Do our Existing Customers Hate our Customer Acquisition Methods?


No matter who we are, we've been a customer more than once in our lifetimes. We know how customers want to be treated. We understand that customer experience is in our hands. We strive to create that experience.

Our existing customers are the lifeblood of our business. It costs a lot more to get a new customer than it does to keep the ones we have. Losing an existing customer to gain a new one is not the way we want to go. But customer satisfaction is more than a seamless checkout and speedy delivery. It's about that UX (User experience) from start to finish. It's everything in between and here and there. This includes something that some may consider completely unrelated -- our customer acquisition efforts. But maybe we should rethink that.

The impact of retention on acquisition

This relationship is a bit easier to understand, so let's recap this one first. Acquisition is impacted by retention. According to Research conducted by Gartner Group and published in Forbes Magazine , 80% of your future sales are generated by 20% of your existing customers.

Existing customers also save us money on acquisition by:

  • Reducing our acquisition costs. If you have a great reputation, it is so much easier to bring someone new into the fold.

  • Decreasing customer research budget. If you're paying attention to existing customer feedback and analytics, there's less cost to the company due to trial and error practices or working of bad hypotheticals produced from analytics. This means more effective targeting and content creation. They save you time and money while making you more.

  • Decreasing the need for spending so much time and money on acquisition because you have a steady revenue stream.

  • Doing the promotion for us. Every promoter that we can create is an "marketing genius" that we don't have to pay -- except in continuing to provide exceptional customer care.

But does it work the other way around? Of course, it does. Everything we do is connected.

The impact of acquisition on retention

Do existing customers simply forgive us when we repeatedly put new customer's needs above their own? In a brick and mortar, would you push past a long time customer to grovel at the feet of a new one? How would this make your existing customer feel? Do you "digitally" do this through your site's user experience?

Data on the impact is still a bit of a mystery. How do your existing customers view your acquisition efforts? After thorough searches, I must conclude that there is little research on the topic or any such research may be incredibly outdated because it doesn't consider current customer loyalty trends.

Even if we look back 2 years, many companies can see a pronounced shift in the all importance of that customer experience as demonstrated in this case study on data user behaviors by Nokia that showed that customer care is on its way to overtaking even network reliability and price.

Perhaps it's an area that we as business leaders need to more thoroughly explore and research, given this extreme shift in importance of that customer experience.

We can expect that the research will be done by a reputable researcher to give us some more quantitative data, which we all prefer. This will help the phantoms of cause and effect to materialize so that we can address them.

But in the mean time, as a business leader always looking for that competitive advantage, it's a worthy topic to consider as we look for new and cutting edge ways to inspire customer loyalty today and get a leg up on the competition.

How are you showing your existing customers that they are your #1 priority?

First, let's look at several examples of how we're not. And then we can consider if this is really the message we want to send.

Do we:

  • make the "new account" button huge while the "login to your existing account" or "manage your account" button is small and/or hard to find.

  • constantly provide discounts and incentives for new customers, but no similar offers or loyalty programs for existing customers.

  • bombard them with annoying ads or popups asking for emails, signup, etc. after the customer has already signed up.

  • always talk to them like they are new customers.

  • create content that is completely focused on acquisition and not retention.

  • invest 80% of our marketing budget on acquisition.

Showing our existing customer that they're our #1

For market differentiation, each business should develop their own unique way to do this. But here are some ideas & industry examples I've pulled together for consideration.

1. Build the right customer-focused culture. Don't just make it a sales person's role to seal the deal with new customers. Your customer support staff need to seal the deal with every interaction. Support your employees and encourage them to find ways to support your customers. Here is a great example of this from Business Insider about Zappos. It's on the older side, but still very relevant.

Target has empowered its cashiers to make discount decisions on damaged merchandise rather than having them call a CSM.

Publix Grocery has a similar policy regarding mispricing.

2. Develop intelligent leads generation that recognizes that existing customers have already signed up, given their email, etc. and don't need to do it again. These are hard to provide examples for because the ones who do it well, do it so seamlessly that you don't notice. Thank you to all of those companies providing covert yet exceptional user experience.

Since I have no industry examples, allow me to ask you: Have you ever been in a store/site that you frequent and every time you check out, they ask for your email? If I'm in a brick & mortar, "I've just started kindly saying "you already have it." The repeated requests for my email demonstrate an assumption that I am a new customer and that they don't have my email. It shows where the company is placing its focus.

3. Reward Loyalty in real and meaningful ways. When we consider the impact that a promoter can have on our revenues, it's worth it to have the best loyalty program in "town" (the Internet). Give people real incentives to stand by your side and help you get the word out.

But there is a fine line. You never pay for reviews. And don't constantly ask people to like, share and follow. Instead make them want to by what you provide and do.

Check out Walgreens Pharmacy Discount Program. No 1-3% cash back here. You can often save 20-25% just by being loyal.

Macy's, Sephora, Target and NY&C also provide great loyalty rewards.

Do the math; determine how you'll get the best ROI. And don't worry about giving too much away. You may just gain much more.

These are all big companies, but don't think small business can't get in on the game. Small businesses have an even greater opportunity because of their closeness to their customers.

4. Start a conversation with your existing customers before completely rebranding or re-targeting. Bring them along with you. Don't allow them to feel left behind, uninformed and no longer your focus as you work to acquire a new demographic. You can almost always find a way to have both. If you can't, you'll need to choose.

5. Keep your promises. Your existing customers are more likely to notice if you say you're going to do something and then conveniently forget. This really hurts your brand. It takes 12 great experiences to make up for one bad one. So keep your ratio high.

If you don't seem too worried about losing their business, then you're again demonstrating that you don't understand their value.

But never allow your customer reps and employees to be abused. Customers come first, but my employees come "firster" as long as they are doing what's right for the customers and not escalating a situation.

6. Develop content that your existing customer can feel loyal to. Customers feel more loyal to companies that regularly provide them with custom content. This means creating content that is engaging to your existing customer. If all of your content is geared toward key word stuffing to push your rankings, convincing new customers to buy and trying to upsell, you'll lose loyalty fast.

7. Ask for feedback regarding company direction and acquisition efforts. You may be surprised by the insights your long time customers can provide.

8. Treat your customers like an extension of your employees, assuming you treat your employees well. Make them feel a part of your company and they will want to stick around and continue to help you promote your brand.

~Leigh

Do you agree?

How can we improve the customer experience and still convert?


Leigh Clayborne is a Hubspot certified freelance content marketing / SEO content writer & strategist with 10 years healthcare management experience on 15+ years creating content. She is a strong proponent of creating the right customer experience to meet business goals.

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