Regular, loyal customers are the lifeblood of any business - I think we would all agree on that. How is it then that many of the big players in our market concern themselves, almost obsessively, with market share by building up numbers rather than customer loyalty?

It is an interesting debate, and a little bit irksome when you have been a loyal customer for many years and find that there are stellar offers made to people who may never have used your supplier's products or services. This is especially the case when that particular business has a monopoly.

I can admit to seriously considering cancelling a long held SkyTV subscription to take advantage of a special offer they had at one time or another. The advent of Netflix and Lightbox means that there is now added incentive in this market to 'try out new things' and return later like the prodigal son. The only thing keeping me there right now is ESPN and the appetite of the females in our household for the Living Channel.

The key to client acquisition strategies is targeting and then winning over the 'high value' customers and for that you need to understand first who that 'ideal customer' is. In the first instance, what you want are clients who earn you margin and will either grow their spend with you and / or bring intangible benefits like referrals.

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Regardless of your preferences, however, recruitment of this kind does not come without risk or the need for investment. In some cases you may even need to take a hard look at yourself, your business and how you are operating to attract new customers and retain existing ones.

To be successful it pays to invest in understanding your market and its needs and then, if necessary, refining what you do to meet the market.

And when you are starting out, or introducing a new product or service, you often have little choice but to go out and attract new business. However there are also significant gains to be made with your existing clientele - from what I have read, the cost of a 'new' sale to an existing customer is often lower than that for a completely new one. It follows that the real return is actually higher.

With existing customers you already have a relationship, so there is no 'getting to know you' phase. There is also a probability that the existing customer has not experienced all the value that you have to offer. So you need to tell them!

Most importantly your existing customer base will have built a level of trust with you about who you are and what you offer. If that trust is there they are more likely to buy from you rather than take their business elsewhere.

My belief is that attracting new customers is important but you get a double benefit by looking after your current customer group.


*Balance Consulting is a Whanganui consultancy specialising in business strategy, process excellence and leadership mentoring - contact Russell Bell on 021 2442421 or John Taylor on 027 4995872.