One of the greatest challenges when it comes to running an online business is to convert leads into paying customers.
Especially for any online business, turning leads into customers is one of the most important factors.
In fact, it is likely that your entire website, all of your copy, call to action’s and everything in between is all geared to convert a lead into a paying customer.
As most online business owners know however, the process of converting leads into paying customers is tedious and sometimes even painful, which is why retaining your customers is so important.
In fact, for almost ALL businesses, it is often easier, cheaper and faster to get an existing customer to purchase again rather than chasing a new lead in the hopes that they will convert.
Research has also found that by increasing customer retention by just 5 percent, it can help improve a company’s profitability factor by a whopping 95 percent.
The White House Office of Consumer Affairs also concluded that loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.
This just goes to show that your customers are valuable to your business not just before making a purchase but also after making a purchase.
Many businesses however, fall into the trap of spending so much time on conversion rates and gaining new leads that they forget all about their customers once they have hit that “buy” button.
This often leads to serious limitations for your company and can also stop your business from really thriving and growing.
In fact, the Dunvegan Research Group found that 20 percent of customers that felt just “satisfied” with their purchase would switch to a competitor in the future.
This just goes to show that in order for your business to be scalable, you have to dedicate a serious portion of your time and energy insuring your customers feel more than just satisfied with their purchase.
By Delivering More Than What You Have Promised or Offered
Delivering what you have promised is great, but if you really want to go above and beyond when it comes to customer satisfaction is is always better to over-deliver and exceed their expectations.
Research has found that over 68 percent of customers will stop buying from a brand because they failed to deliver what they asked or because they received something different than expected.
While you are not going to please every one all the time, your priority should really be on delivering and even over-delivering on what your company is offering or selling. But before you can conjure up ways to over-deliver, you first must ensure that what you are delivering is on par with what you say you are offering.
Take a moment to view your sales or product page and assess the following:
- Is my copy clear, concise and well thought out?
- Do my product descriptions match the product exactly?
- Are the images a true, unedited reflection of my product?
- Do my services clearly highlight what is to be expected?
- Do my services clearly highlight what is not to be expected?
- Does my copy adequately explain the details of their purchase such as time frame to be delivered, shipping and any other necessary factors?
- Do I have a clear way for customers to find out about return policies or guarantees of my product or service?
- Are the promises or claims I am making backed up by research and scientific fact?
- Can I actually deliver on what I am promising or committing to?
- Is there a safe guard, legal disclaimer or refund policy if these needs are not met?
A good way to test the expectations of your product or service is have a stranger, co-worker or friend read your product page and assess your product or service to see if it was what they were expecting.
They may also have some ideas of how to better clarify some of the terms used to describe your product or service.
Once you have nailed the copy on your sales or product page, you can start thinking about ways to enhance your customer experience or over-deliver.
The Art Of Over-Delivering
Over-delivering is not about writing 1 million extra words when you have only been paid for 2,000 or giving away a truck load of free products in order to gain approval.
Instead, over-delivering is about presenting your goods and services in a way that is professional, considerate of your consumers wants and needs and hassle-free. It is about-
- Keeping your customers up to date with what to do after they have purchased
- Keeping your customer informed of any shipping or handling information
- Reaching out to your customers and thanking them for their purchase
- Reaching out to your customers after their purchase to see if they are satisfied or have any questions
- Adding a simple gift to their product order such as an ebook, coupon or sample of another product
- Ensuring the packaging is neat, professional, presentable and attractive
- Providing a discount, gift or apology in case of any delays or issues with the product or service
- Having the process be as easy and as smooth as possible- doing everything you can to avoid any stress associated with the purchase or receiving of the product or service
- Ensuring that your product or services comes with easy to use instructions and all the required information
- Offering easy access to customer support such as online chat, email support and a phone number
- Offering a hassle free refund or exchange process
Over-delivering is really about caring whole-heartedly about your customers and their experience. It is about ensuring that everything in the purchase process is well thought out, smooth and easy and that your customers are ultimately happy.
Creating Happy Customers
Over-delivering is a great place to start when it comes to making your customers happy, but did you know that only 4% of unhappy customers will actually contact the business to express their concerns?
Statistics from “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner, found that 96 percent of customer never voice their complaints or concerns and another 91 percent of those customers will never come back.
