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How (and why) to market to your existing customers

By Alexandra Gavril - August 20, 2014

one wayDid you know that it costs up to seven times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one? Or that you are four times more likely to close a business deal with an existing customer than you are with a new prospect?

So many businesses focus on bringing in new customers they forget about what’s right under their nose. One of the best, easiest and most predictable ways to increase revenue is to sell more to existing customers.

Why? Because they already know about your company and the products they have bought from you. This means that you don’t need to establish your reputation or the quality of the products or services you sell. They’re already customers so they are already convinced.

By simply looking at their past purchases and offering them other relevant goods and services, you can convince them to spend a little more and thus increase your revenue. Also, the fact that you’re recommending other products they might find useful shows that you understand their needs and care about their satisfaction. What’s more, they are loyal and more likely to tell you what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. They are also more likely to recommend you to their friends.

So, sure, put some energy into new customer acquisition but make sure you come up with creative ways to sell more to your current customers as it’s just as important, if not more.

Here are a few ways you can get more business from your current customers.

Cross-sell by referencing their past purchases

One of the simplest ways to generate more revenue from existing customers – especially for ecommerce sites – is to look at their past purchases. Based on what customers have bought in the past you can determine other needs that those purchases might trigger.

This established sales technique is called cross-selling.

Amazon cross-selling

Just like in a chemist where you find dental floss, toothpaste and mouthwash next to the toothbrushes, on Amazon you’ll find other recommendations next to the book you’re buying. By positioning related items together on your website, you can maximise the potential for cross-selling.

Big businesses like Amazon invest in advanced recommendation engines, while smaller businesses simply set up manual triggers to get the job done. Whatever your approach, think of what your current customer might like to buy from you based on what they’ve already bought so far.

For example, say one of your customers has bought a printer. Anticipate his needs by also recommending an ink cartridge. If you sell plane tickets, you might also consider offering services like travel insurance, housing or car rental.

When you look at their part purchases, also try to identify patterns. For example, if you sell books and notice that a handful of those who have purchased a copy of John Fante’s Ask the dust have also bought Knut Hamsun’s Hunger, then you need to use this information to your advantage. Set up a campaign and promote Hamsun’s books to every customer that buys Fante’s books because you know those customers have a propensity to purchase Hamsun’s works.

You can also offer incentives to ensure customers end up buying the product. One of the most effective ways is to bundle together related products in a package deal.

Here’s a good example from Amazon:

Amazon cross-selling 2

Now, say you don’t have an ecommerce site but a cleaning business. The process is the same: if a customer has used your carpet-cleaning services in the past, you can also recommend your curtain cleaning services.

Make loyal customers your early adopters and referrers


You can also rely on your happy customers to send new business your way, especially when you release new products and services. Treat them like the special people they are and offer them exclusivity or the chance to try out a new product line before releasing it to the public. For example, if you launch a new product, send them a preview to get in on the pre-sale or make them part of the beta group so they can try it out first and provide feedback to improve it. Then offer them a discount or a preferable pricing as a thank-you for taking the time to offer their valuable feedback.

Best case scenario – you upsell your current customers and they refer new business your way. Worst case scenario – you get some valuable feedback that you can use to improve your product or service. And all it takes is sending a few automated emails.

Reward them for being loyal

There’s nothing that makes customers feel more special than a reward. Loyalty programs not only increase sales but also improve customer satisfaction.

Here are a few ideas for creating your own loyalty program:

  • Offer preferable rates for loyal customers
  • Provide bonus product or service if they have bought before
  • Create a program that promotes multiple purchases (buy three and get the fourth free)
  • Points program – each purchase is worth points, when they amass a certain number of points they get a reward of some kind.

Dealing with unhappy customers

An unhappy customer is a chance for you to improve. And it’s never too late to win back that unhappy customer who is displeased with your product or service and thus is unlikely to buy more.

But how can you identify all those unhappy customers who need a little extra TLC? Many companies use a net promoter score (NPS) that helps them determine how happy (or unhappy) a customer is.

NPS is based on a direct question: How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague? The scoring for this answer is most often based on a 0 to 10 scale.

net promoter score

Make a list of those who have a score of six or lower and put aside some one-on-one time with each of them. Instead of a sales pitch, present it as an opportunity to get feedback from them, and to determine what problems or issues those customers are facing. Remember, you’ve invested money into acquiring those customers so don’t give up on them. Do everything in your power to find out how you can help solve their problem and how you can make your product or service part of the solution.

How about neutral customers?

You probably also have some customers who have bought from you but are neither happy or unhappy with your business. Maybe they just haven’t yet had the chance to see how awesome you are. Sure, they bought that project management application from you but didn’t use it that much so they don’t yet know its full potential.

So how can you turn those neutral customers into your biggest advocates? Make them successful. And how can you do that? Teach them how they can use your solution to make money. Write e-books and blog posts, create videos and then send them emails with those educational materials.

For example, say a customer bought your project management app in an attempt to get more organised. Perhaps they are using your app to add tasks and track the status of each to see how their team is performing. But they never spent time using another feature that lets them create separate boards for each team member so everyone knows exactly what they need to work on. That’s your opportunity to send them an email that reintroduces them to that feature and how using it can help a team get more organised and work more efficiently.

Identifying opportunities like this is how you turn a “meh” customer into an “omg, I love this company” customer. And then they’ll come back wanting to buy more and more from you.

Other ways to ensure you get more business from your current customers

  • Always add value. Never stop improving your services and always think of ways to make your service faster, or your ordering process easier, or what other features you can add to help solve their problems.
  • Make it a priority to share your knowledge and expertise to help existing customers be successful in their own businesses. Think about the information you possess that can be of benefit to your customers.
  • Give them ideas on how to improve their business. Try to find solutions that customers may not find on their own, especially if your customers are just starting out. Become the greatest information resource your customers have.

Your turn now

I bet you have some other great ideas on marketing to current customers, so why not share them with us in a comment below?