Customer retention is important because it is significantly less costly to retain existing customers than it is to acquire new ones. Happy customers are also your best brand ambassadors for bringing in more referrals. We asked experts to share their go-to customer retention tactics to help inspire customer loyalty and improve your bottom line.
Here are 25 proven customer retention strategies from the pros:
1. Send Regular Branded Messages
Trent Shadid, Senior Copywriter & Editor, Engine
Customer retention starts and ends with creating a personal relationship. This means personalized, relevant, and on-brand messages and offers delivered to their inbox on a regular basis. In order to make this process as seamless as possible, find the best email automation tool out there for your business and get to work. It’ll take some time to get up and running, but ultimately helps tremendously with loyalty. It’s also an effective way for small businesses to compete with those giants of retail that might not be paying as much attention to such gestures.
2. Surprise Your Customers with Value
Bob Clary, Director of Marketing, Developer Academy
I’ve found that offering customers something valuable without their knowledge can be a great way to keep them coming back to shop with you. This type of appreciation will increase the loyalty they have towards your brand as well as the trust they feel towards you. Oftentimes good gestures like this will be reciprocated and you’ll find your customers leaving feedback and positive reviews for your business, which is another great way to attract other loyal customers.
3. Include Handwritten Notes in Your Deliveries
Renee M. Powers, Founder, Feminist Book Club
Each one of our subscription boxes includes a handwritten note from a team member, emphasizing that we’re not a faceless brand—we are people who care about the recipients of our boxes. This takes extra time, but our customers have remarked at how personalized our product is. That’s not an accident. If you’re not shipping physical products, go out of your way to write a personal email, not a form letter.
4. Send Periodic Free Gifts
Mark Ortiz, Founder, ReviewingThis
We’ve noticed a drastic improvement in customer retention once we started sending out shipments of small, but free, gifts to our customers. We typically send out a free gift three to four times a year, which helps remind our customers that we care about them and their business. While this added cost does eat into our margin, we’ve been able to improve our retention rate by 60%. The gift does not have to be costly—just a small sample with a nice note is enough to do the trick. Every consumer loves coming home to a gift sitting on their porch.
Maggie Aland, Marketing & Review Editor, Fit Small Business
Customers are always looking for discounts and freebies to get more value for their money. By providing incentives through a loyalty program, customers are motivated to continue using your product or service. You can offer even more convenience by replacing physical loyalty cards with digital ones that are easily accessible through their mobile device. CandyBar.co is a digital loyalty card program that offers a small business-friendly platform where you can set up rewards and track progress from your end. All your customers need to do is give you their phone number. They’ll get a text to confirm, and they’re signed up! Try CandyBar free for 30 days—no credit card required.
6. Pay Attention to the Numbers
Jonathan Prichard, Founder & CEO, MattressInsider.com
KPIs allow me to ensure my customers are receiving the service they are looking for, and if they’re not, identify what the root of the problem is. For example, if I’m noticing consistently low customer satisfaction numbers, I’ll turn to utilization and productivity numbers to see where my agents are falling short. The KPIs I use include “utilization” (how much time agents spend doing the tasks they’re supposed to do, such as answering support tickets, engaging in chats, or answering sales calls), “productivity” (what they do during that time), and “customer satisfaction” (how customers rate your agents).
7. Leverage Social Media
Yaniv Masjedi, CMO, Nextiva
If customer retention is the goal, your modus operandi should be to fully engage with each and every customer who takes the time to reach out to your company, no matter which platform. Even better, proactively approach them after purchase. However, even a reactive approach will strongly benefit the company’s retention. When your customers know that you take the time and care enough to address their comments and concerns, they are much more likely to come back.
8. Use Email to Reconnect with Prior Customers
Katherine Hunter-Blyden, Founder, KHB Marketing
I recommend having an email marketing strategy. Know how frequently you will reach out to contacts, what you will say, and when you will say it. One specific strategy for reaching out to contacts who haven’t re-ordered from your business for some time is to send a “missing you” email. The timing of this email really depends on the business. For some, it may be on the annual anniversary of a purchase; for others, it may be six months. Small businesses should consider including a promotional offer to entice the customer to at least check your website or app to see what’s new.
