How to make first-time customers keep coming back

It’s no secret repeat business is critical to success; still, many businesses commit the bulk of their marketing budgets to customer acquisition rather than customer retention. Acquiring new customers is certainly important, but consider this: It costs five times more to attract a new customer versus retaining an existing customer, and increasing your customer retention rate by just five percent can yield a 25 to 95 percent increase in profits.

The numbers speak for themselves: if you can retain customers, your business will be more successful — which is why you should implement a customer retention strategy with every new customer. Market more efficiently, keep customers coming back and boost profits with the following five ways to turn first-time customers into return customers.

1. Send marketing-savvy thank-you emails

Your customers probably get confirmation emails when they submit an order, but do those emails work to promote repeat business? Instead of a blasé confirmation email, take time to craft a thank-you message that keeps customers coming back. Ideas include:

  • Personalization: Your salutation should include your customers’ names (easily automated with email marketing platforms such as Vertical Response)
  • Earned store credit: Give first-time customers instant store credit good toward any purchase made within a given time frame (30 days is good). The free credit can prove a powerful incentive to return
  • Related products and services: Which products and services pair well with the items they’ve just purchased? Offer new customers a chance to get them at a discount —or even add them to their current order before it ships

2. Share your mission

What makes your company tick? What is the foundation of your brand, and what higher purpose do you serve beyond turning a profit? If your message is one your customers can identify with, you can earn repeat business by sharing your mission and values — in short, by telling customers the story of your brand.

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Let’s say you operate a restaurant and you’re committed to serving only organic foods sourced from chemical-free farms and free-range animals. You’ve taken a stance against animal cruelty and harmful ingredients. Use that to establish solidarity with customers and ingrain your business into their culture. Send an email that tells customers about the positive impact they’ve made by choosing you. When customers identify with you, they feel good about buying from you — and they’ll come back.

3. Be useful beyond your product offering

Once you have your customers’ email addresses, it can be tempting to send marketing emails at every opportunity. However, a stronger approach that fosters long-term customer loyalty is to routinely send useful content that customers can use to solve their problems and improve their lives — even if your solutions don’t always result in immediate sales.

Let’s say you operate a dog grooming business. You can certainly send emails that remind customers when their dog is due for another appointment or to promote a new flea treatment, but you can also cover topics such as how to housetrain a puppy, how to comfort dogs during storms and the best dog toys for outdoor play.

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Though there might not be a natural segue to promote your products and services, this type of content is valuable to your customers and is likely to be read. It helps establish you as an expert, a trusted resource customers can turn to for advice, and vastly increases the likelihood they’ll come back when their dog needs its next grooming.

4. Develop an autoresponder email campaign

You might recall Ron Popeil, the famous infomercial host who coined the catchphrase “set it and forget it.” Email autoresponders let you create a series of emails upfront, then automatically send them to customers at pre-set timed intervals. They’re perfect for generating repeat business.

Once a customer makes their first purchase, their email address can be entered into your autoresponder campaign so they receive a series of emails similar to the following:

  • Immediately: Instant discount offer on future purchases or an invitation to join your rewards club
  • Week One: Useful information that doesn’t necessarily promote your products
  • Week Two: Similar products that align with their interests, based on what they purchased
  • Week Three: A request for a product review or social media share in return for double store credit
  • Week Four: A guide to getting more out of their interests, with links to products and services that can help them achieve their goals

Of course, your autoresponder emails should be customized to your customers and your business, and you can set up as many emails as you’d like — even a full year’s worth or more — to automate your marketing and earn repeat customers.

5. Reorder reminders and auto-shipments

If you sell a product or service that routinely needs to be replenished, reorder reminders can be fantastic ways to turn first-time customers into repeat buyers. Examples include emails that remind customers to:

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  • Buy soap, shampoo, razors and other personal care products
  • Schedule their next haircut or dog grooming appointment
  • Reorder paper, printer ink and other office supplies

You can offer a discount as an incentive to reorder in time for the new shipment to arrive before the current supply runs out. Another great strategy: Enroll customers in auto-shipments at a discounted rate. Companies such as the Dollar Shave Club, which auto-ships razors and supplies according to customers’ pre-selected schedules, thrive on this strategy.

It takes a dedicated effort to keep customers coming back, but customer retention doesn’t need to be complicated. Use these ideas to keep your company top-of-mind and deliver incentives to buy again, and you can boost profits by turning first-time customers into return customers.

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