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Paul Jarvis

Never ignore existing customers

When I bought a hot tub a few years ago, the sales guy was very friendly, instantly helpful and followed up several times with phone calls.

I had saved up for over a year to buy a nice one and I was super excited to get it, because being in water is one of my favourite things. I did a ton of research into which was the best one, which used the least amount of power and which brand lasted the longest. When I was ready to pull the trigger, all I needed was to talk to a salesperson to buy it, which he was happy to do.

But, then something happened that I’ve noticed many times before during the process of buying something from a business…

The second I paid for the hot tub, he completely disappeared.

He instantly became too busy trying to sell to the next person to help me with the hot tub I had literally just bought from him. And this is all after he was late on delivery, didn’t install it properly and when I needed it to be fixed (it was damaged by him during the installation), the repairs kept getting delayed—for more than six months.

Where was the helpful and friendly guy I purchased from? How could he be so responsive one day, and completely ignore me the next (after he had my money)?

I tell this story to illustrate a counterintuitive aspect of running a business: sometimes we can forget about the people who’ve just given us money.

It’s even easier to forget them online with digital products, especially during a “launch” when there may be a decent number of folks buying at the same time from us, and we’re focused on getting more buyers in the door.

Sometimes we don’t even meet or talk to these people who were interested and then pulled the trigger. (Some stats for my own products, I’ve only had a 1-on-1 email conversation with about 10% of folks who buy from me). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it means that our funnels or pitches or newsletters are working well. It’s only bad when the lack of relationship leads to a worse relationship on the other side of a sale.

With the hot tub guy story in mind, I want to talk to you about how to do better (much better) in your own business. Here are three areas where things can go wrong after someone is awesome enough to buy something from you:

Customer support for existing customers

If you’re too busy selling to be responsive to support requests, you’re doing it wrong. Yeah yeah, you’ve already got that person’s money, so your other sales emails could mean even more money, but that’s completely short-sighted. Businesses don’t last long when they treat paying customers like shit. Not only do you pretty much guarantee they won’t be a returning customer (like I’ll never buy a hot tub from that guy again), but even worse another two things happen. The first, and this isn’t the case with all products, but for some, there are additional purchases that can happen, and they won’t if you ignore customers. For example: the hot tub will require a ton of chemicals be bought throughout the life of the tub. Monthly even. And you know how many times I’ve bought those chemicals (which probably have a higher markup than the tub for him) from the hot tub guy? Zero. Over the lifetime of the tub I’ll probably spend thousands, even more than the tub’s price. The second thing, and this is true for any/all products, is that treating a customer poorly doesn’t just mean they won’t buy from you, it means they’ll tell everyone they know to do the same. So you lose the business of not just one person, but possibly everyone they’re connected with. Your customer support has to be as good (or better) than your sales communications. Otherwise the best case scenario is a single, really good launch. You’ve got to set client expectations by being at support.

Education for existing customers

Almost everything that someone buys requires a bit of education to ensure that they both understand how what they bought works, and more importantly, how to get the most out of it. People spend their money because they think what they’re buying will make them better or happier or more profitable. Even if you sell yo-yos (pretty self explanatory), the more you can show someone how to best use it, maybe even what tricks they can learn, the more pleased and satisfied they’ll be with what they bought. When it’s something much larger, like an online course, if you don’t teach them how to best use the course, and then how to get the most out of it, chances are that they won’t follow through with all the lessons and doing the work. Things like automation sequences or even webinars for existing customers can make a huge difference in taking people from owning your product, to using and benefiting from your product. Because if they’re using it and it’s serving them well, you better believe that they’ll be telling everyone they know how awesome it and you are.

Followups with existing customers

Most businesspeople like the hot tub guy have a “love ’em and leave ’em” attitude towards customers. The same applies for people that sell cars (I know because I spent years researching cars and talking to car salespeople). They’ll call and call, and follow up repeatedly prior to purchase, when you’re thinking about buying. But then, the moment you do buy, you never hear from them again. Even though, like most other things, it’s probably not the last time you’ll ever buy a hot tub or car. In fact, if you enjoy the experience of buying and the support provided after a sale, chances are you won’t shop around next time. You’ll just head straight to the hot tub store or car dealership you bought from previously and buy again. The same applies to online business: you want them to come straight to you because you did so well the first time, you’ve earned their business again.

In conclusion… existing customers matter

This advice isn’t even just about being an altruistic businessperson and running a business that takes care of its customers because it’s “the right thing to do” (even though it is). It’s about thinking past the short-term of a sale and into how to get someone to from buying from you once to being a fan of everything that you do and sell, forever. Even if you’re introverted, you can still pay attention to existing customers by asking them questions.

I don’t claim to know the specific business models of hot tub stores, but I do know this: the purchase of a hot tub is a singular event that leads to further purchases (almost every month) for the life of the tub, because they require a bunch of different chemicals and parts, at all times. Every store that sells hot tubs, also sells these chemicals. So sure, one big sale is the actual unit, but additional sales add up over years or decades of use. Those chemicals aren’t cheap either, and there’s probably some good markup on them at the retail level. So becoming completely useless to a customer after the sale of a big ticket item pretty much guarantees that they’ll go elsewhere for the life of the hot tub to buy those chemicals—which easily add up to thousands of dollars over about a decade. And, since hot tubs don’t last forever, when someone’s in the market for a new one, you don’t want to rule yourself out of their decision.

So this isn’t just about rainbows and hugs and taking care of the people that support your business (although, obviously, that’s ridiculously important). It’s about building relationships that encourage further commerce in the future. I could be going to hot tub guy’s store every few weeks to buy products from him, but instead I’m going to another store, and giving them my business.

You can’t just spend all your time doing business, you have to spend some of your time working on your business too. Which involves looking for ways to interact with the two main groups of people: customers and people who aren’t yet customers but should be. This means talking to them, surveying them, following up with them, engaging with them so you can learn why they bought (or didn’t buy), what they’re getting value from in your products (or what they don’t like), as well as what success they’ve seen from using them.

Never ignore existing customers, because if they see success from using your product, you can use that story to sell your product more effectively with case studies, success stories or even testimonials. Too many businesses stop paying attention as soon as someone pulls the trigger and buys. They spend all their time on the sales process and none of their time on customer happiness and retention.

So you don’t want to be the “hot tub guy” to your customers. Otherwise, they’ll be talking about you, but not in a good way, like I’ve just done.

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