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16 Ways to Activate Your Existing Customers

Contributor: David Brim January 25, 2012

One of the most effective ways to grow your business is by activating your existing customers. Each of us have our own personal and professional circle of influence. Your customers are no different. People also tend to associate with others that have similar interests to them or are in similar careers. Therefore your customers may be gatekeepers that can open the door to a large amount of new business for you.

Here are 16 tips that I wanted to share to help you better activate your existing customers…

1. Be a good Listener & Get to Know Your Customers

Taking the time to get to know your customers can produce immense results. By better understanding your customers you should gain valuable insights about their interests, problems, upcoming events, desires and more. This can help you tailor a marketing strategy and message that will have a higher chance of resonating with them. You can also learn what additional products and services that you can sell your existing customers. This can be done through…

  • Virtual interactions through social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn
  • Observing your customers behaviors online and offline (ie: what networking groups are they a part of, what do they discuss online, who are they connected with, what stresses them out, etc)
  • Meeting up with them physically for lunch, coffee, or drinks (This does wonders for building rapport)

Remember in business it is always easier to sell an existing customer than create a new one. Another added benefit is that if your customers have a pleasant experience, chances are that your existing customers will help speread the word to those in their professional or social circle, which can bring you even more business.
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2. Identify the top 20% of your customers

All customers are not created equal. Pareto’s principle, also known as the “80/20 Rule”, states that typically 20% of your customers will produce 80% of your sales, or purchase 80% of your products and services. These are your “power customers”. Identifying who the top 20% of your existing customers are and customizing a marketing and communications plan specifically for them will yield better results than having the misconceived notion that all customers should be treated or communicated with the same.

3. Pleasantly Surprise your Customers through random acts of appreciation or kindness

If you’ve ever received a pleasant surprise from a friend or family member you know that it often has the impact to make really brighten up your day. Your customers have a choice to be doing business with you or your competitor. All things being equal, most people prefer to do business with people that they like and have an existing relationship with.  What better way to strengthen this bond than through a random act of kindness? Remember I mentioned identifying your power customers, the top 20% that produce 80% of your sales—this niche of your existing customers is a great place to start!

4. Launch a Contest or Sweepstakes and share images of the winners on your social sites

Keeping your existing customer engaged through a contest or sweepstakes could be a fun and powerful way to grow awareness of your business. If you sell a product or have a membership website, consider having a contest where the existing customer who generates the most sign up or sales gets some sort of prize. Once you do have a winner, or winners, make sure that you take pictures and place them on your blog and social sites. There are many other contests that can be ran- for instance a raffle, or a “Name this picture” or “finish this sentence” contest. If these are done on Facebook the person with the most “Likes” in a given period will win. If utilizing Twitter a specific hashtag would need to be used and the comment with the most “Re-tweets” wins. This is a fun way to raise awareness and engage your existing customer base.

5. Build a team of insiders

Consider developing a team of 5-10 customers that you add to a team of “insiders”. This team would be an extended part of your team, not on payroll, but a group that you would take offer very exclusive deals for and/or regularly engage in random acts of kindness for, as previously mentioned.  The hope would be that in return they would help to spread the word amongst their audience.  Ideally these insiders should be the most influential of your customers that are willing to participate.  You may also include certain responsibilities or requirements for each insider to complete to maintain this exclusive position.

6. Incentivize them to Spread the word

Affiliate marketing can be a very powerful way to grow the right business.  Consider starting an affiliate program for your existing customers that would enable them to generate additional income by sharing their experiences and appreciation of your product or services.  The contributions of each affiliate can be tracked in a number of ways, but often is done through a unique referral link.

7. Leverage the power of Social Proof by seeking out testimonials

Ever looked up at the sky when amongst a crowd of people and noticed after a while more and more people stop and look? There could be nothing there at all, but people tend to be influenced by social proof. The thought is “If all of these people are looking, must be something to see”. The same can be said about your business. If all of these people are doing business with you and having such a good experience, it must be something worth exploring for them as well.  Seek to acquire testimonials from as many happy customers and influencers as you can to fully leverage the power of social proof and increase your credibility.

