How to Attract and Retain Customers

The title of today’s post mirrors the topic of discussion I am leading during today’s New York Times Small Business Summit for AMEX OPEN.

It’s certainly a big topic, but I love that attract and retain are used in the same setting because they are certainly linked arm in arm in a business that wants to build any kind of marketing momentum. In fact, you could argue, and I do, they are one in the same.

Far too often marketers spend all of their attention on the chase and the sale and not enough on the retain and remarkable experience. The funny thing is if you get great at the later, the former will take care of itself.

Actually, I’m not a fan of the word retain, it seems a bit like satisfy. The real magic is referral and that comes from something a little more over the top.

Here’s the system I plan to share today.

You attract by building know, like and trust:

  • You must know whom you are ideally suited to attract
  • You must be able to communicate a difference that makes you stand out
  • You must create content that addresses a need of a narrowly defined customer
  • You must advertise and generate word of mouth buzz surrounding your content
  • You must be in so many places and linked to so many sources that you are easily found
  • You must build a team of strategic partners, sponsors and customer champions willing to help prospects find you

You retain customers by focusing on repeat and referral

  • You must study every potential customer contact point and turn it into a remarkable experience
  • You must develop a customer orientation process as part of your lead conversion process
  • You must communicate fully, often and truthfully during transactions and service
  • You must build follow-up routines that include opportunities to share additional education, training and content
  • You must create a process that allows you to measure and communicate the value you product or service has delivered to a customer
  • You must stop what you are doing often and show appreciation fully
  • You must find ways to bring your customers together and facilitate building community for them
  • You must expect to receive a referral from 100% of your customers and help them bring value to others they would like to help

Accomplishing everything on the both lists above is the secret to success for any business, regardless of industry or geography – there’s actually nothing very hard about it, the key is intention.

If you intend to thrill every customer, you will attract and retain.

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  • patmcgraw

    Great post – and so very true.  I think the greatest challenge to attract-retain being so seamless and natural is too much focus on short term numbers versus long-term relationships.  When your sales team is focused on closing a sale and moving on to the next opportunity instead of turning every contact point into a remarkable experience, you might get an efficient sales process but you miss the chance to truly engage as people.  And when you don’t engage/connect as people, it makes it difficult to move beyond ‘attract’.

    Look forward to the comments of other readers.  Pat

    • ducttape

      I agree Pat – that seamless part is a big deal – so often the person selling the work isn’t the one doing, monitoring it and charging for it – you’ve got to intentionally create ways to keep the experience consistent.

  • Extreme John

    I strongly agree to these ways to attract and retain customers. It’s so true that most small business owners are too much focused on sales that they often forget the value of attracting and retaining customers. As a small business owner, I always love to be everywhere, whether online or offline, so that people will recognize not just my presence but the totality of my business. As important as any business could be is the word of mouth that presents creativity and attractive products and services that lasts. 

    Perfect summary of ways to retain customers John. Thanks a lot for sharing. :)

    • Angela Hausman

      It’s not just small businesses who forget or spend too little effort on retaining customers.  And existing customers are anywhere between 4 and 10 times less expensive to retain than to acquire a new customer to replace them.  This argues strongly for MORE effort to retain existing customers than acquiring new ones.

      Service audits (or service blueprints), setting high service standards, and monitoring performance against these standards all help you retain existing customers (they also increase the conversion rate when you get a prospect to the point of purchase).  You can read more about this here:

      • ducttape

        No question – it’s a problem in business in general – I love doing what I call results reviews because both parties get so much from it.

    • ducttape

      John – I do think that being everywhere is an important trust builder too – people expect that they will find your Web site when they search, but increasingly they expect to find reviews, others talking about you, Facebook pages and articles – if they don’t find multiple outlets it’s a bit of a trust erodee

    • KikScore

      I completely agree. Far too often, businesses exhaust their resources without fully considering attracting and retaining. Like you said, John, word of mouth is a really huge part of attracting. For retaining, you also need word of mouth since current customers need to trust you and know that you won’t take advantage of them or harm them. It’s just as important to know when you have done something wrong so that you openly accept blame for it, apologize, and try to make things right. If you can do this, your customers will know you care and spread the word that your business can be trusted.
      Also, great article with a lot of great points.

  • Jon

    Good article, this is just another case when very small businesses and lean start-ups must be incredibly sure of the avenues they pursue.  If you want every channel of communication to be an exceptional experience for your customers, make absolutely sure you have those channels covered well is essential, not entirely possible in some very small companies.
    Great article though..

  • Michael Baicoianu

    Great suggestions for attracting and retaining customers. 

    What I think is also very important for any business to do is segment its customer base. In most cases 20% of your customer base account for 80% of your business. There are also customers you wish you didn’t have. You want to make sure you spend the often limited budget on providing complete satisfaction to customers who are truly important to your business. 

    • ducttape

      I think the way I view that is provide a great experience for all and then reward your champions by providing even more opportunities for learning and building community – find ways to help them get what they want even if it’s unrelated to your business.

  • Duncan

    Great Post – Agree a lot of efforts goes into Lead generation and nurturing but not so much into retaining customers. Very often much of the same content used to nurture can be used to keep customers informed and up to date.

  • Al Pittampalli

    I like how you use the word “expect”, John. That’s a great posture to have, because it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. If you expect it, you’ll treat the customer like a king a source of new business, and because you do she will in fact refer. It’s simple, yet brilliant at the same time.

  • Guest

    Bravo John! Very well explained, I like your magnetic approach man.

  • Gabrielle

    Great mindset to stay proactive in marketing. Can these be the ultimate marketing commandments? :)  Printing out to hang by my computer. Thank you!

    • ducttape

      Awesome Gabrielle

    • ducttape

      Send me a picture :)

  • Stephanie

    Hi its great post.The efforts are greats for attracting and focusing the retain customers in your online business.Keep sharing with us.

  • Shilpi Roy – Virtual Assistant

    Great post and keep the customers engaged and bringing back to them to our brand is a great deal of work and thanks for the useful share.

  • Brian F. Martin

    A great way for brands to attract, retain and excite customers is through experiential marketing and product sampling (often tied in with a digital engagement).  It is amazing how a truly exciting and extraordinary (and often unexpected) event can create a lifelong brand advocate.  When you are able to connect with consumers at a point when they least expect it and yet are open to receiving your message, you have an opportunity to truly delight them. 

  • lily

    awesome article,nice

  • Guest

    Brilliantly written!

  • Resumes for Teachers

    Being everywhere is critical, but being a person is paramount. Be real to your readers! Great post… thanks!