You made the sale. Time to celebrate and move on… right? Honestly, that’s one of the biggest mistakes most business owners make. If you build your business with this mindset, you are missing out on the long-term growth that most businesses need to survive. You’re just hopping from one customer to the next. That’s high effort and a recipe for major burn out.
So what are you supposed to do? Focus on building long-term customer relationships. Think about what happens after each sale. You did the work to get someone to your website or to your shop, but the growth part of business happens after someone chooses you for the first time.
The consumer purchase process
While your target audience may be different from other businesses, overall, most of your customers will follow the same process to make their purchase decisions.
- Need recognition
- Information search
- Evaluation of alternatives
- Decision & Purchase
- POST-PURCHASE BEHAVIOUR
The last step in the consumer purchase process is post-purchase behaviour. That’s where the magic happens when you’re looking for long-term growth. In this stage, your customer decides whether they are happy or not with their purchase. And tied to that, they decide whether they want anything to do with your business long-term – either as a returning customer and/or a valuable brand advocate who refers friends and family to you and leaves positive reviews online. The actions you take as a business can either lead to these things, indifference, or – worst case scenario – product returns/refunds and negative reactions and reviews. This stage is where you focus on establishing great customer relationships.
5 ways to take post-purchase service to the next level
The post-purchase email. It’s part art form, part practical follow up. Overall, it’s your chance to find out how you did, keep your customer posted on shipment and tracking, provide incentive to come back and shop, and generally build the foundation for a great long-term relationship. The thing to remember is you shouldn’t overlook asking for things in these emails. You want a review on social? Ask for it. You want to have them fill out a quick survey to find out how their experience was? Ask for it. Don’t make your customers guess what you want.
Another way to look at it is communication that allows you to just touch base with your customers. A quick reminder that they may need to replenish or replace their purchase is a great reason to reach out. The Body Shop is great for this. They send a reminder email when they estimate you would need to repurchase.
Build loyalty into your strategy
Your customers want to feel appreciated. They need to know that you value their business. A great way to do that is to build some sort of loyalty program into your long-term planning. You don’t have to create an elaborate loyalty program to make it work for you. Offering things like a VIP sale to your recurring customers and early access to a new product launch can easily be done by sharing links. You can also create a referral program or even a points program that leads to discounts. And, when in doubt… offer free samples and even new product recommendations based on previous purchases or customer profiles. I have been purchasing product from Beauty Club Outlet since I got detailed product recommendations for my hair type. Personalization works.
Make using your product/service easy
Your customers are more likely to reach for their recent purchase or use it over and over again if they know how to use it properly. Sharing how-to content that lays things out clearly will eliminate any questions or confusion. Equally important to how to use something is how to care for it long-term. Certain products will last longer if you take care of them properly, so make sure your customers know how to prolong the life of their purchase.
Make it easy for returns/exchanges
This one may make some business owners fee uneasy. It seems a bit counter-intuitive, but things don’t always work out when a customer buys something. Your customers will remember if you provided an easy solution and they will more likely come back to buy more from you in the future. This will also reduce post-purchase anxiety if your customers know you are on their side.
I should note that not all products/services can be returned or refunded. There does have to be a limit. If someone returns an almost empty bottle of product and says they didn’t like it, offering a refund doesn’t seem right. However, if someone bought the same product and it made them break out into hives after 1 or 2 uses, it makes sense to work with the customer to find a solution.
Listen to what your customers have to say
ACTUALLY listen. Listen to all the good and bad feedback that you get. Ask questions to see where you can improve. Ask questions to see what you are doing right. Your customers will stick around if they feel like you care what they have to say.
The work doesn’t end when they click the purchase button online or swipe their credit card at your store. If you are truly looking for long-term growth and profitability, you need to focus on what happens after the sale to figure out how to build a great marketing strategy. And marketing is always about building great customer relationships.
Candace Huntly is Founding Partner at SongBird Marketing Communications, an award-winning agency working to take organizational and individual brands to the next level. With a passion for all things related to creativity and strategy, she specializes in business intelligence, marketing & branding, content strategy & development, media & influencer relations, and social media. Basically, if you need to put your brand, product, or cause in the public eye, she will find a way to do it, while making the approach unique to you.
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A version of this article was originally posted to the SongBird Marketing Communications blog.