If you are a decision maker for a small to medium-size manufacturing (SMB) business, congratulations! You survive and thrive in the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) ecosystem.
Chances are, you have a solid customer base comprised of companies who continue to do business with you, year after year. That is good news, too.
There are two customer retention scenarios.
However, it is one scenario to acquire new customers and work extremely hard to retain them for the following year. Then again, it is quite another scenario to catalyze a retained customer base to “see you” with new eyes, after many years of doing business together.
That is what we are discussing today. Old school customer retention tactics impede SMB manufacturers, like you, from growing, expanding and sustaining their businesses.
Old school customer retention tactics reinforce status quo business habits: yours and your clients.
Review the buying habits of retained customers. Chances are you will see definite patterns emerge.
On the one hand, it is difficult enough to win that client in the first place. Justifiably, earning a place on that coveted supplier list is a big deal.
However, buyers will sort vendors and suppliers by the specific deliverables provided. As a result of buyer mindset, a company becomes known as “the guys who make this part” or “the company providing us with these services.”
Customer retention tactics continuously fight the status quo.
As a result, functional commoditization by retained customers is the status quo. It is easier for buyers to have a by-output or by-product supplier shortlist. Consequently, they develop bad habits. Buyers pick and pull what they want and whom they want.
Now ponder whether the only time your company interacts with buyers and decision makers is to execute repeat orders on existing business. Evaluate whether you unintentionally contribute to perpetuating buyer bad habits.
As a result, buyers and decision makers – current customers – largely remain unaware of the breadth and depth of a supplier organization’s capabilities.
Relying on an informational website is old school customer retention tactics.
Why squander opportunities to cross-sell, upsell and develop entirely new categories of business with existing customers? Because that is what you do when customer retention tactics rely on the company website as a conversion tool.
Are you depending on the company website as the primary vehicle for executing customer retention tactics?
Often, manufacturers assume current clients automatically will visit their website or online catalog, should new products and services be required. That is a costly mis-assumption to make.
Then again, some manufacturing websites leave potential customers confused. These sites rely on static, unengaging content. The website is full of photos of completed projects. As the saying goes, one picture is worth a thousand words. However, how about including a handful of descriptive captions for each photo?
If you are not a commodity, do not give existing customers a commoditized experience.
Remember, your company already is commoditized by buyers and specifiers in your existing customers’ houses. If they want something “new,” current clients may go to your competitor’s website first, before they think of trying to source the same deliverable from you.
Why assume that existing customers implicitly “know” what they are looking for or looking at? As for new and potential customers, why risk losing them before you’ve even won their business?
The goal of customer retention tactics is to make current customers “see the same old you” with new eyes!
Your goal is to shake current customers out of status quo buying and specifying complacency. To execute this strategy, showcase expertise even when there is no RFQ (Request for Quote) on the table.
Consider providing current clientele with articles about new manufacturing and technology trends impacting their competitors’ businesses? If your company currently does not have a suite of products or services addressing these trends, identify potential partners to assist you.
That tactic represents an innovative growth and expansion strategy.
Invite existing customers to “just-for-them” events. Create the type of client opportunity that showcases how it is to do business with you. To qualify, these events are not old school golf-and-cocktails gatherings. Instead, they are environments for collaboration, shared insights and learning.
These are new school offerings to catalyze current clients to view you through a fresh lens.
Has this post jogged your brain cells to think differently about customer retention tactics? There are more ideas where these came from!
Take the next steps.
Babette Ten Haken writes, speaks, consults and coaches about collaborative value creation for customer success and customer retention. She connects the dots between strategy and execution. She works across leadership, human capital / HR and technical/IT/engineering teams within the industrial Internet of Things ecosystem. Her focus? Creating enduring business outcomes. Babette’s playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon. Image author: kalpis Image source: Fotolia