, quick, easy way to show customers that their feedback and their business are appreciated.

For some actions — making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, downloading a resource — you can even automate your thank-you in the form of an email. For the rest — compliments online, good reviews on Yelp, pictures on Instagram — you’ll have to take a more hand-on approach.

It’s worth it, though. Customers will appreciate being noticed and specifically spoken to, and they’ll be more likely to repeat their business with you. And you should be thanking them! After all, you wouldn’t have a business without them.


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