Customer Retention is the Unsung Hero of Business Growth


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If you want to grow your business, turn your eyes toward your existing customer base to see how you might provide additional value
If you want to grow your business, turn your eyes toward your existing customer base to see how you might provide additional value
Customer relationships are a bit like gardens. Once you plant those seeds, you’ve got to put some effort into helping them flourish. After all, customer retention is the bread and butter (or water and sunlight to keep the gardening analogy going) of the small business world. We all know that, in theory, it’s cheaper to keep our existing customer relationships healthy and strong than to set out to acquire new ones, and easier to successfully pitch products and services to them as well.

But it’s one thing to know it and another to actually do it. How exactly do you take your small business’s current customer base and give yourself the best chance to ensure their continued patronage? And how do you sell additional relevant goods and services to your base? While every business, customer and product is different, the good news is there are tried and true tactics for organizational success (and even growth) through customer retention. Here are some tips on how to encourage your existing customers to invest more in your business.

Personalization Matters
Good things come to businesses that care about – and cater to – the customers’ needs. And in today’s tech-driven world, there are plenty of opportunities to do just that.

New marketing technologies are making it easy for small businesses to deliver hyper-personalized service to customers. Intelligent web targeting, for example, is a masterful way to cater to individual buying habits. It customizes the content customers see while visiting a site, and helps businesses track what pages are being frequented. Businesses can also send personalized messages, suggest items, or offer discounts for previously-viewed products with a small business-focused CRM tool like Act!. It’s helpful to log every interaction you have with customers, too. This will give you a better indication of a customer’s tastes, shopping habits, and purchase history.

Personalization pays off. A recent Accenture study showed 75 percent of customers are more likely to do business with retailers that remember their name, recommend items based on prior purchases and know their purchase history.

Customer engagement
The rules of customer engagement are simple: it all comes down to interacting with others in meaningful ways. Consider how you connect with your existing clientele. Perhaps some respond best to phone calls and face-to-face conversations, while others prefer connecting via email or social media. Tracking your customers’ preferred method of communication – and determining what types of offers they’re most responsive to – with the help of a small business focused CRM tool like Act! helps expand sales via your existing customer base.

To fully engage, small businesses must also understand their customers’ current and future needs, challenges and goals. You can use that information to deepen customer relationships while strategizing how best to serve them. After all, mutually beneficial engagement always reveals itself on the bottom line.

A Gallup study showed that business-to-business companies with higher customer engagement scores achieved 50 percent more revenue and 34% higher profitability.

Mastering the Upsell
There’s a popular misconception that businesses are the only ones who prosper from an upsell. This is simply untrue. When executed properly, upselling leads to stronger customer satisfaction, improved customer relations and greater customer loyalty. Of course, upselling helps bolster a business’s revenue, too. Everybody wins.

The key is to pitch products or services that compliment or add value to what customers are already buying. A camera shop might suggest an extra lens to compliment an SLR purchase. Or, a mechanic could pitch new brake pads to a customer in for an oil change.

Avoid using the airline approach of charging customers for every small comfort and convenience. After all, for small businesses, there’s a fine balance of upselling to customers without them feeling overcharged or taken advantage of.

Instead, suggest things that would truly be of benefit and value to the customer.

Upselling can take a number of forms. It might encourage customers to purchase an extended warranty, subscribe to in-house tech support, or upgrade to a costlier model. It can also mean suggesting the customer an extra item or two to round out their purchase.

Upselling can be a lucrative tactic for small businesses looking to earn more of their customers’ dollars. A Barillience study showed that up to 31% of ecommerce sales were generated from product recommendations.

As we all know, a little extra spending can go a long way.

Customers – just like spouses and friends – expect to be treated well. They want businesses to take a genuine interest in their needs, be responsive, and help solve challenges. When customers’ expectations are met, they’ll always reciprocate with heavier spending, greater loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising. And so, when a small business takes measures to increase spending among the customers it already has, everyone benefits.


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