How are you treating your existing customers?

A quick follow-up… I’ve been on a conference yesterday in Zagreb to watch Seth Godin and Alex Hunter (and some other people, not relevant for this story). It was pretty fun thanks to the Twitter wall behind the lecturers.

I had an opportunity to meet Alex Hunter in person. I was holding an iPad and he saw it for the first time in his life, ironically, here in Croatia. Seth told the same old story, so nothing new happened for people that read his books and watched his talks. Although nothing new was learned, the experience did bring me lots of inspiration, including the inspiration for this blog post. Alex made us think what would happen if there were no new customers in the world and we’d have to use what we already have. Would you treat your customers differently? Why not do it now anyway?

A person that already bought from you and you have a way of establishing communication with this person is extremely valuable. Many online retailers might not realize this. Let’s compare a new customer with existing one.

New customer:

Costs money to be brought. You need some sort of marketing activity to bring this customer to your website.

Is on your website for the first time. This customer isn’t experienced in navigating your website and doesn’t know all the wonders your website contains.

We don’t know if he’s really interested in buying your products. He might be just a casual surfer, or exploring options, comparing prices.

Doesn’t trust you. This customer has no experience with you and isn’t sure if he can give you his money and get a good value in return (or get anything at all).

Doesn’t care about you. This customer has no relationship with you, no story to tell. Not only that this customer doesn’t care about you, but in his eyes you don’t care about this customer either (yet).

When you sum it all up, it takes a wonder for this person to buy anything from you, right? Given a better choice (whatever this customer might define as better), there’s no way this customer will buy from you.

Existing customer:

Knows your website. You can engage him with more call to actions as this customer is more experienced with your layout and knows where to find things he’s looking for.

Knows how you treated him. Let’s hope this is a positive thing in your case. This guy knows exactly what to expect from you.

Has established communication with you. In one way or another, you have made communication between you and this person possible. This means it costs no money (or less money) in marketing budget to bring him back to the website.

Trusts you enough to give you his money. He did it once, he can do it again (if he was satisfied the last time he did it).

You see, your existing customers – if treated right – are the most valuable asset your online store has. So how are you treating them? Are you struggling to make every customer’s experience a positive one? Are you answering every e-mail from your customers, replying to their tweets, commenting on their statuses? Are you creating relationships with them? Do you know who among your customers would be angry if you didn’t e-mailed them about your new product, and who among them would consider it spam? Do you have any interest in their personal life? Did you send a gift voucher or some discount to your existing customer on his birthday? Did you ask them about their shopping experience on your store and what you can do to improve it? Do you actually take action when your customers give you good advice or you just nudge your head in form of approval of their idea but never actually implement it? Can you name just 10 of your customers? Do you create content interesting to them besides your products? Do you mention them on your blog, in your tweets? Do you make them feel special? Have you met with your most loyal customer in person? How did you award your most loyal customer? Did you thank your customer last time someone told you this customer recommended you?

What if your competitors start doing this? Lets be honest, if you were a customer and someone treated you this way, would you consider them a better option?

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