Small Business Tip Tuesday: Repeat Customers vs. New Customers

by Ken Mueller on December 20, 2011 · 5 comments

Customers are Ignoring You

Image by ronploof via Flickr

One of the biggest decisions that we often have to make when running a small business is determining what type of customers we want to focus on. Are we going to seek out new customers, or should we spend our time getting existing customers to come back?

Certainly, in the bigger picture, we need both. We need our existing customers to come back, and we certainly want a healthy influx of new customers (who will hopefully also become repeat customers). But how should we spend our time, money, and energy? On what should we focus?

While this may vary across business categories, I think most small businesses need to focus more on existing customers, and working to get them to come back. And your online presence and Social Media can be at the heart of that.

Think about it this way: when you visit a business, what is it that makes you come back? Probably some combination of great products/services, great price/value, and great customer service. Add all of these together and what does it come down to? Great customer experience.

Now, take the next step: when you visit a business for the first time, why did you choose that particular business? If you’re anything like me, the overwhelming reason I try a business for the first time is: word of mouth. Someone has recommended that business to me. And that someone is an existing customer who has been on the receiving end of that great customer experience.

OK, now take off your customer hat, and put your small business hat back on. What are your goals? Who do you want to see come through your door? Are you focusing your resources and energies on attracting new customers or repeat customers?

At times it feels like many small businesses spin their wheels in search of those new customers. But honestly, that’s a lot more effort for less payoff.

What if you were to spend more time and money producing great products, offering great value, and providing great service? Your existing customers would not only come back, but they would tell others about you. And those other people are more likely to trust the word of their friends over any sort of marketing or advertising you might do on your own.

In fact, a recent study from Constant Contact and Chadwick Martin Bailey indicates that the number one reason people will follow your brand on Twitter is because they are already a customer. And if they follow you on Twitter, the study shows that they will also be more likely to recommend your business. And there are similar findings regarding why people “like” your business on Facebook.

Take care of your existing customers.

They will come back.

They will talk about you, and THEY will do the marketing work for you.

The payback is certainly much greater, and there is less chance that you’ll have to do damage control either online or offline, because you’ll be focusing on making people happy, not just on making the sale.

And don’t separate how you conduct business in your office/store from how you conduct business online. Social platforms offer you an incredible opportunity to really beef up your the customer experience quotient. That includes not only having a presence on platforms where your customers are spending time, but also using that presence to communicate properly with them. Of paramount importance is responding to their questions (and complaints) in a proper and timely fashion.

Remember: What happens online, on Facebook or Twitter, happens in public. Both good and bad customer experiences will be seen by more than just the parties involved. And either way, word will spread. The good news is, if you’re creating a great customer experience, you’ll have the ability to generate positive word of mouth that money can’t buy.

Are you spending more time trying to attract new customers, or is your focus on providing the best possibly experience for your existing customers?





What a wonderful article! We really have a wide thought and a patient to make us more valuable in dealing with our business field.

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Ken, this year has been quite the year for me and my business...lots of challenges, but in the end, lots of valuable lessons. One of my most important lessons has been to focus on my current customers in order to increase revenue and bring in more customers. I can 100% say that by using that approach I have in fact increased my client base, in the right way. One clarification is that I've focused more on the ones that I really want to keep and the ones that bring in the most revenue because they attract more of the same. I'm not saying I don't focus on the others, or that I don't provide good customer service, but I don't feed the negative energy or misplaced value that a certain type of client brings to the table. Instead, I feed what I want to grow.

Like this post, Ken! Merry Christmas to you and your family!!

KenMueller moderator

@EricaAllison Thanks, Erica, and I like your approach. And I do understand about differentiating between your clients for cultivation purposes. I'm much the same way. You definitely must feed what you want to grow. I often use the analogy that Social Media is best when it is organic. And you can plant it, and let it grow organically, but you can also fertilize it to help move it along, while not forcing it too much artificially.


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