If you value your customers – ensure you stay in regular contact. Businesses often spend a lot of money on marketing to gain a new customer, then do nothing to stay in touch with them.

But actually it’s easier and more cost-effective to gain repeat business than to find completely new customers – this is what makes the difference between good business and a great one!

Let me be clear why this is important. There is a right time for the right product or service for the right person. We all forget suppliers after a while and end up buying from whoever we happen to think of. You need to stay in regular contact with your customers (monthly or quarterly) so that when they’re in the market for your product or service – they do think of you!

The first step is to know your customers. This can start with their name, but you can only make contact if you also know some contact details. An email address is ideal, a telephone number is important, and an address is sometimes useful.

Most of the time people don’t like form-filling so the more information you request in one go, the less likely they complete it accurately if at all. So start with an email address or phone number and then add to it over time. Invest in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system – a database – to hold the details and associated information. You’ll want to store more than just name and contact information, but we’ll come back to this point below.

So what will you do to stay in touch with you existing and past customers? How about using any of the following or a mixture:

  • Newsletters
  • Hints & Tips
  • Short articles like this one, relevant to your customers
  • Relevant event notifications
  • Annual service reminders
  • Special offers (genuine offers, especially exclusive to existing customers)
  • Training and ‘how-to’ information
  • Customer surveys
  • Fact sheets, eg “10 things you should know when choosing car insurance”
  • Customer testimonials, success stories and case studies
  • Free samples, trial versions, etc.

There’s a long list of things that you can communicate to your customers and my advice is to think about the value in it for them, not just what’s in it for you.

Next, it’s worth thinking about the methods of communication that are appropriate, but this is separate and should come after the choice of what you want to communicate. Email is about the cheapest form of communication, but cost can be misleading – focus on ROI. For example, if you send out 1000 emails and get zero response… it wasn’t a cheap exercise.

Yet you could spend a lot of money sending a printed brochure and get a massive return in sales. What matters is the ROI, not just the up-front investment. Choose based on what you honestly expect to work. These days people jump too quickly to using email or web-based marketing when actually printed material often still gains a better result in some cases.

Methods of communicating can include:

  • Events – face to face – training, demonstrations, etc.
  • email – newsletters, offers, etc.
  • Print – high-quality brochures, etc.
  • Poster – placed where your target market will see them
  • Stickers – on products, on windows, on vehicles
  • Direct mail – eg sending a booklet to key customers
  • Websites – for news and latest offers
  • Blogs – for adding value with knowledge
  • Twitter – brief messages to point at blogs and web pages
  • Facebook – an interactive alternative to your website

Be creative when choosing methods of communication, but once again think about what your customers will appreciate. By all means, stand out, but don’t irritate them. Communicating too frequently can be a problem. Most people will be OK with one email per month, but send three in one week and the chances are they’ll unsubscribe.

This is where it helps to know more about your customers. By gathering relevant additional information about your customers you can use it to send selective communications. Over time ask your customers questions and observe their behaviour and retain the information in your CRM system. Then instead of sending one message to everyone, send selectively to just those who are likely to be interested.

Targeting messages means people are far more likely to read what you send. Remember that if you store customer information, you need to register with the UK Data Protection Agency.

And always respect customers’ wishes and make it easy to unsubscribe.


Rob Pickering,
Senior Partner & Business Coach