Customer Retention Tactics: A Wicked List of 50 Ideas
Most people have been told that customer retention tactics are the key to running a sustainable business. But many business owners neglect this fact and continue to spend their time and resources trying to attract new customers.
But here’s the thing:
It can be incredibly FRUSTRATING trying to attract new customers.
This might be especially true if you own a brick-and-mortar business in a small town, where only a small population of potential customers might visit your store. Can you relate?
Even if your company is based online, it can be tough to come by potential new customers that are truly engaged with your business. It’s even harder to convert them into revenue.
But, as it turns out, you can significantly increase your revenue by shifting your attention away from acquiring new customers and focusing it on retention…
…a strategy that is helping some businesses increase their profits by up to 95%.
And in this post I’m going to provide you with an incredibly extensive list of customer retention strategies to help your business improve its bottom line. In addition, I have included a bunch of great examples and resources to get you started.
Let’s get into it!
a. Digital tactics
1. CREATE AN EDUCATIONAL BLOG
Offering free educational content will help establish you as a thought leader among your competitors. Your customers will also appreciate the added value. You become more than just a product/service facilitator, you become a resource.
EXAMPLE: Smart Passive Income
Pat Flynn’s website, Smart Passive Income (SPI), is an excellent example of how a business should implement a blog. Pat’s blog offer TONS of incredibly actionable content that relates perfectly to his audience’s needs. Notably, a lot of the content he offers is in-depth (2,000+ words) and is free.
- The Kapost Blog – How to create a lot of content quickly
- Bluehost – Web service to host your website domains (this is what I use)
- WordPress – Free tool to manage your blogs
2. DEVELOP AN EMAIL MARKETING CAMPAIGN
Email newsletters are valuable because they provide your business with a direct line of communication to your audience. Other marketing strategies may only be effective when your customers intermittently visit your business location or website. With an email marketing campaign, you have the opportunity to contact them directly whenever you want. This is powerful!
EXAMPLE: I Will Teach You To Be Rich
Ramit Sethi, founder of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, provides his audience with TONS of free, useful content through his email newsletter. Below is the opt-in form on his site where his audience can sign up.
You’ll notice that Ramit is offering his audience a free guide in exchange for his audience’s email addresses. This is commonly referred to as a content magnet – typically a free piece of content to generate interest.
- Pat Flynn – The beginner’s guide to starting a newsletter and email list
- Reputation Loop has a few ideas on how to generate higher email conversion rates
- Aweber – Email marketing platform
- DotMailer – Email marketing platform
3. USE LINKEDIN TO BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS
Connect with your customers on LinkedIn to build upon the relationship you have created with them. LinkedIn is a great platform to establish yourself as a thought leader or your business as an industry leader.
As an incentive for following your business on LinkedIn, offer your customers a free product or service.
- Social Media Examiner – How to create a LinkedIn company page to promote your business
- Marketing Think – 10 tips to use LinkedIn for small business
4. EMAIL CONTENT BASED ON CUSTOMER INTERESTS
Email your customers articles or videos you genuinely think they will like or find useful. I’m talking about individual emails that are personalized to specific customers – not general broadcast emails sent to a group of customers. This one-on-one communication demonstrates commitment to your customers on a very personal level.
5. SEND BIRTHDAY EMAIL SPECIALS
Get in the habit of rewarding your customers any chance you get. One common strategy is to offer product discounts or free services on, or in advance of, their birthday. This tactic is more effective if you notify customers via email – because they likely won’t be visiting your business on their special day.
7. USE SOCIAL MEDIA FOR CUSTOMER SERVICE
Use your social media account as customer service portals. Most engaged social media users will be able to find your social accounts quickly, which can make them effective tools for managing customer service inquiries and issues.
- Buffer put together some great examples of how brands have used social media for customer service
- Social Media Examiner has also found some excellent examples for Twitter
8. AUTOMATE CUSTOMER PAYMENTS FOR FUTURE PURCHASES
An easy way to improve your customers’ experience is by creating a more efficient payment process. You can add TONS of value by improving customer convenience. For frequent purchasers, a long and mundane payment process can create a pain point.
