Retaining Over Acquiring
In a recent report surveying small business owners, 80% reported feeling optimistic about their business’s performance in 2019. This same report noted that 51% of these business owners pointed to one major factor behind this optimism: their strong existing customer base. This was larger than those citing their marketing and sales plans, and even the quality of their employees, as reasons why their businesses will prosper in the new year.
We know that retaining customers is far more cost effective than acquiring new one. However, few business owners are proactively seeking input from their best customer to know if their services are in fact meeting all expectations. Even fewer are asking their customers about what else their business could be doing to meet their needs.
This is why taking time to ask four golden questions is critical to not just retaining your key customers but also keeping them completely satisfied.
The 4 Golden Customer Questions
#1) What motivated you to look for the product or service you purchased?
As business owners, we create products and services thinking our customers have a clear need for them, and thinking we know exactly what that need is. For instance, a small fitness studio could very well think its services are all about offering busy professionals an easy way to get in cardio exercise before and after work. Yet, it could be that its most-loyal customers go because the studio offers low-impact exercises that are ideal for older bodies.
Without asking this question the fitness studio, and all business owners, won’t know if the reasons they developed their services are, in fact, the reasons their customers are purchasing them. As a result, they could spend time and money launching additional products or services that are of no interest to existing customers. Or, even worse, alienate their best customers.
#2) Why did you choose to buy from our business?
Let’s use the same fitness studio as an example. Surely there were other fitness options in the area, everything from larger gyms with fitness equipment to smaller 1:1 personal training outlets. Yet something led its customers to choose them.
Asking loyal customers to identify the key features that make your business stand apart is an ideal way to learn what really matters to them. Armed with this information, you can ensure that your marketing messaging continues to hit on these key value propositions. It also ensures that features your business may offer but simply aren’t of interest are not ones that you focus your attention on.
#3) What Has Been Positive About Your Experience With Our Business?
If something is working well, you want to know so you can keep doing it well. Make sure you ask!
Consider, for instance, that the fitness studio is considering offering a powerlifting class. However, by asking this question of their most-loyal customers, they learned that customers appreciate that all of the studio’s classes can be attended by people of different fitness levels and that exercises can be modified for pre-existing injuries. By asking this question, the studio can quickly learn that powerlifting would not only be of little interest to their existing customers but it would also be a misalignment with the services customers enjoy today.
#4) What could we do to offer you a better experience?
No matter how exceptional a product or service is, there are always ways to do better or offer a more robust experience. This is why proactively asking this question matters. It’s a great way to understand how you could ensure complete customer satisfaction as well as identify opportunities where you could offer additional products or services your customers may want.
For instance, let’s say the fitness studio’s classes started at 8AM, but loyal customers frequently said they wanted extremely early-morning class offerings. By asking this question, the studio learns that investing in earlier start times could help retain their best customers as well as attract new customers who want their current services but need something earlier.
When to Ask the Golden Questions
Being sure to regularly keep your pulse on customer sentiment is key. However, asking these four golden questions is especially important whenever you’re considering expanding your business. This could either be a physical expansion through new locations or a more figurative one in terms of new products or services. After all, as you work to grow your business, you’ll want to be confident than any new decision and incremental investment you make will further delight existing customers and help attract a new batch of loyalists.
Laura is the founder and principal of PlanBeyond, a speciality marketing firm. She comes with a background spanning brand management, e-commerce, and B2B marketing in both established organizations and young startups. With experience overseeing customer research, go-to-market planning, and marketing channel execution, Laura advocates for getting the strategic fundamentals down pat to help any organization nail their growth goals. Laura earned her BA from Harvard College and MBA from Harvard Business School.