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9 Tools for Building Customer Loyalty Don't let customers go after one purchase. Win them back with a follow-up program.

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Q: I own a homebased business. One of my biggest challenges is generating repeat business from customers. What are some cost-effective ways to follow up with customers so they keep coming back to do business with me?

A: Follow-up is extremely important to growing your homebased business. Like anything worthwhile, consistent follow-up requires a lot of effort, but over time you'll reap the benefits of a steady stream of repeat business and referrals. After all, it takes far less time and money to sell to an existing customer than a cold prospect. So here are 9 follow-up tools sure to motivate your customers to keep coming back:

  1. Thank-you notes: This is a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised at how many entrepreneurs neglect to write thank-you notes--especially when they get really busy. Take the time to show your customers that you genuinely appreciate their business. They'll remember your thoughtfulness because most of your competition won't send out thank-you notes.
  2. Postcard mailings: If you target consumers, send out monthly mailings that make good refrigerator fodder, such as "Quote of the Month," "Recipe of the Month" or useful tips on such topics as time-management, gardening or anything else that interests the bulk of your customers. Avoid being too promotional here. Just provide the kind of information that customers will want to hang on their frig. The added benefit to you is that whenever guests visit your customers' homes, they'll see your name, potentially leading to conversations about your business.
  3. E-mail updates: Think of your e-mail update as a press release that you send to your customers. Providing them with regular product, service and customer updates via e-mail at least once per month will convey a sense of positive momentum. This keeps customers in the loop and, over time, gets them excited to be involved with you and motivates them to pass on referrals.
  4. Getting together over coffee or lunch: Try to spend face time in a nonsales environment with your customers. Ask about their family, hobbies, personal goals and so forth. When you show customers that you really care about them on a personal level, they're yours for life.
  5. Birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions: These occasions are very important to your customers and their families and friends. Be among the few who actually remember a customer's special days, and that customer will never forget you!
  6. Follow up on well-being: For example, if you find that a customer's wife has been sick, call periodically just to find out how she's recovering.
  7. Pass referrals: One of the most powerful ways to encourage loyalty in customers is to pass them referrals. When you get a chance, scroll through your customer database and think through people you know who might add value to your customers.
  8. Entertaining at your home: Throw a party for your best customers. You'll be amazed at how much rapport and goodwill you can build with people when you get them in your home environment. Your guests will also find value in your party as a networking opportunity for them.
  9. Post-sale feedback: Demonstrate that you care about the quality of your service. Call customers and ask them questions like:
    • Are you pleased with the service you received?
    • What did you like most about working with us?
    • What would you like to see improved?

Without this invaluable information, you'll have a hard time improving your products and services. Besides, when you ask customers for feedback and implement their comments, they feel a sense of ownership in what you're doing and thus become more loyal to your products and services.

Sean Lyden is the CEO of Prestige Positioning (a service of The Professional Writing Firm Inc.), an Atlanta-based firm that "positions" clients as leading experts in their field-through ghost-written articles and books for publication. Clients include Morgan Stanley, IFG Securities, SunTrust Service Corp. and several professional advisory and management consulting firms nationwide.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

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