When Was The Last Time You Brought Your Customers Flowers?

“You don’t bring me flowers
You don’t sing me love songs
You hardly talk to me anymore
When you come through the door
At the end of the day!”

Most people over the age of 40 will recognize the opening stanza of the 1978 duet sung by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond.  It’s a song about two lovers who have drifted apart.

What does a song from the 70’s have to do with today’s sales and marketing?

Lately and all too often in this economic environment, I see the same attitude of a business toward its loyal customers.  Businesses tend to pursue new customers with more enthusiasm than they prize existing ones.  Most businesses have a very expansive and expensive acquisition strategy…a specific plan for attracting new customers.  However, few companies or professionals have a retention strategy, a precise, formalized program that outlines specific steps to keep current customers and grow the business.

The example in our personal lives is the perfect metaphor for customer retention and growth.  My buddy, who is a marriage counselor, always tells me that one way to grow a relationship is to continue to romance the person who has committed his or her life to you.  When we are dating, we do all the steps necessary to grow the relationship.  We make phone calls; send flowers, cards and text messages.  We try to surprise our loved one with little efforts that are out of the ordinary and above and beyond the normal call of duty.  Unfortunately, it all ends at “I do” for many couples.

Let me give you a business example that hits close to home.  We have a great neighborhood Greek restaurant in my neighborhood that’s been in business for 2 years.  My family dines regularly at least twice a month, usually after Sunday mass with the rest of the parish! Last week, while picking up my daughter at volleyball practice, I met one of the new school parents who had just moved into the area.  They asked me what I thought of the Greek restaurant.  They received a “two for one” offer in the mail welcoming them to the neighborhood. When I got home I did some quick math.  We’ve spent about a $100 per month there for the past two years.  That totals about $2,500 since they’ve been open.  All I’ve gotten is a 10% off coupon from their website!  Not a very good way to treat a loyal customer.  Guess what I’m going to ask for the next time I patronize the place?

Retention strategies don’t take much to set up and don’t have to be expensive.  Remember, it costs 3 to 5 times as much to acquire new customers as it does to keep the ones you already have in the fold.  Send your clients a hand-written thank you card with a Starbucks gift certificate.  Take them out to lunch.  Take them to a ball game or out golfing.  I send my clients a Danish kringle from my hometown in Racine, WI.  Your small gesture will pay off quite handsomely.

Excuse me, all this talk about retention and gratitude reminds me…I better go buy my wife of 18 years some flowers!

Rob Trecek
Director of Business Development