The difference between repeat customers and loyal clients

It’s common knowledge that repeat business is usually a good thing.  It costs less to sell to a repeat customer – you don’t have to do all that convincing and selling all over again.

But you should be aiming higher than repeat customers.  What we’re really aiming for is not repeat customers, but loyal clients.  What’s the difference?

  • Repeat customers take the decision to come back to you and buy again.  Loyal clients don’t even have to make that decision – it’s a given.
  • Loyal clients are your advocates – you don’t just sell them a product, you provide them with a great product and a great service to boot.  Such that they are pretty enthusiastic when it comes to talking about you to their colleagues, friends and anyone else that will listen!
  • Repeat customers will easily go elsewhere if something goes a bit pear-shaped.  Loyal customers will sit it out – because they know that you’re there to sort it out for them, and it’s a genuine mistake (which you will have owned up to).
  • Loyal clients are willing to pay a margin because they appreciate what you do.  They know you know their business pretty well, and are willing to pay for the service you provide.

So how does one generate these lovely loyal clients?  It’s part art and part science, but here are a few things I’ve learnt over the years:

  • Respect is earned – it’s not dished out on a plate.  If you don’t provide a quality product backed by a high level of service, forget it.
  • Personal contact – this is where it comes in so handy being a small business.  Stay in touch with your clients, and they are far more likely to stay loyal.  Few of us do this as much as we’d like, but it’s worth it when you do invest the time.
  • Own up when things go wrong, and get them fixed as soon as possible.  Sometimes these days it seems like it’s rare to get a genuine apology (not one that’s just issued in a national newspaper to save face).  I really believe it’s the right thing to do – if you’ve done something wrong, say so and apologise.
  • Give something back.  Take the time to answer queries – even if you do get the phone call in the middle of a complicated piece of coding!!  Remember that every interaction with that client is an opportunity to build the relationship from a purely transactional one to something more genuine.  I don’t mean you have to become best buddies with all your clients (please not!), but show an interest, help people out.

So if you’re not already doing so, think about aiming a little higher than repeat customers.

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