Business Online Journal
Build Your Tribe: 7 Actions That Can Land You a Lifetime Customer
By: Timothy Carter
Published: May 24, 2016, 9:00 pm

Unless your business is one that thrives on one-time interactions, customer retention is key to your business ultimately being successful.

Not only is customer retention less expensive, with a higher ROI than customer acquisition, it also leads to benefits like improved brand reputation, and word-of-mouth recommendations.

The problem is, even with a fantastic product or an objectively advantageous value to your company, it’s hard to keep your customers around for long.

There are too many choices, and brand loyalty is hard to come by these days.

But with these seven simple actions, which stand above and beyond the “norm,” it’s possible to land yourself a true, lifetime customer:

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1. A Personal Follow-Up

Sometimes, that little extra follow-up is all it takes for your brand to resurface in a customer’s mind, cementing it in their memory and reinforcing their positive experiences with your brand.

For some companies, this could take the form of a handwritten thank-you note after signing a contract. For others, this might be a follow-up email with a discount for a future purchase. The keys are timeliness and offer a degree of personalization.

2. An Unexpected Bonus

People love getting additional value for their money, and they love surprises even more. Including a personal gift, or some unexpected bonus with an order touches on both of these advantages.

For example, you might ship a free sample of your newest product with a customer’s order as a nice surprise, or go above and beyond during one month of service with a higher level of service than your customer’s paying for.

3. A Surprise Gift

This follows the same rule and motivation as the “unexpected bonus,” but serves a slightly different role. You’ll still be capitalizing on customers’ love for additional value and surprises, but the timing’s going to be different. Here, you’ll be shipping or delivering a free gift when you haven’t heard from your customer in a while, possibly long after they placed their initial order.

This is doubly effective because it resurfaces the customer’s earlier positive experience at a later date, and simultaneously brings your brand top-of-mind when it’s been a while since this customer last thought of you.

4. A Proactive Plan

This is a strategy mostly for B2B and service-style companies, but there are some ways B2C companies can take advantage of it, too. The goal here is to proactively forecast some event to your customer, and plan for it. For example, your SEO company might predict a major update coming, and come up with a potential strategy to respond to that update.

In a consumer-focused company environment, this might mean predicting a shipping delay for a product, and proactively coming up with an alternative solution to get the product there on time. This strategy shows forethought and commitment to customer satisfaction, both of which help cement your reputation.

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5. A Sincere Apology

Let’s face it, things aren’t always going to go well in your customer relationships. You’ll miss a deadline, fail to meet an expectation, or some other disaster will prevent your brand from being seen as a positive force. In these scenarios, sometimes all it takes to restore your reputation is a sincere apology.

Admit that you dropped the ball, be honest about what went wrong, and try to make up for anything that negatively affected your customer. Most of the time, people just want to be reassured that you recognize the error and are working to correct it.

6. A Custom Recommendation

This may seem like a strange entry, but you’d be surprised how powerful it really is. Go out of your way to make a custom recommendation to your customers, based on what you know about them.

That might mean recommending a different product you offer, but don’t limit yourself to your own offerings, consider offering a sister service from another company if you know your customer could use it. This shows commitment to customer satisfaction, and more importantly, that you know your customers well.

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7. A Conversation

Finally, never underestimate the power of a human conversation. So many business relationships these days are founded on pillars of digital interaction, from self-help FAQ pages to automatic checkouts. Yes, these things are convenient for both parties, but they don’t help people form strong bonds to brands.

For stronger bonds, you need more personal interactions, and that means having a friendly, personal, human conversation. The opportunity and motivation for this conversation is up to you, it doesn’t have to be formal or special. It just has to signal a connection.

Taking these actions regularly takes some extra effort; in fact, most of them require you going above and beyond the line of duty to make an individual customer happy.

When you’re dealing with hundreds to thousands of customers, this can be tiring, and cost both time and money you don’t have in spades, but it’s small actions like these that make people loyal to a brand for life.

Even if they don’t stick around forever, you’ll at least get a positive review out of the deal, so try to integrate them into as many stages of your company as possible.