How to keep your best customers in a tough economy

Your loyal consumers are your best asset and will help you weather the storm during tough economic times. Ultimately, it is this group’s experience with your brand, products, and people that will keep them loyal and encourage them to tell others about you. So what are you doing to make sure that your best customers not only remain engaged but perhaps even increase their spending?
Changes in consumer behavior often signal that it is time to re-visit your current customer segmentation strategy. Let’s say customers in your top segment typically spend $1,000 a year; now assume that the economy forces these customers to spend only $800 a year. Does that mean they are no longer your best customers? More likely, it means that you need to re-assess how you define your best customers. Those $800 spenders are still loyal customers – tightening their belts, but not ready to give up their VIP status. By adjusting your parameters to reflect the changing environment, you will avoid alienating your core customer base.
Consider what the impact on sales would be if you could motivate a percentage of your top customers to purchase one more item per visit. Implementing a cross-sell promotion to drive the purchase of one additional item or a bounce-back offer to incent an additional visit can have a significant sales impact. And don’t your VIPs deserve exclusive benefits? Make your loyal customers feel special and the results will speak for themselves.
Not all brand advocates need a specific reason to tell their friends and family how much they love you, but it can’t hurt to give them a nudge. With new customers getting harder to acquire, word-of-mouth marketing through your best consumers may be the most tantalizing. Give them something fun or valuable to share, or create a “refer-a-friend” program that provides VIPs with an incentive based on opt-ins or purchases. If you’re feeling ambitious, provide your best advocates with the ability to sell on your behalf via blogs and social networking.
There are many ways to create a dialog with your customers. Get their feedback on your site, customer service, or e-mail program by using a satisfaction survey. Enhance transactional messages with product review options, testimonial forms, and acts of gratitude for their business. Or create a preference center where customers can tell you more about themselves. Give your customers a voice and they will reward you for it.
Whether explicitly or implicitly, it is critical that you react to the feedback you receive from your best customers. Be ready to respond to concerns that could lead a loyal customer to become a detractor. And finally, don’t let once-loyal customers slip away. Reach out with an incentive-laden reactivation trigger at the first sign of activity drop off.
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