That means that it is likely that your business doesn’t even know about your unhappy customers in order to even do anything about it.
There are a few ways you can go about managing this-
- Ask your customers to do a survey or evaluation
- Email your customers and create an open dialogue with them throughout the sales process
- Email your customers to follow up on how they liked their product or service
Depending what line of business you are in, it may be hard to chase down every customer for their honest review, however having a simple option for them to express themselves, such as an email survey or comment box is a great place to start.
Dealing with Customer Complaints
What do you do if your customers do express a concern or are dissatisfied in some way?
This is where your business can really prove to your consumers that they can trust and respect your brand.
The first steps with this are-
1. Don’t panic, take it personally or get defensive
2. Have a plan
The good news is that millions of dollars have been spent researching the world of customer service and satisfaction, which means that you don’t have to.
Research has narrowed it down to the H.E.A.R.T customer conflict resolution process. H.E.A.R.T stands for –
Thank the Person
Ultimately, the H.E.A.R.T process requires you to listen to your customer complaint without your judgement or interjection, express your empathy towards their feelings, apologise for the inconvenience and work on providing a solution.
Often the solution to the problem is usually quickly and easily met when you have given your customer the time and the space to express their concerns. Usually customers just want to feel heard and sympathised with and often providing this can automatically create a solution.
You can also ask them what solution would work best for them or suggest a few solutions to choose from in regards to their complaint or issue.
When a customer sees that you are willing to provide options, they usually become more reasonable and more agreeable.
Of course, each business will have its own unique needs when it comes to making a customer conflict resolution plan, but using H.E.A.R.T is an excellent guide that is backed with research.
Along with having a conflict resolution system, creating happy customers also comes down to the way you interact with them, which for most online businesses is usually through retention emails.
Customer Retention Emails
There are two main types of customer retention emails-
1. Emails that attempt to retain a customer that abandoned their shopping cart
2. Emails that attempt to make an existing customer purchase again or repeatedly
Emails for Abandoned Cart Shoppers
A customer abandons their cart for a few reasons-
1. They got distracted during the process
2. There were unexpected or surprise costs
3. The checkout process was too hard or too confusing
4. They felt unsafe entering their credit card details
5. There was not enough information given in terms of their purchase
6. They found a cheaper or competitors product elsewhere
Whatever the reason, once you have their email there is usually a way to make them return to their cart if you play your cards right. A few strategies you can use here include:
- Reminding them of their cart purchases
- Offering a discount or coupon code on some of the items placed into their cart
- Targeting them with similar product offers
- Reassuring them with reviews and testimonials
These four core strategies however, should be surrounded with other types of benefits such as compelling content, a free gift or a free ebook, in order to enhance the perceived level of value and build trust.
Think of it this way, even though your lead was tempted to fill their cart with goodies, there was obviously something stopping them from committing to the sale.
Whatever the reason, adding free value is a great way to build trust and increase the perception of what you are offering.
Emails for Existing Customers
When you make a sale you develop a certain amount of trust with the consumer and it is important to retain and enhance this.
Through crafting emails that offer value and are not just about pitching or selling a product.
In fact, your emails should really aim to offer free information that provides a solution to a problem that your demographic might have or some additional information that may be related to your products or services.
Your emails should really be used as an opportunity to establish your reputation as a brand, build trust with the consumer and offer value so they are more likely to purchase from you again.
Some of the biggest mistakes businesses make when sending emails to customers is-
1. They stop sending emails after the customer has purchased the product
2. They stop offering value and they start sending ‘salesy’ emails
3. They start pitching other products before the consumer has even received the initial one they ordered
4. They fail to make their emails personal or relevant to the consumer
When it comes to approaching your email strategy, try to have at least 4-5 emails that offer free, beneficial content to every 1-2 sales pitch emails.
You may have to experiment with this ratio to see if it is a good fit for your business, but having more free, beneficial content is a good place to start.
A good example of an effective customer retention email strategy comes from Ramit Sethi, the founder of the successful business- “I Will Teach You to Be Rich.”
In order to get people to sign up for his course, ‘Zero to Launch’ he sends his leads emails on how to improve all areas of their lives, not just financially but also personally.
This not only provides value but it also shows that Sethi cares about his consumers. After a consumer has purchased his course, he continues sending them a different selection of helpful emails in order to work in conjunction with the material offered in the course.
