It’s impossible to overstress the importance of a good website and internet marketing for business owners (though we certainly try). It’s not just that there are a lot of people online; it’s the various ways that people interact with businesses through the web that is important. Not only has the internet become one of the primary ways that people learn about new businesses, it’s also the way that old customers interact with the company. This means that business owners need to be thinking about both groups when they create their websites, social media profiles, and other internet marketing content. This post will discuss a few ways that internet marketing can be geared toward bringing in new customers and as well as keeping current ones.
The company website is a good place to start. Websites need to be geared for customer acquisition and customer retention. Though small business owners prioritized customer acquisition over customer retention at a 7-1 ratio, according to a 2012 study, a new report suggest more of that money should be going towards retention. A 2014 report from Manta showed that 61 percent of small business owners surveyed report over half of their annual revenue comes from repeat customers rather than new customers and that a repeat customer spends 67 percent more than a new customer.
There are a few simple things a business owner can do to make their website more friendly to current customers. FAQ pages should have sections for new and returning customers. This has the added benefit of letting new customers know immediately that there is more information for them on the website when they need it. Additionally, blog posts should feature topics that are useful to new customers and returning ones. Write posts about little-known features about a product or ideas of alternative ways to use things that customers have already bought. When business owners are having substantial changes made to the website by professionals, think of services or features that regular customers would appreciate having online, and then make it happen.
Like geese and ganders, what’s good for a website is good for social media. Social media is often used to connect with current customers and as a way to introduce people to a brand and to reach new customers. Social media can be used as a means to encourage customers to buy new items, features or services from a business. To illustrate, social media could be used to sell an upgrade to customers. This may not be useful to new buyers, but it shows current customers that the company still cares about their needs. Social media can also be used to improve customer service, as was discussed in a previous post. Taking care of customer service issues on social media also serves a dual purpose. It helps retain current customers who get to have their issues resolved. It builds confidence in the brand for anybody visiting the page and sees how well the company handles customer service issues. If given a choice between a company that answers customer service requests online and one that doesn’t, most consumers will choose the company with a better customer service record.
There is also a value to building a community of loyal customers online, per se. Loyal customers spend more money with the company over a lifetime, and they are also the ambassadors of a brand to people in the public. People trust other people over businesses and corporate websites, so having good ambassadors is important. Loyalty programs are under-utilized by small businesses, especially online. According to the Manta report cited earlier, only 34 percent of small businesses have a loyalty program and the majority of them are offline; only 46 percent of customer loyalty programs are digitally run and managed. This means that businesses that take the time to implement an online loyalty program (e.g. special coupons, gifts, etc.) they will have an advantage over their competitors.
Business owners should also be sure to use their email marketing to keep customers happy. Email marketing can be used to remain engaged with customers in various ways. Offering email specials to current customers builds brand loyalty and increases revenue. Be sure to offer online-only discounts and special offers. According to data from Experian, 46 percent of transactions were generated via the coupon link in emails with online only coupons in the 4th quarter of 2014. It doesn’t always have to be about selling things. Newsletters are a possibility depending on the organization and the target audience.
For business owners, trying to maintain a balance of customer acquisition and customer retention can be a little like a spinning plate act where it takes constant attention to keep each plate from slowing down too much. Though it may be difficult, it is possible to do, and business owners need to approach the issue of balance with the same level of determination. Being able to use the most powerful marketing tool, the internet, to gain new customers and keep old ones is essential to the long-term survival of any business.