8. Create Exclusive Content for your Fans or existing customers

Consider creating exclusive quality content for fans or existing customers only. This could be a webinar series, whitepaper, or specific kind of video. You can utilize Facebook, if this is the appropriate medium for your business to engage with your customer, and have “Fan Only Content” that will display only after someone has “liked” your page.

9. Offer your top customers special deals or discounts

Consider offering your top customers special deals or discounts. These discounts could be exclusively for them, or consider enabling them to share these discounts with others in their network. One way to do this is through a discount or coupon code if online sales are occurring.

10. Allow your customers to feel a part of the process through a focus group or survey

Participating in the process of product development, or contributing ideas on ways a product or service offering can improve is often times rewarding to many customers. When customers see that their advice was taken (even if you were going to do it anyway) it gives them a sense of ownership and a more significant connection to the product and your brand.  Many customers love to say “That was my idea”. Microsoft recognized this when crafting and launching their “Windows 7 was my idea” campaign. I want to note that encouraging formal feedback is great, but you should also utilize brand monitoring and keyword tracking tools monitor what is being said about your brand, your competitors and industry trends. This will help you further improve your product or service offering even if it is not in direct response to your team.

11. Throw an exclusive party or event for your top customers

As a marketer you want people to associate certain feelings with your brand.  This feeling could be productivity, fun, health or safety. Before jumping in and planning to throw a crazy party stop and think does this align with the feeling that I want my customers to have? If your product  or service is specific to a given industry it may be wise to hire  a recognized speaker, or speakers that you sponsor. If you know and understand your customers your options widen significantly.  You could hire musicians that they enjoy, have a themed party, or create some sort of fun game (ex: scavenger hunt, etc)

12. Provide digital badges to your customers for their blog, social network or websites

Depending on how tech savvy your audience is you may consider providing some sort of digital badge to your top customers. You have to get creative on this one, because people don’t want to simply advertise your brand for free.  The trick is to make it about them. Possibly after winning a contest, or maybe you have recognized their business for an award out of many others in their industry. AllTop does a great job at this with their “Confirmation that I Kick A**, Best of the Best and other badges.

13. Send out Promotional Products or “Swag”

Sending top customers promotional products or a branded care package can be a great way to activate them to increase your brand awareness amongst their circle of influence. If they are on social sites they will often share this news with their network and post pictures. By receiving tangible products it makes a brand more real to the individual. Getting creative here can also pay dividends. Strive to align your promotional product with the benefit of your brand. For example- does your product eliminate stress? If so, why not produce a branded stress ball? One more note: There are many different types of promotional products and they can be expensive investment. Before doing this type of initiative you have a general understanding of your lifetime value of your customer and attrition rate.

14. Align your brand with your customers interests, emotions, or figures they admire or respect through your content

If you’ve taken time to understand your customer’s interests, routines and entertainment preferences why not mold your content to align with them? There are a number of ways to do this, from aligning your content to a holiday related theme to providing tips comparing how they can accomplish “X goal” like “X Popular Figure in their market”. Writers at the popular marketing blog Copyblogger often do a great job at this. For example:

15. Associate with other brands your customers enjoy

By aligning yourself with other complementary brands your customers have an affinity for you can gain points. This can be done through a formal partnership, co-op marketing initiative or informally through a give-a-way of a ticket, product or service offering from the other brand.

16. Engage with your customers to strengthen relationships through Social Networks, Groups, Blogs and Email Campaigns

Increasing the amount of touch points and frequency of impressions your brand has with your existing customer base will help keep you top of mind. Take time to build rapport with your audience in online watering holes that they frequent. Don’t get stuck in the idea that you have to be on a given social network. Facebook is by far the most widely known social network with hundreds of millions of people on it, but if your strategy is more B2B than LinkedIn may be a better alternative. Furthermore there are millions of niche blogs, forums and online groups that could provide a fertile environment to connect with your existing customers and form relationships with new ones. Finding refreshing ways to connect with your customers through destinations they frequent both in person and virtually is a great way to activate your existing customer base.

I hope you found this post to be valuable. So what do you think? Did I miss anything?

Feel free to tweet @davidbrim and let me know your thoughts.

David