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As soon as crap hits the fan, most businesses look at what services to cut (to drop costs) or how to sell more (to generate more revs), but the most important and sometimes overlooked segment is figuring out how to retain and keep your current customers. For every founder, customer retention should be the name of the game. It’s more important than sales because it’s easier to keep a customer than to find a new one. In fact, acquiring a new customer can cost up to five times more than retaining an already established one. Unfortunately, in the age of Covid-19, many businesses (especially startup founders who have lower margins for error) are struggling to maintain profits and drive sales.
To help with that, I’ve created some quick tips to help other founders retain customers and drive revenue amidst this moment's obstacles.
1. Maximize customer loyalty programs
Customer loyalty programs are incredibly important for small businesses, for whom the individual is much more than “just a number,” an epidemic of thought that plagues many large-scale corporations. The reason people go to small businesses is to feel valued, so reward that inclination with excellent reward programs.
One great example of an effective reward program is REI’s Co-op membership. Upon joining, users receive 10 percent back on all purchases and annual dividends, as well as special pricing on rentals; they can even enjoy exclusive member events.
My favorite loyalty software is Glue, which is ubiquitous and automated. I’m a huge fan of automating anything you can, so long as it doesn’t lose the personalization, which is exactly how Glue works. They use a dedicated CRM, website visitor tracking, payment integrations and unique IDs to keep everything organized and automated. Their platform sends out personalized messages across various platforms to help you retain and provide value to your costumes, including discount codes and even gift cards. Now, in the midst of a pandemic, is the time to get creative and innovative with how you’re going to approach retaining customers.
2. Leverage new software made for Covid
I love software and leveraging it to make my businesses better. As soon as Covid hit, most SaaS products offered a discount to founders. Even most of the accelerators provided resource kits like this one from Techstars, and there was a flurry of new software specifically created to help founders during Covid. For example, Vcita offers an all-in-one business–management application for startups that includes scheduling and payments. Their new “Packages” feature enables businesses to bundle several of their services together and sell them as a package deal to consumers at a discounted price. The main pro here, in my opinion, is flexibility –– allowing your customers to pre-select the services each package contains, or letting them mix-and-match as they wish. (This is especially useful during Covid when businesses are scrutinizing budgets.) Imagine letting your customer choose their own budget and pay what they’re able to pay.
3. Use social media to answer complaints and stay in the consumer’s mind
Social media has become even more valuable in the midst of Covid because the world is now spending more time online during lockdown and quarantine. Too many founders neglect social media as a marketing and customer-retention tool, still. Apps like Twitter and Instagram allow your businesses to stay in front of the eyes of the consumer daily, and thus, in the minds of the consumer when they have a purchase to make. It’s as simple as a couple of posts a day. Further, social media allows for a type of efficient customer service never seen before (i.e. your customers are just a message away), and their problem can be solved in minutes if you’re able to catch the messages as they come in.
Nike is a great example of this in action. They have a dedicated Twitter account, @Team Nike, specifically for customer support that works seven days a week and in seven languages. When a customer mentions Nike’s main twitter handle @Nike with a customer-service request, @TeamNike jumps in to help. Even though Nike is a huge company, one major leg up startups have is their ability to focus on the individual. Nurturing every relationship will inevitably payout. Offer easy access to support emails, online chats and phone numbers. Make having your consumer’s voice heard as easy as possible, and leverage social media to do it.
4. Deep customer onboarding
Consumers have to be sold on your services, and a one-time purchase is generally not enough to make them a long-term customer. What's the solution? Hold their hand the entire time they’re a customer, and onboard them in a way that makes them feel like they've been invited into your business family. Zappos has preached this mantra for decades now.
Thank them for becoming customers, offer help, even provide discounts for future purchases (everyone loves saving money, and it’s a great way to earn an upsell and increase the lifetime value of each customer). One great example of an effective onboarding process is from Ring, the home-security company. After signing up for an online home-security account, Ring sends customers consistent emails to account holders with helpful tips and product set-up instructions, which is a brilliant move, because the more comfortable a consumer is with how a product works, the more likely it is that they'll either re-buy or purchase similar products in the future. Onboarding is another lost art that can help you retain customers.
Chaos creates opportunity, and this crisis is no different. With any luck, these tips will reduce churn and increase retention –– even during a pandemic.