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Cheap To Keep

You've heard it all before when it comes to stats about customer retention. Acquiring a customer costs five to 10 times more than retaining one. Repeat customers spend, on average, 67 percent more. After 10 purchases a customer has referred as many as seven other people.

So, if your focus is on acquiring new customers instead of keeping the ones you have, you are off the mark. Here is a brief overview on how to retain customers.

- Ask. New York Mayor Ed Koch was famous for asking "How am I doing? He always knew where he stood, even if he wasn't always happy about the answer. So, survey your customers about their likes and dislikes. Then, follow through with the information you receive.

- Profile. Learn as much as you can about your customers and then do something with that information to show them that you value them. Find out what makes a "best" customer and then put programs in place to move more of your customers into this category.

- Reward. Humans like to be treated as if they are special, and they will return to businesses where they have had these positive experiences. Reward them with special deals, or just pay a little more attention to them. In this era of digital communication, just sending a hand-written note gets you major points.

New business is exciting, I'll admit. But it is the clients you have that will bring you the most success over the long run. Don't spend five to 10 times more to bring in that new customer. Instead, invest a fraction of that to keep your customers coming back and referring similar "best" customers.

Harry Hoover is managing principal of Hoover ink PR. He has 26 years of experience in crafting and delivering bottom line messages that ensure success for serious businesses like Brent Dees Financial Planning, Focus Four, Levolor, New World Mortgage, North Carolina Tourism, TeamHeidi, Ty Boyd Executive Learning Systems, VELUX, Verbatim and Youth Link USA.

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