Article contributed by Katie Lundin

Focusing solely on selling a product or service to a customer doesn’t cut it anymore. To succeed, your business must start thinking of customers as long-term investments instead of one-off sales.

That’s what the most successful companies are doing. Let’s take a closer look at how you can turn your business into a usage brand so that you can grow your small business or startup faster.


Existing Customers are Worth the Investment

Putting the customer experience first has clear benefits for the customer. But does it benefit your business?

Research has shown that investing in existing customers is more cost-effective than constantly acquiring new ones. Data management service SumAll reports:

According to our analysis, 25% to 40% of the total revenues of the most stable businesses in the SumAll network come from returning customers. Even better, steady customers help businesses weather lean economic times; businesses with 40% repeat customers generated nearly 50% more revenue than similar businesses with only a 10% repeat customers.

These numbers are compelling. Existing and return customers bring profit and stability to a business. By shifting your business’s mindset toward positioning your service or product in consumers’ lives, you stand to tap into a huge source of reliable revenue.

It’s 5-25 times less expensive to maintain relationships with current customers than to acquire new customers. That doesn’t mean that you should stop seeking new customers.

But, it does mean that you should evaluate how much time your business spends trying to get new customers vs. building stronger relationships with the ones it already has. Working to maintain relationships with existing customers helps you to offset the higher cost of new customer acquisition.

Here are 3 tips for improving your existing customer’s experience – and making your brand a mainstay in their lives.

1. Look Beyond the Sales Funnel

Ready to position your brand in your customers’ lives? Then it’s time to look beyond the sales funnel. Building long-term relationships with customers relies on creating a worthwhile experience for them – not on tricking them into giving you their money.

Optimize Your Product or Service

Your number one priority should be to deliver a quality product or service.

A poor product or service experience will completely undermine your efforts to build long-term customer relationships. No one wants to spend money on crap. And, they certainly won’t do it twice. So make sure your  is delivering an awesome experience.

Mind the Peripherals

Your business’s service or product sits in the middle of a web of other peripherals that make up the true user experience.

The shipping or scheduling process, the product packaging, the demeanor of the service technician at your door or support representative on the phone, the refund policy and/or return shipping… All of these and more make up the complete user experience.

If you truly want to embed your brand into your customers’ lives, you need to do a friction-check on all of these processes. Every aspect of the user experience should be as effortless as possible and a pleasure to experience.

  • Improve the user interface on your website. Make navigation easy.
  • Make placing an order or scheduling a service even easier.
  • And prominently display contact information for your customer support team.
  • Make shipping and returns free.
  • Accept multiple forms of payment. And allow customers to store their payment info on your site so they don’t need to re-enter it every time they want to make a purchase.
  • Think through every customer touch-point and make it as pleasant as possible. Removing peripheral friction removes the motivation to look elsewhere for a better product or service.

grow your small business2. Keep the Experience Fresh

Maintaining long-term clients or customers, like marriage, requires commitment and constant work. Boredom is the enemy.

Now, it’s true that your brand should remain reliable and consistent. But, there’s plenty of room to play within the guidelines of your brand to keep your customer interactions fresh and interesting.

Update your blog content regularly to provide a constant stream of valuable, useful content. Host sales, share stories and engage in charitable endeavors on social media to build and strengthen customer relationships. Introduce fresh new marketing content to keep customers engaged and interested. And, do it all with your brand voice.

Serving up new content and visuals throughout your marketing platforms will prevent customers from getting bored- all while reinforcing the brand identity they’ve come to know and love.

Time for an Upgrade?

If you’re invested in positioning your brand in your customer’s lives, look for opportunities to keep your product or service experience fresh as well. You may also want to consider offering an upgrade to long-term customers.

Inspire customers to stick around by improving that core experience they’ve already come to love. Or, offer an upgrade that will give them an all-new reason to love and rely on your brand.

But, make sure that the upgrade you offer is relevant to your customer and offers real value. For instance… powdered sugar and fruit on the already delectable stack of pancakes they’ve come to expect.

3. Invite Customers Behind the Curtain

Honest and authentic interactions inspire confidence and trust. This is true in all aspects of life – including business.

Give your customers access to learn what’s really going on in your business. And, allow them to influence the path your business takes for the better. This “insider access” will inspire trust and personal investment in your brand.

Listen to Customer Suggestions & Give Credit When It’s Due

A fantastic way to keep your customers engaged with your brand is to make them an active part of it. Heeding customer advice is likely to improve your service or product for all customers.

Allowing your customers to influence your brand gives them a sense of ownership. This, in turn, builds loyalty and customer investment in your brand. So, let your customers in.

Is something new and exciting happening in your company? Tell your customers about it!

I don’t mean a sale. I mean a new innovation or policy that will improve the user experience. Many consumers (Millennials, in particular) don’t trust slick corporate facades. They want to know what’s going on behind the scenes.

Sharing news about your company’s internal workings helps to sweep back the curtain. It’s great to share news about positive changes your brand is making. And it’s also important to be upfront when something goes wrong.

Being honest about a short-coming (and also sharing how you plan to fix the issue) will show that your business has integrity and can be trusted in the consumer’s life.

Build an honest, genuine connection with your customers and you’ll earn a place in their lives.

Looking Forward As You Grow Your Small Business

Your business should always look to the future. And the future of your business is all about your customers. Your business can build a stable financial future by creating strong relationships with the customers it has today.

So, make the shift. It’s time to start thinking about how you can better position your brand in your customer’s lives instead of just worrying about making the sale.


Katie Lundin is on the customer support team at crowdspring, one of the world’s leading marketplaces for crowdsourced logo design, web design, graphic design, product design, and company naming services. She helps entrepreneurs, small businesses and agencies with branding, design, and naming, and regularly writes about entrepreneurship, small business and design on crowdspring’s award-winning small business blog.

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