From the February 2010 issue of Entrepreneur

There are two basic ways to increase sales: get new business or increase repeat business. We probably don't need to get into the fact that it's far easier and more cost effective to show existing customers how to buy, consume and enjoy more of what you sell than it is to find new customers . You'd rather sell 100 things to 10 people than 100 things to 100 people, right? Makes sense.

So, as you plan your sales strategy for the new year, start singing the tune "Baby, come back . . . " because if you aren't working to capture clients for life, you are letting money walk out the door. Don't sell just once. Bring customers back again and again.

A few businesses are on board with this concept. Coffee and smoothie shops sometimes offer a buy 10, get one free punch-card incentive, for example. This is fine and good, but this strategy usually puts all the pressure on customers. They have to work to be rewarded. They can't sit back, drink and enjoy free stuff. They have to keep their card on hand and track their purchases.

Here are several other suggestions for aiding retention:

  • Make customers smile. Look at the neighborhood bar or the high-end family-run Italian restaurant. I think they have something going for them. There, you don't have a drink ticket or a punch card. You saunter up to the bar and order your vodka tonic. After the bartender starts to know you or after you've ordered a few drinks, the bartender buys you one. You hear him say, "This one is on me."
  • Give customers' brains a break. What about the airlines? Why don't they put the miles on for you? Customers have miles scattered everywhere and can never seem to remember their frequent flyer member numbers. The airlines may have to change their system, but how difficult would it be to use a simple system we can remember, like our last name and phone number? The point is, serve customers. Don't ask them to serve you. How do you create a system to help customers earn rewards instead of their having to keep track to get their rewards?
  • Treat your best customers like stars. Start thinking about your customers as if they were celebrities. The interesting thing about being rich is you stop paying for things. In the fashion world, celebrities are given the most expensive gowns in which to walk the red carpet. Jane Q Public decides she must have it because Sarah Jessica Parker wore it and Jane wants to be seen as rich, famous and sexy. Maybe you aren't selling to celebrities, but you can treat your best customers like stars because they are the trendsetters coming to your business telling others about you.
  • Make your customers VIPs. How are you incentivizing your best customers? Start treating them like royalty. You want them wearing everything you sell. Eating everything you make. Using everything you sell. Because when they do, they are going to go out and talk about it and probably even buy more. Not only will you increase customer satisfaction, you also will get your best customers to try something new. They figure, if it's good enough for Sarah, it's good enough for them.
  • Give away money (at least a penny a day). At a local organic pizza place, I bought a brownie for my son. It cost $3.06. I know, crazy. But it wasn't the price I found objectionable. It was the fact that the woman behind the counter had to give me a pocketful of change--94 cents worth. Why not just forget about the 6 cents? She could have said, "Oh, don't worry about the 6 cents. It's on us." Customers want to be in places that make them feel special and valued. And when you make it a policy to give your pennies away every single time, you bring back valuable customers who are going to buy and spend money in the future.

So give the customers who already love you more reasons to love you. Give them a new reason to tell others about you and keep the referrals coming. A little extra customer attention combined with a lot of service intention ultimately means heaps more sales for you.

Michael Port is a New York Times bestselling author of four books: Book Yourself Solid, Beyond Booked Solid, The Contrarian Effect, and his latest, The Think Big Manifesto. Learn more at michaelport.com .