- Charge their credit card – Allow your customers to pay automatically with their credit card
- Charge it to their account – Provide customers with an account, which they can pay off monthly
- Prepay – Enable your customers to prepay for your products/services in advance
9. SEND THANK YOU EMAILS AFTER PURCHASES
Econsultancy suggests sending a personalized thank you email to your customers after they purchase a product or service. This is also a good opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell other products or services.
- Andrew over at Klaviyo offers some great tips for writing winning post-purchase emails
10. TEXT MESSAGING ALERTS
Offer a text messaging service to inform your customers about upcoming events or any services they have enrolled in (i.e. shipping status, whether or not items are in stock).
- Local Text Marketers – mobile marketing service provider
11. MOBILE-FRIENDLY WEBSITE
Internet usage is increasingly shifting towards mobile devices. To provide your customers with the best brand experience, make sure your website is optimized for mobile devices.
- The MOJO Marketplace allows you to purchase responsive, mobile-friendly site themes for your WordPress blog that automatically reformats your website based on which device your visitors are using.
12. ADD A LIVE CHAT FEATURE ON YOUR WEBSITE
Add an instant chat feature on your website to allow your website visitors to instantly contact you.
13. CREATE A CUSTOMER WEBSITE PORTAL
Create a customer-only portal on your website where they can access information about their experiences with your brand. Allow them to create a personal profile, making the feel like exclusive members of your site.
b. Business strategy tactics
14. INTEGRATE CUSTOMER RETENTION KPIs INTO YOUR BUSINESS STRATEGY
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are evaluation metrics that business owners use to determine how effectively their business is achieving its objectives. By integrating KPIs focused on customer retention objectives into your business strategy, you and your staff will be more determined to achieve them. This will make you more accountable.
- Attrition rate – the number of customers that no longer do business with your company
- Retention rate – the number of customers that make repeat purchases
- Unilytics offers a useful article on creating actionable KPIs
- The Kissmetrics Blog created an awesome infographic that explains how to calculator the lifetime value of your customers (CLV), which is a useful metric for retention
- Alternatively, this free customer lifetime value calculator offers a basic tool for quickly determining your CLV
15. MEASURE CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT
Similar to #14, by making customer engagement a business priority, you and your staff will be more aware of weak points and will be accountable for taking action towards improving it. This could result in improved retention rates.
- Website visits
- Customer inquiries
16. MEASURE YOUR CUSTOMER RETENTION TACTICS
Better yet, your business will be more determined to improve retention making it a business priority.
- Evergage has a great article explaining how to calculate customer retention
17. CREATE A CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT POSITION
To ensure your business maintains a consistent amount of effort towards its customer relation strategies, you could create a full-time position that manages this piece of your PR portfolio. This staff member would work with you to develop an engagement strategy and would manage the planning, organization, execution and measurement of your engagement tactics.
18. DEVELOP A CLEAR ON-BOARDING PROCESS
Fresh Business Thinking thinks any small business can retain more customers by having a clear and welcoming on-boarding process with clear direction on what they should do next.
c. Special occasion tactics
19. CELEBRATE CUSTOMER MILESTONES
Notify your customers when they reach significant milestones. This could include the following:
- The number of products purchased
- The longevity of their relationship with your brand
- The amount of hours spent using your service
20. OFFER SEASONAL SPECIALS
Try to maintain engagement with your customers by offering limited time seasonal specials for your products and services.
EXAMPLE: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte
Starbucks is a perfect example of a brand that uses seasonal specials to retain its customers. Personally, I think Starbucks’ seasonal campaigns are so successful because they only offer their seasonal items for a limited time. This sense of urgency creates excitement.
EXAMPLE: Tim Hortons Roll up the Rim
Tim Hortons’ once-per-year Roll up the Rim campaign is also a great example of a seasonal special.
21. HOST CUSTOMER APPRECIATION EVENTS
Thank your customers for their loyalty by hosting customer appreciation events.
d. Interpersonal tactics
22. OFFER FREE SERVICES FOR POOR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES
People understand that mistakes can happen. So if your business makes a mistake or causes a poor customer experience, own up to it and offer a complimentary service/product to make up for it. This is a good strategy for retention because it helps improve the customer relationship.
