Repeat orders and recommendations – that’s good business!
Returning customers and personal recommendation have to be the dream ticket for any business organisation.
Ask any experienced entrepreneur what’s the key to success in growing business success and, sooner or later, the concept of repeat business and personal recommendation will crop up in the conversation. Why? Well, two main reasons, firstly you’re getting business without having to go out looking for it, cutting down on the time and effort needed for ground-up marketing. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it’s positive proof that you’re doing something right.
To give you an example, my wife and I ran a small hotel for a while. Having decided to quit the career treadmill, we bought this basket case of a run-down old seaside hotel on the north-east coast with the intention of turning it into the sort of place we’d want to stay; since we’d no experience of the hospitality trade, personal taste was our only viable point of reference. Amazingly, it worked. What’s more, having set aside around 10% of our budget for marketing and advertising in the first two years, we finished up five years down the line with marketing costs of next to nothing. Virtually all our core business was repeats and recommendations with passing trade and Tourist Board referrals making up the rest.
Quite apart from saving money on advertising, there are considerable benefits to building a loyal customer base, especially for smaller businesses.
- Getting a customer’s loyalty means more than just repeat business in one product or market sector. Chances are if they like one of your products, a loyal customer is more likely to try a different product in your range in the expectation that it will be just as good.
- The customer knows what they’re getting. As long as you keep your service levels high (and make sure your staff do too) and make the repeat customer feel special, it’s easy to keep your loyal customers coming back for more.
- Treat your customers as friends, let them know they’re valued, and you’ll get more than just their repeat business. You can get really useful and honest feedback from a customer who’s truly bought into what you’re offering.
- A happy customer base is your best sales-force. And what’s more, you don’t need to pay them!
It’s a good idea, too, to foster brand loyalty through building brand identity. For example, careful consideration of the design of corporate labelling, logos and product packaging can pay huge dividends in allowing repeat customers to identify, and identify with, your brand above the other competitors on the shelf or the sales floor. Many firms find that keeping the branding in-house by using specialist label printing equipment such as that from firms like QuickLabel Systems can pay dividends which more than justify the capital cost – not to mention the savings in sub-contracted label production. Otherwise, a low cost option would be someone like Vistaprint.
Admittedly, if you’re to expand your sales over time, you need to increase your customer base but, as this article published in the Guardian newspaper’s Small Business Network argues, the trick isn’t just gaining customers, it’s keeping them. After all, as business research has consistently shown, it costs 6-8 times as much to gain a new customer as it does to retain an existing customer.
Sure, you can gain customers by targeting great deals to new customers (the insurance and finance sector is notorious for this sort of ploy) but what happens next year when some other company lures them away with the current great new deal?
Keeping your loyal customers loyal takes a little effort and ingenuity, as well as consistently high levels of service and quality. However, in terms of establishing, developing and growing a successful business, it’s an aspect of your marketing policy which you ignore at your peril.
John Armstrong is a freelance marketing consultant with over forty years’ experience in sales and product development in both the UK and the US. He now lives in the Scottish Borders and enjoys a slightly more relaxed lifestyle complicated only by the need to pander to the demands of two slightly daft dogs who are significantly more active than he is.