9. Create a Customer Onboarding Plan
Kenneth Burke, Marketing Director, Text Request
While we use numerous mechanisms to keep our customer retention levels high, nothing has paid dividends as well as proper onboarding as soon as we form a new partnership. We invest heavily in a high-quality onboarding process, originally built around the most common hangups customers encountered, so people new to Text Request feel in command from day one. This sets a great tone from the get-go, letting customers know that we are as excited to see them succeed as we were to sign them to our client roster.
Marc Prosser, Co-Founder, Fit Small Business
Customer reviews remain one of the most effective means of building a reputation. These reviews help you improve not only your marketing strategy, but also your overall business operations. Podium is a reputation management platform that allows you to obtain customer reviews from various sites and manage them in an easy-to-read dashboard. It also helps you to easily find reviews from satisfied customers, monitor messages and web chats, and respond through a centralized inbox. Visit Podium’s website to learn more.
11. Be Transparent
Shawn Lim, Founder, Traffic Bees
I feel that the best strategy is to be really transparent about data and performance. For example, we have made it a point to give full and direct access to our AdWords Campaigns and Google Analytics to our clients. Even though some may feel that this may be too much information for the clients to handle, we have taught them how to look at the numbers and analyze the performance. From there, our clients are also able to highlight certain areas which we may have missed or that they would prefer to focus on. This form of open communication has allowed us to build a high level of trust with our clients, and I believe that has helped us to maintain a good working relationship with them.
12. Under-Promise but Over-Deliver
Logan Tan, CEO, Eezee Pte Ltd
We tell our clients that normal delivery is usually within three to five working days but actually, at our side, we consistently complete deliveries within two days 90% of the time. We lower their expectations and over-deliver on our promise to them. We typically end up with a lot of happy customers.
13. Listen to Customer Feedback
Robert Rebitski, Sales Manager, Predictable Surgical Technologies
One of the best customer retention strategies is prioritizing and actively listening to customer feedback. After each sale, send a survey or review request via email to gain insight into your customers’ experiences with your company and products. Follow up on negative feedback and track common issues to identify areas of potential improvements. A customer who feels appreciated, and heard, is more likely to do business with you and remain loyal even after a bad experience.
14. Sweat the Small Stuff
Mark Davis, CEO, Custom Throwback Jerseys
Taking the time and even extra cost to ensure that every detail of your product, from the stitching to the personalized packaging, is in order goes a long way with customers. Nailing that first impression with a customer truly dictates the potential of your future relationship with them. A customer who is impressed by their first experience will be much more highly motivated to work with you again when it’s time to buy again. Though it might seem tedious at the moment, you can be sure to reap the rewards with a highly regarded reputation—and higher profits.
Gavin Graham, Editor, Fit Small Business
In order to build customer loyalty, you need to provide the same level of personalized relationship to your current clients as you do for your leads. Nurturing your relationships includes staying in contact with your clients with the help of a reliable CRM tool. Freshsales allows you to manage your contacts all in one place, and gives you more time for other important tasks. It lets you store all of your client information and connects to multiple email accounts so you can track emails, create personalized email templates, and send bulk emails all in one place. Click here to try Freshsales free for 30 days.
16. Use Feedback Data to Improve Customer Experiences
Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré, B2B SaaS Consultant, Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré
What I mean by customer experience (CX) is providing the kind of personalization that happens when you use customer data to offer more relevant solutions. Now with modern survey platforms, companies of all sizes can measure and improve their customer experience at scale. A lightweight approach to CX improvement using metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) can get you 90% of the way there and not break the bank. The key is to start small. Determine your “north star” metric. Get customer feedback, take action, repeat. Consistently repeat this process. As your company’s customer experience improves, so will your bottom line.
