Many people use the terms ‘customer’ and ‘client’ interchangeably, even in the business spectrum. While they appear synonymous in a thesaurus, their distinctions become more apparent when you get into the nitty-gritty details.
Experts break down these differences into three categories:
- Degree of Purchase – A customer purchases a product or service from the business, while a client asks for added support or service after their purchase.
- Recurrence – A customer usually buys from the business once, while a client commits to purchasing a second or third time, building a relationship.
- Time-based Goals – A customer aims to benefit from a one-time transaction, while a client hopes to benefit from a long-term relationship with the company.
In this context, a business can’t have clients without customers. Every person that buys something starts as a customer. Growing more satisfied with post-sales support, the customer soon becomes a client. This conversion is essential for businesses as more clients translate to increased reputation in their respective markets.
According to Randy Illig, who has coached leaders in various Fortune 500 companies, a customer-centric sales model is the best way to achieve this. Solving the customers’ everyday predicaments with quality products and post-sales service builds enough trust to turn them into valuable clients. The competition, he adds, will eventually turn in the customer-centric business’ favor.
By using this model as a base, figuring out effective conversion measures will be much easier. You’d want to keep your existing customers and foster your relationship with them since attracting new ones is costlier in the long run.
Here are some ways to get started on building your clientele.
- Identify and Improve KPIs
Before initiating any major marketing push, it’s vital to identify your business’s key performance indicators (KPIs). Based on set goals, these parameters will determine how effective any employed marketing strategy has been. There are various examples of KPIs, customer conversion rate being one of them, but there’s no need to aim for all of them.
Experts recommend having between 4 and 10 KPIs that possess five qualities: clear, quantifiable, realistic, relevant, and time-bound. Therefore, your KPIs must:
- Know what they’ll measure and why it’s essential for them to do so
- Be able to provide sufficient data based on a well-defined standard
- Allow the company to achieve the goals stated
- Comprise goals that matter the most to a business’s long-term plans
- Be achievable within a reasonable time frame
In terms of customer conversion, some relevant KPIs include conversion rate, lead generation, cost per acquisition, and media mentions. Experts advise against using metrics that don’t tell the whole story, such as revenue. This is because cutting marketing costs can increase revenue as much as getting more customers, which can lull businesses into a false sense of achievement.
Once you have your KPIs, the next step is to improve upon them. You’ll most likely have to invest in a thing or two, given that achieving target KPIs involve upgrading a business’ capabilities.
- Maintain Open Lines
With the current pandemic limiting face-to-face interactions, phones and the internet have become the primary means of keeping in touch with businesses. Nowhere is this truer than the gradual shift from office-based to remote work, which experts predict to continue years after the pandemic.
Of course, as leadership author Alyssa Rapp states, ‘there’s no substitute for looking people in the whites of their eyes.’ But having a reliable communication suite will significantly help keep your business in touch with customers and clients. A study of 2,000 consumers from various age groups found out that their preferred mode of communication must be convenient, reliable, and fast.
Today’s available solutions, such as Text Message Online, fulfill all three criteria with ease. Text messages are less likely to get lost in one’s inbox than email, allowing the recipient to access them more freely. The software employed integrates important and useful features–from local number matching to interactive voice response–providing a one-size-fits-most solution to end-users.
However, employing one medium doesn’t mean phasing out the other. The study mentioned earlier also discovered that email remains the most widely-used medium. Keeping more than one way of reaching out to your business, whether email or social media, assures that contacts will get through even if one medium becomes unavailable.
- Provide Excellent Support
Customer conversion is a cascading effect. Not only will a satisfied customer buy from a business again, but the customer is also more likely to spread the word about the experience. Conversely, a customer who’s had a bad experience with a business will likely share it among friends and family. With the internet, good and bad reviews can spread like wildfire.
Most people think of businesses that go the extra mile as role models of excellent customer service. After all, a simple Google search for ‘good customer service examples’ will bring up news stories lauding their actions. But it’s important to know that the businesses in these stories had the means to deliver; committing without the means is a recipe for a PR disaster.
Most customers don’t expect anything more from a business than resolving any issues or concerns they have. The best thing a company can still do for its customers is to be knowledgeable enough to think of and offer a solution. A study conducted by American Express shows that six out of ten people value service insight and knowledge more than anything.
As mentioned earlier, keeping an open line is vital for lending an ear to grievances and offering ways to address them. As customers expect a speedy response, a business can benefit from flexible solutions provided by companies like Call Cowboy. For instance, an auto-dialing system connects to specific contacts in a snap, whether you’re making calls or sending text messages.
- Innovate Customer Loyalty
A customer loyalty program involves rewarding customers that consistently purchase a business’s product or service over time. The most common example includes offering discounts or an extra item after a set number of purchases. In recent years, however, business leaders have urged to redefine the way businesses reward their patrons, using what experts call artificial advancement.
