14 August 2019

6 ways to improve your customer retention

Brian Hardie
Written by Brian Hardie

Brian Hardie is Regional Director for The Marketing Centre and specialises in working with small and mid-size businesses. He has over 30 years’ experience working with clients in logistics, media, technology and outsourcing.

Customer retention

Many B2B businesses place more emphasis on lead generation than customer retention. This is often a mistake.

Not only is it cheaper to retain customers than attempt to win new ones, it also takes less time and effort. In fact, it can cost 5 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one.

Furthermore, as loyal customers repeatedly purchase your products and services they offer greater lifetime value, which in turn boosts revenue.

But, here’s where we run into a problem. Only 29% of B2B customers are fully engaged with the companies they do business with.

So, how do you provide the value to get customers to stick around for the long-term?

1. Develop the Service You Provide

It’s important that you continually improve your product or service. Get feedback from your customers that will help you make your strongest features ever-stronger. Learn what’s unique about your brand and what they value most. Use that information to provide customers with more of what they love about your business. This will reduce the risk of them switching to another provider. 

You also need to anticipate your customers’ needs over time and adapt your product or service to make sure you stay ahead of the curve. Let's say you provide food packaging to supermarkets, for example. Because consumer expectations are changing rapidly due to environmental concerns, you need to be constantly anticipating the next consumer trends.

What customers require from you may change over time. You have to roll with these developments.

2. Refer Their Services

When we talk about referrals in the context of customer retention, it usually concerns a customer loyalty or referral programme in which customers refer your business to others. But you can add a lot of value to your relationship if you do the same in return.

Prove that you are a valued supplier by referring your customers’ businesses where relevant. You might be able to introduce your client to a useful contact in your network that can help them or vice versa. This proves you’re willing to go above and beyond to aid the growth of their business.

3. Expand Your Relationships within the Organisation

If you ingrain your business within a customer’s organisation, you become indispensable. You need to attach customers to your service in a way that it becomes something they can’t do without.

To do this, you should avoid having just one contact within a company. Do your research and find other key decision makers you can strike up a relationship with. Or simply have a discussion with your main contact to find out where else your product or service could be deployed and ask for an introduction. Similarly, you can bring other experts from your own organisation into the conversation so that your customer experiences the depth of the relationship you offer. 

Encourage your contact to include other teams in face-to-face meetings or calls. This will give you the opportunity to demonstrate how effectively your product or service can be used throughout an entire business.

Essentially, you can spread the value around by expanding your reach over time. And if your product or service becomes routine for the entire business, it’s harder for them to switch to a competitor.

4. Distribute Useful Content and Information

Don’t just create top-of-the-funnel content to attract leads. Go beyond the funnel and create resources that help and inform your customer base in order to build loyalty. 73% of the most successful B2B content marketers use content to build loyalty with existing customers, compared to 32% of those least successful. 

Go beyond the funnel and create resources that help and inform your customer base in order to build loyalty

Try producing an insider guide for existing customers to help them get the most from your product or service. Also, update customers on exciting events and developments via social media or your email newsletter. Share unique offers, surveys, competitions, i.e. opportunities that enthuse customers.

Furthermore, you should use your knowledge of the customer’s industry to share highly relevant media from other sources. This will not only keep customers engaged but also prove that you thoroughly understand their needs.

5. Surprise Them Every Once in a While

Your best customers should be rewarded. When you surprise them, you show not only that you have value but that your value is constantly increasing. You also have the chance to demonstrate your understanding of your customers and how they operate by offering a more personalised experience.

For instance, you could share an exclusive deal or even a freebie you think would benefit a particular customer. It doesn’t have to be something physical either. You could offer loyal customers more of your time. Surprise them with a webinar invite or training session that they weren’t expecting but would get value from. You could also use your interest and knowledge of their business to produce a proposal outlining further ways you could add significant value. This shows that you are dedicated to finding new ways to help them.

You need to show some love from time to time. For a customer, just the idea that they are getting something exclusive from you increases perceived value.

6. Focus on the TNTs

Companies often focus on big swooping moves to please customers. But there are smaller things you can do that give you a competitive edge. That’s why the concept of TNTs, or Tiny Noticeable Things, was devised by leading entrepreneur and motivational speaker Adrian Webster. 

TNTs are a good way to form a lasting bond with customers. Webster explains, “TNTs are the emotional engagers; the motivators that make and break relationships. But what makes a TNT so phenomenally powerful is the emotional attachment it triggers.” 

To implement this idea effectively you must make an effort with your customers, despite how busy you might be. Make the relationship more personal by, for example, remembering the names of key individuals within an organisation or having a phone conversation instead of firing off a quick, impersonal email. Utilise a CRM to keep track of your relationship and thereby communicate more effectively. Courtesy and gratitude can go a long way.

If you want to retain more customers, you need to provide a great service across the board. This will reduce your churn rate and thereby increase profits in the long-term. The first step is providing a fantastic product or service that gets better with time. Then you can implement personalisation strategies and prove to customers you’re doing all you can to provide value.

Want to learn how customer retention fits into the bigger picture? Take a look at our step-by-step guide, Marketing Theory for Non-Marketers, to discover how market segmentation, lead generation, sales alignment and customer retention combine to create marketing success.Marketing Theory for Non-Marketers


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