23. SURPRISE COURTESY PHONE CALLS
Surprise call your best customers to remind them of an upcoming event. Better yet, call them before the event is announced to the public, giving them the first chance at registering.
24. ASK FOR FEEDBACK, THEN USE IT
Many businesses request constructive feedback from customers regarding their products and services. The problem is that many businesses don’t take the feedback seriously. You, however, can use your customers’ feedback strategically to both improve your product or service and enhance the relationship of customers who’s feedback you used.
- Kissmetrics offers a few ideas on how to obtain feedback from your customers
- Vertical Response suggests following these 12 steps to create an effective customer survey
- Customer Sure has 8 tips to improve survey response rates
25. CREATE A FOLLOW-UP SYSTEM
Create a process for receiving and quickly responding to customer inquiries. The quicker your can connect back to your customers, the more positive their attitudes will be towards your business.
- Provide all your staff with access to a company email account so that inquiries can be monitored at all times
26. CONDUCT EXIT INTERVIEWS
If a customer cancels or opts out of your service, request an exit interview or survey to learn how your business can improve. While this may not be effective in retaining these customers that are leaving, it can help your business identify challenges that might cause other customers to leave. This is an opportunity for you to fix pain points that create negative attitudes towards your business.
- GrooveHQ has some great advice for increasing customer exit survey response rates
e. Training tactics
27. TRAIN YOUR STAFF FOR IMPROVED CUSTOMER SERVICE
Your customer retention rate has a lot to do with your customers’ attitudes towards your business, which are based on interactions they have had with your staff and experience with your products/services. A simple improvement in staff friendliness can improve perceptions of your business.
- Desk.com has put together a list of 50 simple tactics to improve customer service
- Unitiv also has a few easy-to-implement customer service strategies
28. OFFER FREE TRAINING
Many business only take, take, take from their customers. Instead, reward your best customers with free training to improve their experience with your product/service.
f. Convenience tactics
29. OFFER COMPLEMENTARY PRODUCTS
Customers are likely to engage with the businesses that provide them the most value. An easy way to add value to your customers is to offer complementary products or services – things that enhance or emphasize the value of other products/services they have already purchased.
30. FRIENDLY RETURN POLICY
While open return policies can be a financial risk to your business, the rewards are often far greater. Your customers are likely to view your business in a more positive light because of your openness and transparency.
31. OFFER FREE DELIVERY
Delivery charges can be a huge barrier for customers when purchasing products, which is why free delivery can be a VERY attractive selling point. Although this would be an additional cost for your business, it could be worth it if it means retaining more of your customers.
g. Traditional marketing tactics
32. SELL AT COMPETITIVE PRICES
Customer retention tactics don’t have to require a lot of additional work. Quite simply, offering your products or services at a more attractive price than your competitors will encourage your customers to remain loyal to your brand.
33. OFFER SPEEDY DELIVERY OPTIONS
There’s not much worse that waiting for weeks for your new product to arrive in the mail. To make your customers happy, offer speedy delivery options.
34. CREATE AN EVENT CALENDAR
Let your customers know when your upcoming events are happening – and make sure you give them enough notice. An increased awareness will result in more registrations.
35. OFFER SNAIL MAIL PROMOTIONS
Offering promotions via old-fashioned mail could be an effective way to capture the attention of your audience. Everyone and their dog are transitioning to digital, so try standing out from the crowd.
36. ENHANCE PRODUCT PACKAGING
It’s easy to turn off your customers with unprofessional looking product designs or packaging. Improve their attitudes towards your brand by improving your product packaging.
EXAMPLE: Heinz Ketchup
Around 2002, Heinz made an incredibly simple, yet incredibly effective packaging change that made the use of its product much easier. As you can see below, all Heinz did was flip its traditional bottle upside down so that it would be easier to dispense its famous ketchup. While this change might not have been made with the intention to improve customer retention, it certainly had a positive impact on Heinz’s relationship with its existing customers and provided the company with significant returns.
