The shampoo manufacturers figured out years ago that if they print “wash, rinse, repeat” on every bottle, that they will get more business from their existing customers.  Depending on what you read or believe, it costs roughly 6x to get a new customer as it does to expand an existing one. And, once the existing customer has worked with you successfully, do you think they are more or less price sensitive? Research shows us that they are less price sensitive than new customers. So, getting repeat business from existing customers costs less, and can be at a higher margin. So, why don’t more firms take a serious, strategic approach to cultivating existing clients?

I have a robotic lawn mower. Every day it departs from its charging station and mows a different part of the yard. I’ve had it for about 8 years. Every four years or so, the batteries eventually fail. So, I recently purchased my 2nd set of replacement batteries for a little over $100. I searched online, found the appropriate batteries, and ordered them. They arrived promptly, and the run time on the mower is dramatically improved. What happened next is pretty darn impressive.

First, I received a note from the company about a week after the delivery confirming that I received the batteries and that everything was working as expected. Then about a month after the delivery, I received a second note asking again if everything was working well.  It prompted me to complete a brief (they made a point of saying less than 2 minutes of my time) survey of my experience. Each question was a 0-5 question asking about service, communication, and performance of my purchase. I had not thought about it prior to the survey, but I gave them solid 5’s across the board. They even asked what was most important to me and why I purchased from them. At the conclusion of the survey, they had buttons to share my survey results with friends on Facebook and Twitter. (See Community Driven Marketing)

Too often we give our clients tremendous attention during the sales process. But, once they buy, we move onto the next opportunity. When we do that, we miss the opportunity to stand out from the competition and ensure that we are delivering an exceptional customer experience. If they are satisfied, we want them to recognize that they are. If they are unhappy, would we rather find that out early in the process to we can fix things, or would we rather wait until they complain to 50 of their friends?  Most often, if we stay in touch and hold their hand, they will overlook minor missteps.

More importantly, by following up after the sale (and not just once), our clients are likely to feel a sense of loyalty to us. We stuck around to see things through. When you maintain that type of regular communication, think about how easy it is to ask for referrals. When your client sees you ONLY when you are trying to sell them something, then referrals are hard to come by. But, for the client with whom you have stayed in regular communication, it is not unreasonable to ask “I’m glad this has been successful for you. You don’t by chance know of others who might be facing similar challenges, do you?”

So, what should you do if you have lost touch with your clients?  Here are five steps to regaining your referral source within and outside of their organization.

  1. Accept responsibility:  “I’m sorry we’ve been out of touch.  I dropped the ball. I wanted to schedule a time to learn how things have been going with your solution and get any feedback on things that we could do better as an organization.” DO NOT think about selling anything at this point in time.  Any “pitches” will undermine your credibility;
  2. Follow up: After the initial meeting, send a note summarizing what they shared. Be sure that they have your contact information, and indicate that you will follow-up on a regular basis to support their needs;
  3. Diagnose Opportunities: If they raise opportunities for future projects, do not jump into the solution. Get to the Issue, Impact, and Importance.  Focus on trust – revenue will follow;
  4. Seek something remarkable: See if they can catch someone doing something right. Listen for situations where your team did something remarkable;
  5. Be SMART for referrals: In a previous post, I talked about being Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Specific with your requests. It might be something like “Would you feel comfortable writing a recommendation on LinkedIn in the next few days about that experience?”  Or, it could be “I don’t suppose over the next week that you could think of 1 or 2 people who might benefit from what we did for you, could you?”
In many cases, our best opportunities for growth are right in our back yard. If you have neglected your existing customers, there is no time like the present to make it right. I’d love to hear your stories of how you gained additional business from existing clients.