Every business owner knows how important it is to bring in new business, but what you may not know is that it can cost up to 10 times more to attract new customers than investing in existing customers. Your existing customer base is full of opportunity to secure repeat business and create an efficient source of ongoing income. The customers who are familiar with your services and trust your brand are more likely to choose your product or services again. Plus, as your customers keep coming back, they’re likely to become brand advocates over time by spreading the word amongst family and friends. Many business owners have told us that investing more in their most valuable customers, has actually been one of their best ways to grow their business.

So how do you keep customers coming back for more? Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

 

1. Make it personal
As the world leans towards greater automation (and dare we say it, robots!), an authentic, personal touch really starts to stand out for people. It’s becoming so valuable, that it could be your greatest differentiator if done right. There’s a lot of ways to add a personal touch: write a personalized note or thank you card when the job’s complete. Take the time to understand their unique situation so you can offer tailored solutions (not just for the immediate sale, but suggest what they may want to think about in the future). Customers want to feel understood and appreciated, especially when they are loyal to your brand. Send personalized incentives, such as discounts, or credits for customers who you haven’t seen in awhile. Richard Lazazzera from Shopify says, “Giving an unexpected gift also plays to the law of reciprocity…” That is to say, when a customer feels appreciated, they are more likely to return and more likely to refer others, which ensures repeat business and steady cash flow.

2. Be transparent, upfront and professional with billing
Use your billing process to instil a sense of trust from the very beginning. Use a mobile tool like Invoice2go to create professional, fully itemized invoices complete with your company’s logo. By creating your invoice on the spot, you can have an open discussion with them to answer any questions and make sure you’re on the same page. This level of upfront communication can go a long way for building trust and repeat business.

3. Make it easy to pay
At the end of each job comes payment, and you don’t want to end on a sour note by making it a hassle for your customer. In today’s digital age, businesses who don’t accept debit and credit are few and far between. In fact, debit and credit card are by far people’s favorite way to make a payment. According to a 2014 study done by the Federal Reserve’s Cash Products Office, 65% of people would rather pay by debit or credit card than any other form of payment, 30% prefer to pay by cash, and 3% prefer to pay by check (2% prefer other forms of payment). Small businesses can open the door to more opportunity by ensuring they’re offering the end to end experience their customers demand, and by making it as hassle-free as possible.

4. Get smarter with social media
The internet is saturated with content, so when it comes to connecting with your customers via social media, it’s all about differentiating yourself. First, find out which social media channels your customers are using and make sure you’re there too. Then, start with using social media as a customer service platform – reply to customer comments and questions and communicate news and specials. Feature your most loyal customers, share tips you have learnt as a small business owner, or hold competitions to engage your customers.

Larger companies have the luxury of being able to dedicate one person or a team of people to handle social media, but for solo business owners, that’s not an option. You can save yourself a lot of time by using a social media dashboard like Hootsuite, which allows you to monitor several social networks all in one place. You can schedule posts, track the performance of your posts, and manage campaigns easily, making a little effort go a long way.

5. Do good business
It’s been famously said, “A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” If a customer gives you business, treating them right and instilling trust will go further than anything else to build genuine, long term loyalty.

Attracting new customers is always important, but it’s it’s only half the battle. Keeping them coming back will help you build consistent cash flow over time. It takes research, experimentation and willingness to adapt to new technologies to keep profits coming in. It also takes treating customers like real people, not just numbers, which in the end, is all anyone really wants.