- Packaging Sense provides a few areas of potential improvement for you to consider
- Creative Bloq has identified a bunch of great packaging resources to give you some inspiration
37. CREATE A REFERRAL PROGRAM
Reward your existing customers for referring new customers to your business. Although this customer retention tactic focuses on the acquisition of new customers, it can also help strengthen the ties with your existing customers. You receive the benefit of gaining new customers, but more importantly you develop a deeper relationship with your existing customers who referred them.
- “Refer a customer and receive 50% off your next service”
- “Refer one customer and receive a complimentary $150 credit to our store”
ReferralCandy put together a SUPER in-depth post that discusses 47 great referral programs. Take a look at their analyses to see what might work well for your business.
38. CREATE AN ATTRACTIVE LOYALTY PROGRAM
A well incentivised loyalty program will encourage your customers to shop with your business more frequently. The key is for your loyalty program to offer attractive rewards in order to promote customer retenion. Don’t be afraid to spend money on your customers – you will earn value from them in the long term.
- Hubspot outlines a few different types of loyalty programs
h. Organization tactics
39. DEVELOP AN ENGAGEMENT SCHEDULE
Identify specific times in your schedule where you will engage with your customers. Instead of being spontaneous and reacting to engagement opportunities presented to you by your customers, be proactive and initiate the engagement process.
40. CREATE AN EFFICIENT FEEDBACK SYSTEM
Provide your customers with an easy-to-access and optionally confidential feedback system. Some people are scared to hear what people have to say about their business, but you should welcome feedback with open arms. You can only improve upon your mistakes if you know what they are.
41. USE A CRM PROGRAM
A lot of the tactics mentioned on this page can be managed more efficiently by using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program. These programs are databases that allow your business, with your customers’ permission, to collect and store their personal information. This is valuable because you can track each engagement you have with each customer, allowing you to develop a deeper relationship.
- Econsultancy has a great little article that clearly explains what CRM is all about and how CRM tools provide value to businesses
- CRMery lists 10 reasons why CRM tools are essential for businesses to have
i. Sales tactics
42. IMPROVE YOUR SALES COPY
Clarity is key when it comes to closing a sale. Help your customers better understand your business and the products you sell by improving your sales messaging.
- Kissmetrics offers a few great tips and examples for how to improve your copywriting to improve conversion rates
43. REWARD REPEAT PURCHASES
This one is simple. To encourage customer retention, offer incentives for repeat purchases. This is valuable because it provides your business with additional interactions with these customers. Each of these interactions is an opportunity for your business to strengthen these relationships.
44. OFFER DISCOUNTS FOR MULTI-PURCHASES
Multi-purchase discounts encourage customers to buy more of what you’re selling, obviously. But they can also improve your customers’ attitudes towards your business, resulting in a stronger business-to-consumer relationship and increased customer retention rates.
45. OFFER A PRESALE DISCOUNT
Before releasing a new product, or announcing an upcoming event, provide your existing customers with an opportunity to purchase/sign-up before anyone else. As an added bonus, offer a discount for their loyalty to your business.
j. Other tactics
46. INVEST IN SECURITY MEASURES
Demonstrate to your customers that their best interests are important to your business. Invest in security measures that keep them and their information safe.
- Secured credit card database
- Security cameras
- Conduct security audits on your existing systems
47. HIRE A SECRET SHOPPER
Hire a secret shopper so you can better understand how your customers experience your brand. Sometimes it’s difficult to truly understand how your customers feel about your business.
48. OFFER A FREE UPGRADE
Identify your business’s top customers and offer them a free upgrade to their service. Although this will initially cost your business money, you will likely be rewarded with long term revenue from these happy customers. In addition to the customer retention benefits, your generosity will often be rewarded with word-of-mouth referrals. Bonus!
49. PERSONALIZED EXPERIENCE
Where opportunities exist, provide your customers with an experience personalized to them. This could mean products custom-designed to their preference or simply addressing them by name in your email marketing campaign.
50. PROMPTLY RETURN CUSTOMER INQUIRIES
Quickly returning customer inquiries makes your business look like it knows what it’s doing. Developing positive relationships with your customers often starts with creating positive attitudes towards your business. These inquiries might be the first interaction these people have with your business which is why it’s critically important to make a good first impression.