You work hard and invest valuable resources to earn new customers. You should also invest to keep them loyal over the long term. Repeat customers tend to be highly profitable because it costs much less to keep a customer than to get a new one.

Repeat customers are your best source for new referrals. Bottom line: keep your customers coming back to you. Here are five tips on how.

1. Segment Your Customer Base
If you have different types of customers, segmenting your customer base serves as the foundation for targeted marketing, selling and relationship activities. Your goal should be to segment customers into groups that share common characteristics, so that you can communicate with them in relevant, targeted ways that keep their interest.

Segment customers by the type of products or services they purchase from you. Industry or market sector is another segmentation that makes sense. Another useful, yet less apparent way to segment customers is by how long they have been your customer, so you can tailor different styles of communication to each.

Customer segmentation can also be used to create a profile of your customers. You will discover which types of customers buy which products, and can plan marketing programs to best reach that type of customer.

2. Stay in Touch
An easy and inexpensive way to stay in touch with customers — and make them feel important and remembered — is through e-mail. Your e-mail communications can be sent in a variety of formats:  a regular e-newsletter, a simple thank you e-mail when a customer orders a product, or a follow-up e-mail after they have asked for support.

If you have segmented your customer base, you can send each segment e-mails that contain information relevant to that segment. It could be a white paper, links to articles, or product announcements.

E-mail isn’t the only way to stay in contact with customers. A personal touch such as a phone call from the customer’s dedicated account or customer service rep simply to ask how things are going will establish and maintain goodwill and personal attention — and may uncover customer needs that could lead to sales. Or consider writing a “thank you for being our customer” letter from your company president. You can combine that type of letter with an important company announcement.

3. Provide Valuable Resources

Your most valuable resource to customers is probably your Web site. Make it a destination for customers to be able to search for and find product information, articles, white papers and other information that will help them do their job better.

4. Solicit Customer Feedback

Letting customers know that you are listening will help earn their loyalty. Create a customer advisory panel that provides input and helps shape product direction for your company. This will help ensure future products are designed around customer needs.

Use surveys and polls to broadly solicit customer feedback. They give customers the opportunity to express their views, and let you collect valuable data you can use to make business and marketing decisions. A number of free or low cost survey and poll services can be found on the Internet. Here’s a few to check out:

5. Let Customers Be the First to Know
Make customers “insiders” — part of your team. If you are adding new products or services to your offerings or have other important announcements, make sure customers are the first to know. Send sneak preview e-mails. Schedule a “Customer Only” Webinar for a special announcement or new product launch. Set a specific date and time and send customers invitations via e-mail. You can also record and archive the Webinar for customers who can’t attend to access the information at a later date — yet another touch to show you are in tune to their needs.

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