Acquisition Is Sexy! Retention is Boring...Right?

If you only ever hear your marketing team talking about the “getting of customers” and not the “keeping of customers,” then I’m afraid you’ve got a problem.

Most organizations and companies work that way. And it is a big problem.

The simple fact of the matter is that marketing is equally about retention as it is about acquisition.

And if you’ve never heard your marketing folks talking about retention, it’s time to start asking some questions.

Here are five topics for discussion that should be on your company's next agenda...especially if you never hear your marketing team talking about “the keeping of customers.”




Do we have balance between our acquisition and retentions efforts?
The drawing I created is brutally simple. But in its simplicity it represents where companies should be. Acquisition and retention are not separate processes. They are one in the same and require an equal balance between them. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s possible that my drawing is inaccurate. The retention circle should probably be bigger.

Could our marketing dollars go further and provide a greater ROI?
I don’t care about your next big YouTube promo or Facebook contest and how funny you think it is, unless you can tell me how it furthers the relationship with your current customer base. The reality is retention pays huge dividends. Do you need more proof? Look at companies like 37Signals, Zappos, Netflix, and Amazon, just to name a few. These companies are dedicating an incredible amount of time and energy towards retention. They are constantly working to decrease churn and optimize their customer lifetime value.

Ask yourself if your marketing budget would be better off spent trying to reach more new customers or getting your current customers back in the door, back on the website, spending more money, spending more frequently, or trying out your new products and services.

Are we proactive or reactive?
Most—not all, but most—companies look at retention only once it’s actually becoming a problem. Customers are leaving. Referrals are drying up. Complaints are pouring in. This is the WORST time to implement a retention strategy. Now’s the time to get proactive about retention. Tomorrow might be too late.

There’s more to it than just a great customer experience.
It always amazes me that we needed business books to tell us to start saying “thank you” again. But we did. Of course, saying “thank you” doesn’t mean you’re going to create a customer for life. It’s a start, but there’s more to it than that. You need a retention system in place, and it starts with the very first marketing campaign. It starts with the expectations we create with our brand’s position. It continues the first time a customer makes a purchase, and the fifth time, and so on and so on. It also attempts to figure out why a customer may have left and what we can do to win them back.

How can we turn our current customers into our best acquisition tool?
How many movies have you seen with this plotline? A guy and a girl realize after an excruciatingly long time (about 90 minutes in most cases) that what they were looking for was right in front of them the entire time. They were looking for each other.

That’s how I think about this stuff. I talk to companies all the time that are looking for something more. They’re looking to fill some gap or void. They’re looking to continuously fill a barrel without checking if the base was nailed on. What they often fail to see is right in front of them.

The added bonus? Your current customers have the ability to become your greatest tool for finding new customers. Just like all those sappy romantic movies, you need to realize that what you’re looking for might have been right smack-dab in front of you all this time.

—Noah Fleming is a strategic marketing consultant specializing in entrepreneurial growth, community building, client loyalty, and customer retention. Since 2005, Noah has worked with over 500 entrepreneurs and business owners. Follow him on Twitter @noahfleming.

[Image: Flickr user Luke]

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