Remember the classic scene in the movie “Pretty Woman” when the snobby salesgirls in a Beverly Hills boutique won’t help Julia Roberts’ character because she’s badly dressed? In frustration, Roberts exits, spends tens of thousands of dollars in another store, and comes back to the first store to shove the shopping bags in the salesperson’s face and say: “You wouldn’t serve me, and you work on commission, right? Big mistake—HUGE mistake.”
If you’re ignoring marketing to your current customers because you’re too busy chasing after new ones, you’re making an even more expensive mistake than those snooty salespeople did. It costs more to attract new customers than to upsell existing customers, for one thing. And if you don’t continue to market to your current customers, you’re throwing away the marketing dollars you spent landing them in the first place.
Fortunately, more and more small businesses seem to be recognizing the value of existing customers. A recent study found that 62 percent of small businesses will spend most of their 2014 marketing budget on retaining existing customers—compared to 2012, when the majority of budgets were going to acquire new customers.
In addition to most of their money, small business owners are also devoting most of their time to customers. The majority spend less than one-fourth of their marketing time trying to acquire new customers.
No wonder: More than six in 10 entrepreneurs say that more than half of their sales come from return customers.
So how can you follow their lead and get your existing customers to buy more from you?
- Engage on social media. Facebook is the number-one marketing channel small businesses in the survey use. By helping you build ongoing relationships, Facebook is a great tool for getting customers back to buy from your business again and again.
- Reach out with email marketing. Email is the second most popular marketing method, used by about 40 percent of survey respondents. Email enables you to segment offers to different types of customers, or even to personalize offers based on what types of products a customer has bought, searched for online or browsed on your website in the past.
- Reward their loyalty. About one-third of respondents say their small business has a loyalty program to reward existing customers. Today’s loyalty programs go way beyond the old-fashioned punch card (although that’s a start, and still used by 31 percent of respondents). Digital loyalty programs can help you track customers’ past purchases so you can tailor special offers to their needs and interests. Nearly half of respondents in the survey have already gone digital with their loyalty programs. Particularly if your customer base is younger, why not try it out?
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.