An example of his email series is as follows-
#1 How to Give Advice so that People will Listen
#2 New free guide: Launch Your Online Business
#3 Sneak Peek: social skills, money secrets, free coaching
#4 Zero to Launch course closes in a few hours (Sales Email)
The email series he shared included about 20 emails and only 2 of these were sales pitches.
Of course, all his emails were indirectly promoting his brand and course but in the eyes of the consumer, they are receiving lots of free, valuable content instead of being asked to “buy”. This helps them to feel special and everyone likes to feel special.
Making Your Consumers Feel Special
One of the most effective ways to increase customer loyalty is to reward your customers by making them feel special.
When you reward your customers with something unexpected, they also feel subconsciously indebted to you, which helps to also drive the motivation for them to purchase from your brand again.
There are a few ways you can reward your customers loyalty, but our favourites include-
1. Exclusive Offers
Having exclusive offers for returning customers only is a great way to make them feel special and to establish loyalty. A good example of this strategy is seen with the online flower shop, ProFlowers.
They offer returning customers the opportunity to select certain bouquets for a huge discount, claim a free vase and to have access to certain holiday arrangements before they go live to the public.
One of the reasons this strategy works so well is that it helps ProFlowers keep their customers loyal instead of having them look at competitors for better prices. It also helps customers to feel that they are valued and that they are getting access to exclusive selections.
2. Loyalty Programs
Offering a loyalty program is the best way to maintain loyal customers. This is often seen at coffee shops and fast food chains.
For example, the sandwich shop Subway offers customers a stamp every time they purchase a sandwich. Once they have 7 stamps, their next sandwich is free.
This motivates customers to return in order to claim their free sandwich and helps Subway to eliminate competitors. For online stores, you can also offer a similar type of loyalty program where consumers earn points in order to receive a discount.
A good example of this is seen with the online store Soccer.com. They offer customers the chance to become a “goal club member” and receive points that can be used to get discounts on certain purchases. They also receive other benefits such as new release previews, promotions and exclusive offers.
3. Bonus Events
Remember McDonald’s monopoly event where they had customers collect different property coupons which they could exchange for free food and discounts?
Back in the day this was one of the most successful marketing events for the fast food chain company and it can be recreated for your business.
In fact, the online food ordering website, GrubHub ran their own event campaign called the “Yummy Rummy Sweepstakes” which helped to engage customers and keep them using the website.
Their campaign require customers to pick a card. The cards were randomly drawn and had a 1 in 4 chance of winning something such as a free dessert or drink.
This helped GrubHub to not only retain customers but to also helped to build a community of loyal followers.
Studies have also found that when you offer customers a free item such as a drink or dessert, they are more likely to return to purchase from you again.
One of the best and easiest ways to reward your customers is by offering them a free sample of a complimenting product or service.
Even though samples may not be worth much, studies have found that customers love receiving them and are definitely appreciative of businesses when they do send them.
A good example of this is from the supplement company, Bodybuilding.com. Their customers love receiving the free sample products and are more likely to purchase from this brand in order to receive them.
Offering samples also shows that you really care about receiving your customers business and that you want to make them feel special and recognised.
The added benefit with samples is that they also help promote other products or services that are offered by your brand.
Your customers are the most valuable part of your business and in order for your business to really thrive and grow, you have to maintain a relationship of value and trust. To do this you must –
- Ensure your product description is an accurate description of what your product or service is
- Find ways to over-deliver on the product or service such as offering a freebie, or a premium experience
- Communicate with your customers in order to update them about their order and what to expect
- Have a clear and easy to use refund, exchange or warranty service for customers
- Offer a follow up email, survey or courtesy call for your consumer to provide feedback
- Manage all customer complaints using the H.E.A.R.T protocol or alternative methods
- Offer your customers valuable, personal emails full of beneficial and helpful information, not just sales pitches
- Make it easy for your customers to stay connected with you (ie. email, social media, online chat)
- Make your customers feel special by offering them some type of benefit such as a coupon code or sample
- Reward your customers loyalty through a rewards program or membership program
- Genuinely care about your customers needs, wants and desires
When you follow these protocols, your customers don’t just become one time purchasers, they become life long purchasers, which is far more valuable to your business in the long run.
Using this guide, take the time to asses where you can improve the customer experience for your business and see how making just a few tweaks and changes can help drive and boost your sales.