In 2011, as part of an experiment, a local carwash gave away 300 customer loyalty cards. Half of the cards rewarded customers with a free wash after eight purchases, while the other half rewarded customers after ten but offered the first two washes for free. The experiment lasted for nine months.
Both cards still require customers to purchase eight washes, and revenue for the carwash stays the same. However, the second card lured in 82% more customers than the first because it offered two free washes as a head start. Artificial advancement takes advantage of human psychology, namely the tendency to seeing a goal through to the end once initiated.
When thinking of a customer loyalty program using artificial advancement, consider the following:
- Offer freebies to help customers get a head start.
- Use points instead of purchases to tally progress.
- Focus on customers that have invested more.
- Break down huge goals into smaller steps.
- Clarify the steps that customers still need to do.
But above everything else, avoid promising more than what your business can do. This dangerous pitfall has managed to pull the plug on customer loyalty programs of many big-name brands–from Subway’s Sub Club cards to Target’s smart credit cards. No one likes to remain loyal to the brand only for the brand to let them down in the end.
- Reward Referrals
At the start of this piece, it stated that attracting new customers is costlier than retaining old ones. Despite this (and some practicing both), more businesses still focus on the former. It’s also worth mentioning that, out of 100 new customers, about 20 will bite. Meanwhile, out of 100 clients, about 70 will keep going.
For the record, there’s nothing wrong with drawing in new patrons. Staying competitive in today’s economy relies on a flourishing customer base, which should include both new and old customers. However, there are smarter ways of going about it–not necessarily spending so much cash that it’ll damage your business in the long run.
One way is to take advantage of your clients’ satisfactory experience when dealing with your business. Consider offering them a reward for every friend, relative, or colleague they refer to your excellent product or service. Word of mouth doesn’t cost much, if anything, since the clients themselves are the ones spreading the word.
Referral programs can come in the form of either rebates or discounts. Cash rebates work because the customer gets money for every referral that purchases a business’s products and services. But if you’re not comfortable about giving away cash, discounts are an ideal alternative.
For inspiration, look at the following examples:
- In 2000, PayPal’s referral program gave USD$20.00 for new accounts and another USD$20.00 for referring another user. Although the terms and conditions have changed today, it catapulted the service to a staggering 100 million users at the time.
- For two years, Dropbox’s user base had doubled daily, from 100,000 in 2008 to a stunning 4 million in 2010. However, instead of cash, they offered to increase a user’s storage space by 500 MB for every referral, capped at 16 GB.
- Tesla’s current program features 1,000 miles of free Supercharging with every car purchase for the referral and the one who made the referral. For every purchase of Tesla’s solar roof, the program offers $400 to the referrer and $100 to the referred customer.
While referral programs go hand-in-hand with loyalty programs, they’re not the same. The former requires more investment than the latter, which a small business can gradually build with a growing reputation. It’s all the more reason not to promise more than what you can afford.
- Accept Responsibility When Needed
Being accountable for anything that goes wrong with the business may seem the obvious thing to do. However, many entrepreneurs today tend to point fingers all over the place, pinning the blame on anyone but themselves.
A business is only as immune to simple blunders and oversights as the people running them, which is not at all. It applies even if you, the owner, didn’t cause the mistake directly. You’re not merely responsible for the enterprise but also for your choice of people to help run it.
When a big problem arises with your enterprise, consider doing the following:
- Accept full responsibility, even if evidence shows you’re partly to blame.
- Apologize to the customer affected by the problem and the public at large.
- Show genuine empathy and support to your customers despite the mishap.
- Conduct a thorough investigation and share your findings with the public.
- Offer fair compensation to the affected customer.
Micah Solomon, bestselling author of ‘Ignore Your Customers (and They’ll Go Away),’ says that customers are smart enough to accept that some things can and will go wrong. However, they can’t take getting a laundry list of excuses. Even when the outcry grows, approach the problem in a calm and collected disposition; a speedy and amicable resolution is all that matters.
Businesses with enough awareness to tell if they’re in the wrong are appealing to many customers. More alluring are those that learn from their mistakes and adopt proper measures. To quote Oscar Wilde: ‘To err once is human, to err twice is careless.’
After all this, it’s easy to think that your business needs more clients than customers, but you need both to grow. Conversion is a funnel as it needs input from one side to produce output from the other. With the right tools and mindset, it’s possible to attract new customers and retain existing ones at the same time.
With modern business practices, however, the lines dividing customer and client are slowly fading. While distinguishing the two still holds some importance, whether the person is a new or old patron matters little today. A business should offer the same products or services, provide the same quality of support, and nurture an equal relationship with everyone.