Creating new business via existing customers

Home Column Creating new business via existing customers

existing customersIf you’re a market-savvy retailer, then you’ve probably read these statistics before: It costs six to seven times more to attract new customers than it costs to keep an existing customer. Furthermore, it costs 16 times more to build lasting relations with a new customer than to retain an existing one.

Despite the statistics, I can’t believe how many stores don’t have a database or stay connected with sold customers. With social media, it’s easier than ever to retain existing customers, but it appears that many retailers still concentrate on snagging new ones. As soon as the check clears, and the magic and newness wear off, the customer is history. It’s akin to dating—you get to meet someone different every time and the excitement begins anew. Let’s talk about what you can do to rekindle the magic with your existing customers.

Promote special events. Go through your database and pick out 10 or 15 of your memorable customers and plan a focus group and a lunch or dinner for them. If you know what they do for a living, this would be a great way to see if you can build a business partnership. Make a call to your customers and explain you would like some feedback about their experience and how you can make positive changes to your business to build better relationships with your customers. Focus groups are more effective if done by an outsider who is skilled in getting customers to divulge what they’re really thinking. The idea is to make customers your best friends and business advisors.

Solicit feedback. It’s likely consumers in your focus group will be extremely excited that they were invited and will be quite candid with you about their thoughts. They may suggest you do more shop at home or get better at your social media. Or they might complain about an employee. No matter what they say, remain positive, take down their suggestions and say you will investigate it or take it into consideration. You might say you are planning to invite them back again for more of their ideas. Your customers will take this seriously and think this is an honor.

Probe for details. Let’s say you have an upscale store; ask your customers what their other favorite high-end stores are. You can also glean information by asking about the clothing stores or grocery stores they shop. Some people love Trader Joes and others love Walmart. They may say price but it’s often more than that. Maybe they like the store personnel. You can ask what they like about your employees and what you can do to be even better.

Ask them what other stores remind them of your store and what other things they provide that you should. Also ask them what you should change about your store; a different layout, the way you conduct business or something they saw in another place where they shop that they thought was different.

You can ask them how they use social media. For example, do they post after they make a purchase. If they don’t do this, ask them why they don’t. Don’t forget to ask what they do for a living. Profitable partnerships can come out of this exercise.

Finally, to show your appreciation, make sure you have a little gift for each one of them and  send—via mail—a thank you note with your customized stationery. (If you don’t have any, get some. It still works.)

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at

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Feb. 6/13, 2023

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