Did you say “Marketing to your existing customers”? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t. You’re in good company – this is the single most neglected group of potential income generators. Frankly they aren’t even on most marketers’ radar.

I was guilty of this omission myself in my corporate marketing career until I had a “Duh” moment and made it a priority to find out who these “A List” clients were, and connect with them. Within a year after offering genuine appreciation for their patronage, and very targeted marketing aimed at making their professional lives easier with select products, my team had increased our ROI exponentially with almost no allocated budget.

We all know that it costs five to seven times as much to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. But did you know that existing customers purchase more often, and spend more, than new customers? Not to mention they refer you to their peers in far higher numbers. And nestled within this group is that “sweet spot” of clients: The 20% that will provide your company with 80% of its income.

Yet marketers consistently spend much more to get new (expensive) leads than they do to market to the customers they already have. This got me thinking. In a time of diminishing budgets and doing less with more, isn’t this a group that should be getting serious attention?

Taking care of this targeted audience can be surprisingly simple. But be careful. If you start just mindlessly pushing products and services with no thought for how it is (or is not) helpful to their business, you’ll build resentment instead of nurturing important clients.

Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

• Give them some of those extra trade show passes you have, or host a special “thank you” cocktail for them after the show floor closes.
• Create a webinar or podcast, specifically for them.
• Send them special offers, and mention why you think this will be a helpful product for them and how it will make their business lives easier.
• Ask their advice! On your product, your service, how you’re doing, how to market to them. These customers can be a gold mine of suggestions not just for your marketing, but of products they need that you could develop, and they would purchase.
• A card on the anniversary of their first purchase thanking them and asking if there is anything you can do for them is powerful. So is a simple birthday card.
• Send them news that would be of interest to them. Shoot them an email with a link to a story that impacts their business.
• How about a gift card with an invitation to “have lunch or coffee on me”?

In B2C world these are called customer appreciation campaigns and they are incredibly powerful. B2B marketers could do well to take a page or two out of this playbook and pay more attention to their own gold mine of clients. Some of the ideas on this list may not have a call to action or even mention your product at all. But you can be sure when that client needs something; you’ll be the first one they call.

Climb out of the “me, me, me” rut and start nurturing those clients who have the biggest potential to make your business 10, 100, even a thousand times better. By reaching out, making an effort to make them feel special, letting them know how important they are to you, you can dramatically raise profits without raising costs, as I learned to do in my previous life as a marketing director.

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