Karl Ribas at Search Engine Journal covered this topic in detail. He gave a long list of reasons you should consider encouraging repeat business. It’s cheaper, easier, and less time consuming than finding, attracting, and converting new customers. Marketing to your current base of satisfied customers gives you an edge over your competition; they’ve already said that you have what they want, by literally putting their money where their mouth is.
Still not convinced you should focus your efforts here? Consider this: you usually won’t need to hire a consultant to market to the customers you already have. All probably need to do is email them. That also makes it less expensive than many other strategies. Also, you’re tapping into the most targeted market there is: “those that have not only shown interest in a company’s products and services, but have also opened up their wallets to purchase said products and services once already,” noted Ripas. And since you’re communicating directly with your customers, you don’t need to hope that some kind of “middle-man,” such as an ad or a search engine listing, reaches your customers when they’re ready to buy.
Okay, now that you’re convinced that actively encouraging repeat business will be easy on your budget and help your bottom line, how do you go about it? Ripas offers several ideas. I’m sure you can think of many more, or figure out ways to tailor these ideas to your specific business. Take my word for it, customers love the personal touch, so take these ideas and run with them.
The easiest idea is to send out a business card with every order. Even better, make it a fridge magnet. Business cards can get lost, but fridge magnets are always useful, and customers see them several times a day. They’ll help your customers remember your name and contact information when they’re ready to order your product again. Make sure your website’s URL is on the card!
The second thing you can do is send out an email offer from time to time. It’s simple, it’s free, and if you do it right, you’ll get an increase in sales. The key thing to remember is that you’re doing this occasionally, not every single day. Heck, in some businesses, even once a week might be too often.
For instance, I’m on the email list of a local farmer who sells a variety of crops that his customers pick themselves. I get an email from him about once or twice a month that lets me know what’s getting ripe; it also includes recipes and a few other items. For his business, that’s about the right timing.
Here’s a personal favorite of mine: include a free sample with every order. Lots of businesses will use this approach to attract customers, but they also work to encourage additional orders from a regular customer. The trick is to include something that works well with what you’re already shipping, but is different enough to pique your customer’s interest.
So if your customer ordered several skeins of colorful sock yarn, you might include part of another skein of sock yarn by a different manufacturer in a slightly different blend, so they can try it out and see if they like working with it. If they’ve ordered a glue gun and some standard glue sticks, include a few colored or glittery glue sticks in the same size. Their next order just might include both the original product and a full-sized version of the item you sent them to sample.
One very good thing you can do to encourage your customers to re-order is let them set up accounts with you that involve logging in with a password. Let them fill out an easy form when they set up the account, that includes their billing, shipping, and credit card information (and make sure the database that will hold this information is rock-solid secure!). Tie the login with password into your shopping cart, so that when your old customers log in, you already have all of their shipping and purchasing information filled out on their order form. That way, they don’t have to keep filling in that information every time they want to order something from you. It speeds up repeat visits and purchases.
If you sell goods that are consumed over a regular period of time, you might want to give your customers the option of re-ordering automatically. This works well for products such as coffee, health and beauty items, medications, and so forth. A customer using such a program gives you their regular order, and how often he or she wants to receive it – say once a month. Each month, then, you’d charge their credit card for their order, and then ship it out. Your customer no longer faces the hassle of shopping for the product every time it runs out, and you benefit from the repeat business. It’s a win-win situation.
Finally, one great trick to encourage repeat business is starting up a rewards program. You’ve probably seen them at restaurants, where a certain number of punches on a card gets you a discount on your next meal. One of my favorite sushi restaurants tracks their reward card holders electronically. They have your name, so they don’t need you to bring in your card; they can keep track of how much you purchased in one of their databases.
You can let your imagination go wild with the kind of rewards program you offer your customers. Just make sure you customize it to your business. It doesn’t even need to require repeat purchases to work well; a card that lets customers take five percent off every purchase from your business, every time, will encourage them to think of you first when they need something that you sell.
I’ve given you a few ideas you can use to encourage repeat business from your customers. I’m sure that you can come up with many more. Good luck!