Expert marketers know that the true goal of their craft isn’t simply to land the initial sale; instead, it is to cultivate an ever-growing base of loyal repeat customers. But many people have a hard time getting the customer to feel satisfied and ready to do business with them again, never mind getting customers so satisfied they’ll spread the word about their offerings.
To make sure you don’t leave money on the table, you need to give your customers the attention and service they deserve at all three critical transaction points: Before, During and After the sale.
Read on to discover if you are doing all the right things that turn a one-time customer into a consistent stream of income for your business.
The First Stage: Before The Sale
When customers first discover you, they are looking for solutions to their important problems. They don’t want to have high-pressure sales tactics forced onto them. Instead, they want to feel that you understand them and are speaking their language. They want to know that you are more than capable of helping them deal with their need, and that they are dealing with someone with the experience and track record to deliver on their promises.
In short, they want to trust you. And the way to develop customer trust is to focus on understanding them rather than making them understand you. Take the time to provide them with all the information they need to make an educated choice about whatever it is that you’re selling. Help them see that you care about helping them make the right choice rather than reaching for their credit card.
Today’s consumer is jaded, skeptical, and less willing than ever to take you at your word. But actions speak louder than words, so make sure yours prove that you are interested in building a long-term relationship with your customers. Inform them. Enrich them. Give them something for free. Do this right, and the battle for the sale is all but done (without pressuring the customer at all).
The Second Stage: During The Sale
Unfortunately for many companies, a customer who was won over by effective marketing decides to abandon the transaction during the buying process. From a business perspective this is a tragedy – and an avoidable one at that. Don’t allow yourself to be one of those marketers who is so focused on capturing a sale that you lose sight of the customer’s experience when they are ready to buy.
Some customers leave because of “impersonal” buying issues. Perhaps you’re not making it easy to find the return policy or the satisfaction guarantee. Maybe your online shopping cart is awkward or your telephone order lines are busy. Or you may even lose customers due to lack of features, like overnight shipping or gift wrapping. As a savvy marketer who is dedicated to understanding your customers, you should recruit someone outside your business to test drive the buying experience to discover if there are any rough spots that need smoothing out.
Other times, the issues that cause customers to cancel a transaction are entirely personal. Perhaps when the order line is finally answered, your operators are less than friendly or unable/unwilling to answer the customer’s specific questions. This kind of painful first impression can lose you much more than the initial sale, as it will leave a bad taste in the customer’s mouth – and you can be sure the word will get around. This is the key reason why many marketers use “mystery shoppers” to test the customer’s buying experience (and you should, too). Make the buying process painless and enjoyable, and you’re well on your way to seeing repeat business and referrals in your future.
The Third Stage: After The Sale
When the sale is final, it is critical that your follow-up system makes the customer feel safe, secure, and valued. At the minimum they should receive confirmation emails after their order and upon shipping so that they have a sense of connection with the order and know you haven’t forgotten them once their credit card has cleared (incidentally, these emails are prime opportunities to also let them know about additional offerings, since your customers are still in the buying mood).
Beyond the order and delivery, few things match the marketing effectiveness of “check-in” follow-ups. Contact the customer to ask them whether they are satisfied with their purchase (and make things right if they aren’t). Offer them special deals in the future as a way to show appreciation for their purchase. Offer them free information on complementary services or help them learn about new ways to take advantage of what they have already purchased. Go the extra mile to show them you still want to help solve their problems, even when there isn’t a transaction attached to it, and enjoy the positive word of mouth advertising that flows from your efforts.
How Do You Measure Up?
When it comes to your business, are you just “pushing sales,” or are you truly trying to wow your customers and develop long-term relationships with them? Set aside some time this month and ask yourself how you are treating the customer in each of these three areas, and what you might need to do differently to increase the lifetime value of your customers. Then put the answers you come up with into practice, and enjoy the boost in sales that comes with making your customers feel valued before, during and after every sale.