You invest valuable marketing and sales resources to acquire new
customers, and should also invest in ensuring your customers stay with
you long term. It’s widely acknowledged that the cost of acquiring a
new customer can be more than five times greater than the cost of
retaining an existing one. That means that you should make marketing
programs aimed at customer retention a priority.

What makes a customer stick with your company? Aside from offering
products and services that meet their needs, you need to let customers
know they are important to you. You can do this by providing excellent
support, soliciting their opinions and building familiarity that
strengthens your relationship.
When marketing for customer retention, it’s important to get out of the
promotional mindset and get into your customer’s mindset. In other
words, don’t just keep selling to them. A number of online marketing
tactics are considered best practices for keeping customers in the
fold. Here are some you can add to your marketing portfolio:

E-mail
E-mail has a number of effective customer retention uses. You can regularly publish an e-newsletter specifically directed to current customers. In the e-newsletter, provide information that can help them do their jobs better, such as technical articles, white papers, application ideas, or links to articles about their industry or job functions. The more relevant you are to customers’ information needs, the more satisfied they will be with your company.

Here are other ways to use e-mail to strengthen relationships with customers:

  • Write a simple thank you e-mail for any product purchased.  Include links to support information or other products that are related to the one a customer purchased.
  • Send an e-mail that notifies customers about new versions of products they already own.
  • Have a salesperson or customer service agent send an e-mail just to "check in" to see if the customer has any questions or needs additional help.

Make these e-mails more personal than a typical e-newsletter. Be sure to address your customer by name, mention the name of their company, even format the e-mail to look like a letter. All of these small touches can make a difference.

Web Site
Your Web site should be a favorite destination of current customers. Provide a robust online customer support area or moderate an online discussion group. Prominently display phone numbers, e-mail addresses and other contact information for customer service and support.

You also can start a blog on your Web site and solicit and publish customer comments. It’s a great way to make customers feel that they are being listened to by your company, and to get feedback from customers. If you do blog, avoid being promotional. Instead, position your company as experts by providing useful and relevant commentary about your industry, trends and events. Treat all customer comments with respect, even if they are critical.

Webinars
Customer-only Webinars are a good way to provide “sneak previews” of new products, introduce new support programs, train customers on the use of products, or even introduce new account managers or other people who will be interacting with customers. The advantage of Webinars over live events is that your customers never have to leave the office; they can simply log on and participate.

Surveys & Polls
You can conduct online surveys and quick polls to measure customer satisfaction, identify unmet customer needs or simply to solicit customer opinions and feedback.

There are a number of low-cost survey and polling tools available on the Web. They typically allow you to create your survey or poll and send it via e-mail or post it online, then collect, analyze and download responses. Here are a few to check out.

Surveys and polls can provide valuable data to help shape product development efforts or craft white papers that will be of interest to both customers and prospects.

Online Advertising
Popular online marketing tactics such as banner ads, third-party e-newsletter sponsorships, directory listings and even search ads are often considered customer acquisition tactics. However, your current customers will be exposed to your message as well, since the vast majority of them are online regularly for work-related purposes.

Keep this fact in mind when establishing online programs. Customers want to see you advertise; they want to know you have a visible brand and strong presence in their markets. It helps make customers feel they have chosen to do business with a respected industry player.

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