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Followup strategies to keep your best customers coming back

The sales cycle for retail business services is different from that in other business-to-business transactions, in which sales teams are tasked with continually checking in with prospects not only before they earn their business, but also after the sale.

As retailers, we understand the importance of advertising to attract new customers, but once those customers find us, it’s all too easy to adopt a mindset that says, “They know where we are; they’ll come back when they need something.” While it’s true that our best customers are often in the store on a weekly or even daily basis, it’s important to follow up with even our most frequent visitors to let them know that we appreciate their business, that we have other services they may not be aware of, and that we would welcome the opportunity to help them with other business needs.

So how do you follow up in a way that is both effective for you and helpful to the client, without being annoying or overbearing? Here are a few suggestions that are working for other store owners:

1. Remember that it’s all about the customer
General email blasts and direct mail pieces may be important components of your marketing strategy, but more personal, informal communications can be an extremely effective way to build relationships and generate repeat sales.

While it’s probably not possible or practical to send a personal message to every one of your customers, do try to send personal emails (or make personal phone calls) to your best prospects from time to time. Let them know about specials that you know they will appreciate, or share links to helpful articles or other information that they are likely to find useful and relevant, even if it’s not directly related to an immediate sale.

2. Know your customers’ communication preferences, and follow them
If you have a customer who typically communicates with you via email, then email is probably the best choice for any initial message to let him or her know about special offers or new services that may be of interest. If it’s a new customer, or if you don’t know the customer’s preference, the point of sale offers a perfect opportunity to ask if they would like to be contacted and how best to reach them. (Email? Phone? Text?)

3. Create a schedule…but re-evaluate from time to time
Keep track of all your communications to customers, from blanket emails to individual calls. Tracking responses and message intervals will help you understand what’s working and what isn’t, as well as let you know if you’re reaching out too often — or not often enough.

The timing for some messages may be obvious (like a December 1 email to your holiday shippers), while the timing of other communications may depend on the needs of the individual customer (When do they need to ship for their upcoming trade show? When will they need flyers or brochures for their annual event?)

4. Be sensitive to spoken or unspoken cues
If all your best efforts aren’t leading to the response you want, it may be time to give it a break for a while rather than waste your time or risk alienating the customer. A client who sends a huge print job once a quarter may simply not need those services more frequently. Be sure to educate him or her about your other services, then schedule a contact for sometime just before his or her normal print time.

5. If you’re going to follow up, make sure you follow through.
If you offer a special promotion to one or more clients through any form of followup communication, be certain that every employee in your store is aware of the offer and able to both explain the benefits and complete the sale. There may be nothing more annoying, from a customer’s point of view, than coming into the store to take advantage of a great offer, then encountering a sales associate who has no clue what you are talking about.

Remember, too, that your employees are your best resource in your followup efforts. Ask them to identify new customers or new “regulars” that you may not recognize yet, then encourage them to ask about customers needs, listen to their answers, and suggest new ways to reach out.

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