08/16/13

How to Acquire Loyal Long-Term Customers

Lipstick-on-a-Pig

You can put lipstick on a pig—it’s still a pig.

Every marketing team’s job is to get you, the customer, to walk through their business’s door, visit their website, or leave a positive brand impression—all so you’ll buy their product or service. Some marketer’s have a harder job than others because they’re essentially putting lipstick on a pig.  You can have the best marketing team in the world but if your product isn’t good, your company’s lifespan doesn’t seem too long.

A great example is a movie trailer. Movie trailers are typically two-to-three minutes long, with a bunch quick clips showing what the movie is about. The movie trailer tries to sell you on a certain actor, director, or even producer. After watching the trailer did you go see the movie?

Of course you did.

Everyone, including you, has at least once, gone into a movie and walked out feeling lied to and wanting a refund along with the past hour and half of your life back. As a result, you tell all your friends face-to-face, over text, or on a post in social media to avoid the movie. The movie suffers because after opening weekend all your friends have already told their friends, “My friend told me it sucked. Don’t go see it.”

Here are 4 things you can do to make sure your not turning long-term customers away just to get them to buy your product or service now:

 1.    Start with your product

You product needs to be a stand-alone product. It should be able to sell itself. How? Your product needs to solve a pervasive problem.

Before DVR, did you ever find yourself stuck watching an infomercial? Infomercials are all the same but are great at showing you a common problem then demonstrating how the product solves it. Stand up comedian, Jim Gaffigan, even jokes about infomercials saying, “’Who’s watching this crap!?’ Then, three minutes later. ‘That’s a good point, maybe I need a knife that can cut a penny’…” You’re more likely to buy a product if it solves a problem you would pay for.

2.    Under promise, over deliver

One of the biggest problems companies have is the compulsion to overpromise to their customers something they don’t or can’t really deliver. This is usually caused by over zealous individual employees but it’s up to the company to fix the problem. It’s better to under promise and over deliver later.

I recently bought a new Macbook Air from Simply Mac. I didn’t buy it from Apple because I got a trade-in value for my old Macbook Pro towards the purchase of my new Macbook Air. This Macbook Air was custom made to my specifications and could only be ordered online. Apple said they should ship in 2-3 business days but Simply Mac was a 7-10 business days. For me that was too long and the salesman reassured me, “We tell our customers 7-10 days but really it’s about 3-5.”

“Sweet,” I thought. “I’ll take it!”

To make a long story short, I got my Macbook Air eleven business days later. I wasn’t too happy because I was told it wasn’t going to take that long. To make matters worse, when I went to trade-in my old Macbook Pro I was told they would keep it overnight to check it out then would let me know the value the following day. A week later I finally got the call they promised.

If you tell your customer you are going to do something—especially if it has a time frame attached to it—do it. Don’t make promises you can’t keep because you want to get a sale, especially if you don’t know the right answer. You don’t want the customer getting mad. It’s just bad business and in the long run your business will suffer.

3.    You can’t make everyone happy

This is the first thing you need to accept when running a successful business. Customer service has to deal with the way you treat your customer every time they interact with you. Handling problems is just one side of customer service. In that case, a customer service agents job should be to solve a problem created by your company or product.

I recently purchased water dancing speakers from an online website. I got them quicker than promised, but they were broken. Their return policy didn’t cover shipping even though they I received a broken product.

I returned the product but ate the $5.50 shipping cost, which didn’t make me happy. I have had this happen to me enough that I now call any new online vendor I purchase from to ask them about their return policy before buying.

4.    The problem with commission-based sales

Paying your sales reps commission only is one of the worst things you could do for your company. It can damage customer relationships, company culture, and long-term growth. It promotes pushiness towards your customers, cutthroat employee relationships, and makes employees short minded.

Here are two other ways you can pay your sales team:

1. Great hourly pay:

Find out the average commission they would be making. Pay them a little higher than the average. Keep track of each employee’s performance. Give raises and promotions to the best performing employees.

2. Base Pay + light commission:

Offer a base pay that allows them to get by with their lifestyle. Put a light commission in place to reward them for completing a sale. This will make sure they understand the importance of making a sale but aren’t pushy, and avoid making short-minded decisions that hurt your business.

Both of these systems require a higher buy-in to the values of your company. There might even come a time where you need to fire an employee, even if their performance is high. It’s up to you to know who do you fire first.

In conclusion, these four points help you and your employees think long-term. The loyal customers you’ve built up over the years are the ones who not only keep you in business, they help you grow your business. Do everything you can to make your product resonate, live up to your word, try and make the customer happy, and don’t focus on the one-time customer but on the long-term customers.

It takes a little cash to change the world.

So what are you waiting for?

About the author

Mike Alder
Mike Alder is a University of Utah business marketing student and marketing specialist at Lendio. Passionate about entrepreneurship, small businesses, and inbound marketing. Mike shows his passion by sharing stories of successful entrepreneurs and companies with small business owners on the Lendio blog. He makes these big success stories easy-to-apply in simple and easy to read language for the everyday small business owner and entrepreneur.  

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