“Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.”
This quote is from William Edwards Deming, the man who almost single-handedly shaped the business and manufacturing culture of Japan into the powerhouse that it is today.
Some might argue he knows something about making profit.
When starting out it’s straight forward that the goal is to get customers, but it’s undeniable that the lifeblood of a sustainable business is return clients.
Every business has customers; they wouldn’t exist without them. Some of these customers will never return and this is why most business owners put a high emphasis on getting repeat customers.
The return client
Why concentrate on return clients though instead of acquiring new clients?
Return clients represent much more than repeat customers. Returning implies that they made a conscious decision based on their experience with you and they took action based on that decision.
Return customers can become your best sales agents by telling friends about their experience and by going the extra mile to do business with you again.
There is a well know rule among entrepreneurs and that is the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle. If you ask enough business owners you will soon find that 80% of their business comes from only 20% of their customers. This shows us that turning first-time clients into return ones can be highly beneficial.
Another very important factor to consider when talking about return customers is the expense. It is usually much more expensive to get new clients through the door than to keep ones who have already crossed the doorstep.
3 character traits to guarantee return clients
There is no doubt that there are character traits that can help or hinder one in making customers happy and thus turning them into return clients.
Here are few good-to-have character traits when dealing with customers.
Trust is the most important factor in any working relationship. Once you manage to gain the customer’s trust, half the battle is won. If they know they can rely on you to deliver a quality product—to respect deadlines—they will return.
How many times did you buy something from someone you didn’t trust? Not many times I would imagine.
If you think of the basics and remain trustworthy and honest by doing what you say you will, when you say it, you’re on your way to establish a loyal customer base.
Remember, loyalty seldom exists without trust.
2. Communication skills
Good communication skills are vital when selling, and they are especially important when selling services.
The world is not the fairest place and sometimes it’s not the most talented people that get the sale. In the process of getting return customers it’s also crucial that you communicate at all times with your customers even after the sale or project is complete. The goal is to make them happy and keep them happy.
Make sure you are always in touch with your clients and make the most of the tools at your reach starting from the phone and email to Twitter and LinkedIn.
3. Willingness to learn
Competition in today’s global marketplace is fierce. You may be the best at something and earn your customer’s trust with it, but value is still king. It’s only a matter of time until someone comes along offering a little bit more than you.
In order to keep a loyal customer base and gain return clients one has to constantly evolve. The fact that you already gained credibility with the customer can only go so far and one needs to constantly learn new skills, offer new products and grow their business in order to keep customers happy and returning.
3 strategies to guarantee return clients
Getting return clients can be easier than people expect it, but you need well organized and executed strategies. Here are a few that are proven.
1. Customer loyalty programs
Discounts and incentives are an excellent lure for customers. You can implement loyalty programs that reward the customer for repeat purchases from your company.
These programs are also very flexible and scalable. You can employ them even at a freelancer level by offering a discount for return or constant clients. As time passes and the business grows you could maybe scale to a loyalty card points system for example.
In order for such a strategy to work effectively though you need to watch your margins and make sure the business is not losing money due to the discounts. The cost of a loyalty scheme may be too big if not managed properly.
2. Welcome complaints
Complaints if handled appropriately can become one of the best tools to cultivate return clients.
They are a great opportunity to showcase your customer service and prove that you care about them and your product or service.
Make sure you listen patiently to what your clients have to say, be honest and make sure to offer a solution or plan of action as to how their problem will be solved.
Many times a well handled complaint can be more powerful than a direct sale.
Also, most of the customers don’t complain, they just walk away. Complaints are not only a great opportunity to win your client’s trust, but also receive valuable feedback. By listening to the complaints you can pinpoint why you may be losing clients.
3. Do a great job
This is the most obvious strategy and the most important. Make sure at all times that you do your best for the client and offer the best service or product you can.
If you consistently offer your best, clients will return.
You can employ loyalty schemes and special offers for all you want, no client is going to return to buy a lesser-quality product or for bad service.
Remember that getting return clients is vital to the growth of every business and be sure that you consistently make efforts to get clients to return, be that by executing customer retention strategies or just letting your personality shine through.
George Fekete is a web designer, developer, and entrepreneur with 8 years of experience in client-side and server-side technologies, ranging from PHP to Node.js. In 2007 he founded a company called Primal Skill, mostly working on mid-sized to enterprise level web development projects.
What methods have you used for guaranteeing return business? Let us know in the comments!