If You Rely on Customer Referrals, Keep Customer Relationships Engaged

Ask any business owner and they’ll tell you that referrals are the best source for generating new business.  But how does your customer feel if they haven’t heard from you in a long time and now here you are asking for a referral?

Being proactive about your customer relationships is not only beneficial for cultivating referrals; it’s preventative medicine when it comes to customer defection.

Most customers defect to a competitor due to perceived indifference on the part of their current solution provider or vendor.  I’ve heard statistics as high as over 70 percent.  Defection due to price or finding superior product generally occurs at a much lower rate.

So the critical question is what are you doing to show your customers that you care?  What do you do proactively to show that you care about them and the success of their business?

Here’s another measure – think back over the last 30 days.  How much of your customer interaction has been reactive?  How much of your customer interaction has been proactive?  If reactive outweighs the proactive, you’ve got a problem.

That holiday card you sent is not enough.  That monthly e-newsletter is not enough.  They are part of the overall mix of things that serve to communicate with customers.  But it’s a good idea to add another level of communication that acknowledges the individual.  Your outreach must be genuine and personal.

Genuine and personal efforts take time.  However, genuine and personal communication has tremendous impact.  Think about an instance when someone took the time to write you a personal note, or took the time to thank you for your business in a very specific way.  It’s not a blur.  You recall exactly the person who took the time to communicate solely with you.

Here are some things that you could begin doing immediately to be more proactive, genuine and personal with your customers.

Commit to one call a day

Print out a list and commit to calling 5 customers a week just to check in and find out if what you implemented for them is working well for them.   Chances are you will get voice mail, that’s OK.  Leave a concise message telling them that you want to know how they are doing, how the products and services they’ve purchased from you are working, and how thankful you are for their business.

Strive to have lunch once a week with a customer

Once a week, take a customer out for lunch.  This allows for quality face to face time.  Find out what their experience with your products and services has been.  Find out if there are new challenges that they are facing.  Find out more about them as a person – are they passionate about a charity (in the future you might consider making a donation in their honor), do they belong to any professional groups or associations that they have found valuable (it might make sense for you to join these groups), the point is focus on getting to know them better.

Segment your customers

Prioritize your list of customers based on how profitable, delightful, reference-able they are and every other week send one person on the list a business book that you’ve found particularly helpful.  Include a note with the book that shares what you found interesting about the topic and slip a business card between the pages.

Send a handwritten note

Keep a stack of postcards or note cards (preferably with your logo on it) by your computer and drop a personalized note to a customer every day.  Thank them for their business.  Congratulate them on some accomplishment (new certification, recent publicity, etc.)

Get started! 

All of these activities are steps you can take immediately. Not only will you cultivate a better relationship – less susceptible to defection and more conducive to referrals – you’ll probably uncover a number of projects that you can do for them.

Dawn Westerberg

Dawn Westerberg is the president of Dawn Westerberg Consulting LLC, a marketing strategy consultancy. She works with business owners and nonprofit professionals to develop marketing strategy, identify ideal prospects, and then use both inbound and outbound marketing to generate leads and develop a strong online presence.