Customer Aftercare: How To Spend Less & Sell More

By Ernest W. Nicastro

My wife likes to shop at the local Safeway. Is it because of the
competitive prices? Yes, thatís part of it. Is it because of the
convenient location? Yes, thatís part of it too. She also likes
their produce department. But the biggest reason she likes to shop
at the local Safeway is ìMarshall.î

Now Marshall is very good check-out person. Heís fast, efficient and
seldom makes a mistake. But his ìjob competencyî is not the reason
why my wife keeps going back. She keeps going back because Marshall
always has a warm and friendly smile. And because when Marshall
asks, ìHow are you today?î well, by golly, you just know heís
sincere about it.

You see, for those few minutes while sheís a customer in his
check-out line Marshall makes my wife feel genuinely valued and
appreciated. And week after week she buys our groceries at
ìMarshallísî Safeway.

As salespeople and business owners very few of us will have the same
weekly, face-to-face opportunity as Marshall to make our customers
feel valued and appreciated. And yet if weíre smart weíll make sure
we have our very own ìMarshallî Plan in effect. Weíll make sure ó
once weíve ìrescuedî our customer from the grips of our competitor ó
that we have a Customer Aftercare Program in place to maintain the
health and increase the profitability of that relationship.

This makes perfect marketing sense. And, with studies showing that
the total cost of getting a new customer to be 10 times that of
simply holding onto an existing one it can also make you plenty of
dollars and cents. Particularly when you consider that a five
percent improvement in customer retention can lead to an 85-percent
increase in profits.

A One Time Sale? Or, a Lifetime Sale?

For example, ima gine for a moment that you work in the real estate
industry as either a real estate agent or loan officer. John and
Judy First-Time Home buyer purchase their first home or close on
their first loan through your company. Assuming that John and Judy
are upwardly-mobile professionals theyíll probably purchase a
minimum of another 4-5 homes during their lifetimes.

If youíre in the lending business, thatís another 4ñ5 loans, at a
minimum. If youíre an agent or a broker there exists the potential
for another 8ñ10 transactions. (Counting the sells as well as the
buys.) John and Judy alone ó even if they never send you a single
referral ó are conceivably worth many thousands of dollars to you
during their lifetimes. But if youíre actively working on this
relationshipÖ if youíre putting forth a consistent and concentrated
effort to make John and Judy feel valued and appreciatedÖ then
theyíll send you lots of referrals.

Now stop a moment and multiply the above example by 40, 50, 500 or
1000 and youíll understand why todayís savviest marketers are
placing more emphasis on ìShare of Cust omerî and ìLife time Valueî
and less on ìShare of Market.î

Good Communication Is The Key

The key to increasing your ìShare of Customerî and maximizing
ìLifetime Valueî lies in continually strengthening the bond between
you and your customer. An organized and consistent communications
program will keep you in touch with your customers on a regular
basis ó and increase your Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA) with them.
Plus, by welcoming and encouraging their feedback youíll be
reminding them how very important and very special they are to you.
And, we all like to feel special, valued, appreciated and ìloved.î

Your objective as a home business owner or sales executive is to
turn each new customer into a walking, talking, word-of-mouth
advertisement for you, your products and (or) services. And here are
a few examples of the direct mail communications that should be in
any good Customer Aftercare Letter Program:

ï Thank You Letter ó To be mailed the very day the sale is closed.
Sure, this is something we all do ó right? Well maybe all of us do
it but I know from experience that a number of those other folks

ï Letter From ìMr. Bigî ó To be mailed 10 days to 2 weeks after the
account is opened. In a smaller company it should come from the
president. In a larger company, a senior manager. This letter is a
warm ownership/senior management welcome and also informs the new
customer that, ultimately, ìthe buck stops here.î Sample wording.
ìIf the product or products youíve purchased, or anyone in my
organization fails to meet with your complete approval ó now or in
the future ó I would like to know about it.î

ï How Did I/We Do? Letter ó Mailed a week after the sale. Itís a
friendly letter explaining how important honest feedback is to you
because itís the only way you can improve. Attached to the letter is
a brief customer satisfaction survey and stamped, return envelope.
The feedback you receive from this survey will be of tremendous
value to you.

ï Happy Anniversary Letter ó Sample opening: ìItís been a year (___
years) since you: opened your account (closed on your house, made
your equipment purchase) with us and I just wanted to say Happy
Anniversary and thanks again. We look forward to working with you
for many years to comeî

ï At Random, Customer Appre cia tion Letter ó Sample opening: ìDo
you ever get so caught up in the mundane everyday responsibilities
of your job that you sometimes overlook things? I know I do. And
thatís why Iím writing you.î From that point you go on to tell your
customer how much you value and appreciate them.

ï How Are We Doing?/How Have We Done? Survey Cover Letter ó You
should regularly survey your customers, at least once a year. Just
the act of sending out the survey sends them a message that they are
important to you. But the greatest value and benefit to you and your
business is the feedback youíll get on how you can improve.

Sample copy: ìWeíre committed to offering you affordable
high-performance widgets backed up by a level of service that sets
the standard for the industry. Your feedback is of tremendous help
to us in measuring how well weíre meeting that commitment.î

ï Birthday Cards ó Visit any Petco store and youíll find forms to
fill out with your petís name, address and birthday. Complete one
and during the month of your petís birthday Petco will send your
ìFidoî or ìFifiî a birthday card and an invitation to come to the
store and get a 10 percent discount.

Shouldnít we treat our human customers with similar care and
thoughtfulness? I think you know the answer.

ï Hand Written ìCongratulationsî Cards ó Whenever you or your
assistant read or hear about awards, appointments, promotions and
other forms of recognition earned by your clients ó or their
children ó acknowledge this with a letter or card. This is a small
thing to do but it is greatly appreciated and will pay big

In addition to the above communications youíll also be sending out
your normal promotional mailings and regular reminders of the
benefits of doing business with you and your company. Plus, youíll
also want to send a quarterly newsletter.

With the inexpensive database marketing technology available today
thereís little reason for any company not to have a
well-thought-out, consistent and clearly defined Customer Aftercare
Program. Thereís only one drawback ó itís not a ìquick fixî for low
sales. But the benefits are many, including: maximized customer
retention and loyalty, reduced marketing costs and higher profits.

Most important, your ìCustomer Aftercareî program will set you apart
from the vast majority of your competition. And give you the
competitive edge that leads to higher sales and profits. HBM

Ernest Nicastro is the President of Positive Response, a direct
response advertising and marketing consulting company. Positive
Response specializes in compelling, response-producing sales letters
and lead-generation programs and servicesÖ based on proven
principles and strategies that have generated hundreds of billions
of dollars in sales. He can be reached at 425-235-1237 or by e-mail

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