The secret is out: Repeat customers—or loyal customers—are the best customers! Just look at these findings from the European Management Journal:
- The cost of acquisition happens only at the beginning of a relationship, so the longer the relationship, the lower the cost.
- Long-term customers help spread free word-of-mouth promotions and bring in referrals.
- Regular customers are usually less expensive to service because they are familiar with the company and require less help when ordering.
Plus, because repeat customers already know and trust you, your job of selling to them is much easier. In fact, SumAll, which is a marketing analytics company found that (for the most stable businesses in their network) 25 percent to 40 percent of total revenue is from repeat customers.
The Gartner Group found that the 80/20 principle applies to profits and repeat customers as well. Their statistics show that 80 percent of a company’s future revenue usually comes from just 20 percent of their existing customer base.
If that doesn’t get you interested in creating loyal customers who buy again and again, maybe this will… Lee Resource Inc. says:
“Attracting new customers will cost your company five times more than keeping an existing customer.”
Woah! It’s clear that no matter what industry you work in or what type of business you’ve built, your key to long-term success is repeat and loyal customers. And the key to repeat sales is strong customer relationships…
Repeat Sales Are Just Part of the Puzzle
There are many techniques to help you increase repeat sales. For example, encouraging repeat purchases with coupons, sales, free gifts, or contests for existing customers will increase your sales figures without over-inflating your marketing budget.
But what about building long-term fiercely loyal customers that come back time after time and refer everyone they know to you?
While you may get some of those customers with marketing gifts like those listed above, there’s a simpler technique that will put you and your company first in their minds—every time…
The Power of Autoresponders
The marketing tool I’m talking about is email autoresponders. An autoresponder is a series of customer-relationship-building emails. These emails offer value to past and potential customers that have expressed interest in your company or product.
They’re called autoresponders because—once you set them up—they’re automatically delivered to your subscribers and contacts on a specified schedule. Go here to learn more about the technical side of autoresponders.
Using Autoresponders for Relationship Building
When I say autoresponders, I’m not talking about simply sending out an email to past customers asking them to buy something. Pushy or “salesy” emails are a sure way to lose repeat customers.
Instead, the goal is to reach out to them, give them value, and build a relationship so they come to you when they’re ready to buy.
Anatomy of an Autoresponder
An effective autoresponder series is at least three emails sent out over the first week of the customer relationship. However, there’s no limit to the number of emails you can load in your autoresponder series and—as Perry Marshall often points out—the more autoresponders you have, the more sales you’ll get over time.
What works best can vary greatly depending on the industry, target market, or even the product itself. But, starting somewhere is the most important step. Then, you can test your timing and technique until you get the best outcome.
A good place to start is with a 7-part autoresponder (or AR) series, so let’s talk about that…
The first email will introduce you, share a little more about you and your company, and explain why you do what you do.
But, be sure to make it about them—the reader—not you.
Yes, you’re telling them about your business, but focus on telling them how your business features benefit them. For instance, your hours may be longer than typical. That’s a benefit to them because it makes it easier for them to find the time to come see you.
This first email helps them to remember you later as someone who can solve their problem and someone they like and would do business with.
It’s common to combine the initial email with a “white list” email. In a white list email you ask that the recipient add you to their email contact list. This will help keep your emails out of the “spam” and “promotions” folders.
Emails Two Through Six
Emails two through six should be mostly relationship building. Spend some time brainstorming content to give away. For example, what tips are you willing to share, what stories do you have about your business, what would you like your customers to know that’s not sales related?
A sample email format to follow is to:
- Tell a story that introduces a problem the reader likely has.
- Offer a solution. (Try telling the reader what they should do, but not how to do it.)
- Link back to a webpage where they are prompted to buy something or take another action.
Let’s look at an example…
Your example product is an e-book that helps with a common problem—procrastination. To come up with stories to share in your ARs, take a look around in your personal life:
Maybe your child hasn’t been doing their homework. Think about how you could relate that to your product…
Maybe you came up with a great solution to help your child stop procrastinating. That would make a great topic for an AR because it tells the reader more about you, gives them a great tip, and helps build the relationship.
Another way to find topics is to look to current events, celebrities, family life, and other things people deal with on a day-to-day basis. What trends do you see? And, how do they relate to your business?
Remember, your ARs are for building relationships. They should be 90% content and value with a short blurb about your product at the end. Your site or landing page—once clicked on—should do the selling.
From Email Six To The Last Email
If you want, you could add more emails in here—taking your series as far as you want. Generally the more emails you have, the more sales you’ll get. But, they don’t have to all be ARs. At any point you could move someone to a weekly newsletter instead.
If you choose to have any more emails here, add a few sales messages to the mix. A good ratio is 90% value and 10% sales.
Your Last Email
In this example, email seven is our last email in the series. If the reader hasn’t responded to the first six emails, the seventh (or last) email is kind of a “last call.”
You’re not giving up on them completely. You just want to see if they’re ready to get off the fence or if you should promote something else to them. The “last call” email is more about making a sale. It should talk more directly about how the product is the solution to their issue.
If you’re writing a longer series, consider making 10% of them “last call” emails.
If this is your last AR, you want to pull out all the stops to secure them as a customer. To get them to take action now, consider giving a discount or a trial period.
So what about you? Do you use ARs to build relationships with your customers? Join the discussion in the comments below!