17. Thank Your Customers
Alex Altuhov, General Manager, HandyKith
Thank them whenever possible, and apologize immediately when you get something wrong. Whenever you can, thank your customers/clients for choosing to work with you and staying loyal to your business for as long as they have. Thank them even more so if they’ve actively referred people to your business. You want to show them your appreciation because, at the end of the day, they deserve it. Out of all the businesses they could’ve chosen to go with, they chose you.
18. Gamify Your Referral Program
Igor Gramyko, Owner, Highwater Standard
Create a great referral program your fans can use to bring you even more fans. Encourage your customers from the moment they purchase your product or service to refer people to your business to earn great rewards for them and their friends. You can also add a feature to where someone can nudge a friend if they left things in their cart.
19. Offer a Single Point of Contact
Nathalie Couët, Communications & Marketing Manager, DashThis
We put as much focus on the service part of our business as the software part. Account managers are available for video calls, email support, and everything in between, whenever the user has a question, comment, or request. There’s no passing off from an onboarding specialist to a sales rep to a support specialist. By staying with the same person throughout the entire life cycle, account managers and clients are able to build real, trusting, and personal relationships.
20. Empower Your Employees
Cathy Schannen, Vice President & Account Director, LABOV
Employees must have the right resources and the freedom to make decisions that help them exceed customer expectations. Opportunities to super-please can happen in an instant, so if an employee is required to get permission from a supervisor first, the opportunity may have already passed. It also takes a keen sense of observation to recognize how you can go out of your way to make the customer happy. Super-pleasing can not only win a customer’s loyalty, but generate new customers as well through positive word-of-mouth.
21. Communicate with Your Clients Every Day
Kameron Jenkins, Founder, Soapboxly
I have had the best retention when I committed to sharing something with my client every day. That might seem like a lot, but this frequent communication shows your client that you care and that you’re proactively working to make them successful. Set yourself reminders or keep a checklist so you don’t forget. When you contact them, make sure to communicate value. Some ideas of things you can share include: relevant industry news, work that you executed on their campaign, improvements, and achievements you’ve accomplished for them.
22. Tap into Your Customer’s Sense of FOMO
Elad Burko, Founder & CEO, Paperwallet
Highlight loyal customers and the value your product/service has provided them. Seeing many other individuals use a product will create social pressure (or FOMO), enticing existing customers to stick around or upgrade their subscriptions. This is particularly useful when it comes to advertising new products. Those who have already purchased an older design will feel an urge to upgrade, or risk missing out.
23. Spend One-on-One Time with Your Clients
Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham, President, Women TIES, LLC
If business owners can spend two hours with an important client without an agenda in place, and allow them to talk, share, and ask questions, I believe they’ll see 100% retention, like I did. For example, I was on a recent medical sabbatical and decided to invite my members individually for a two-hour poolside chat so they could pick my brain on entrepreneurship strategies or share their current business problems with me so I could advise them. I had so much positive feedback from my customers that many renewed their memberships before I came back. I believe it is a testimonial to the intimate one-on-one approach I had with businesses that summer. It also drew me personally closer to the members who visited and gave me valuable insight into their companies.
24. Personalize Your Content
Alex Membrillo, CEO, Cardinal Digital Marketing
Personal interactions, customized to your audience, are a great way to generate customer loyalty. Marketers can customize their content based on the user’s behavior. For example, digital offers can be generated on site based on the user’s buying and search preferences. Another example: Websites such as Nordstrom’s will make recommendations based on the user’s past shopping. They’ll also auto-fill sizing based on the size you normally buy.
25. Keep an Eye on Your Competitors
Shakun Bansal, Head of Marketing, Mettl
The best customer retention tip to keep the customers from being lost to your competitors is to keep an eye on those competitors. Always be on the watch and develop business intelligence about the path-breaking innovations happening in your industry. Know the average price of your kind of products and services in the market, and how best to make your offerings the best. In short, do what your competitors are thinking and doing, but do it before they do.
Investing in customer retention brings down your cost of sales while significantly improving your customer base and building your brand’s reputation. Follow our list of expert customer retention tactics and earn your customer’s loyalty in no time.
Did we miss out on your favorite customer retention strategies? Share them with us in the comments.