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Winning a lifetime of loyalty

Chimney SweepA year ago, a very old friend of mine took me out for a drink and told me that he’d decided to give up his corporate life, and set up shop as a chimney sweep. I kid you not; this is an absolutely true story.

While I was still reeling from the shock, and asking the obvious questions about mid-life crises, he asked me about marketing. We spoke for a while about advertising and customer acquisition, before I moved the conversation on to the real heart of the matter: repeat business.

Repeat business is absolutely fundamental to any form of sustained growth. With pretty much any business, the first sale is the most expensive by far, and if every new customer is simply replacing a lapsed one, you’ll be running forever just to stand still. So these are the big questions that every business should ask itself:

How do you persuade customers to keep coming back, regularly and reliably, not just for a while, but for a lifetime? And how do you prompt them to buy again and again, in a way that doesn’t cost you money, and doesn’t completely hack them off?

And thus, on the third beer, the “Chimney Care Plan” was born – a unique and complimentary personal reminder service, just for the most loyal customers, with a frequency set by them. By the fourth beer, a serviette had turned into a printed card for contact details and service options, and so the evening went.

I thought no more of it until last weekend, when we met up again for a beer. “How’s it going?” I asked, “Did you ever try that care plan idea?”

“It’s strange,” he replied, “I reckon about ninety percent of customers have signed up for it - it’s really only the students that don’t. I’m half booked up for next year already, and that’s without any marketing.”

“But that’s brilliant,” I said, “That’s amazing. Why is it strange?”

He put down his pint, and with a furrowed brow replied “They keep asking how much it costs. I don’t think they can believe the reminder service is free.”

Bottom Line: Loyalty is the lifeblood of any business, and the regularly returning customer is a cornerstone of growth. How can you make it so incredibly easy for your customers to buy what you sell, that they actually see your marketing as a service in its own right?

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