Retention Marketing: 10 Ideas to Keep Your Current Customers

Posted by David Kindervater on Apr 18, 2019

Did you know it costs five to 25 times more money to recruit new customers than it does to keep your current ones? That's just the beginning when it comes to impressive retention marketing statistics. When you increase your customer retention rates by just 5%, you can boost your profits between 25% and 95%. Now that's a powerful incentive to focus on your retention marketing strategy. Some might even say that customer retention is the new marketing.

No matter what type of business you're involved in, all signs point toward trying to keep your current customers satisfied. It doesn't mean you shouldn't look for new customers. It just means you need to spend a good portion of your marketing efforts on keeping those customers who have already purchased your product or service.

Here are 10 retention marketing ideas you can use to keep your current customers. Put these into practice on a regular basis and you'll create customers for life.

1. Surprise Your Customers with Small Gifts

marketing swagEveryone likes to receive a surprise in the mail from time to time. Imagine how your customers will feel if they receive something from you in their mailbox and they didn't pay for it or even expect it. This is going to instantly add to the love they already have for your brand.

According to LeeAnn Renninger, co-author of the book "Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected," surprises will boost our emotions almost 400%.

That explains why we love good surprises (like a gift from your company) and hate bad ones.

Studies also show that feeling unappreciated is the top reason customers lose their loyalty to a business. Don't let this happen to your brand.

Here's an example. Online pet food/product retailer Chewy uses surprise reciprocity to reward their customers for their patronage. It's not uncommon for a Chewy customer to receive a spur-of-the-moment gift or card—or a painting of their pet. The gift doesn't need to be expensive. With your customers, it truly is the thought that counts.

2. Build Trust with Your Customers

If you can keep a customer for three years, they'll spend almost 70% more than they did their first year, on average. To get there, you'll need to build upon their trust during that time. That's an ongoing process.

It takes time to develop trust with your customers, but it begins with credibility from the outset. Your brand needs to be credible in all your business dealings—from the way you present yourself to the promises you make, the quality of the product or service you sell, and the way you treat everyone. This includes your employees and consumers alike.

Your customers need to trust and believe in you. They don't want to be sold to all the time. Avoid contacting them only when you want them to make a purchase. If they think every communication is a sales pitch, you'll lose their trust.

One way to achieve this is to provide consistent and helpful information. Merry Maids wants you to hire them to clean your home, but they're not hitting you up for a sale each time they contact you—or post to one of their social accounts. Instead, they consistently provide their customers (and followers) with helpful tips on how to keep their home tidy. They'll even tell you how to get nail polish out of your carpets.

3. Ask Your Customers for Their Opinions

If you really care about your customers, you'll want to know what they have to say. Alan Weiss, an American entrepreneur, author, and public speaker, says:

“Ask your customers to be part of the solution, and don’t view them as part of the problem.”

Ask your customers how they feel about your products and/or services. This will not only make your relationship with them stronger, it will help to develop content for customer retention. When you give your customers a chance to express themselves, they'll speak their minds and share their feelings about your brand.

Use customer feedback surveys to your advantage. Look at these surveys as an opportunity, not a chore, because the numbers back up their validity. The average response rate for an email survey is about 25%.

A customer retention survey will help you gauge how loyal your customers are toward your brand and how they experience your product or service. Familiarize yourself with two key measurements:

  1. Churn rate. This is the rate at which your customers are leaving. If you had 100 customers and 20 of them left (let's say they canceled their subscription), your churn rate would be 20%. Churn and burn. 
  2. Retention rate. Using the above example, your retention rate would be 75%.

So obviously, the higher your retention rate, the better. Ask your customers about the convenience and quality of your product or service. Ask them about their customer service experiences and if they would recommend your brand to a friend. Do they trust your brand? Do they consider your brand reliable? Get the answers and explanations, learn from what you do right and wrong, and apply the information to your future actions.

Learn From Customer Complaints

Don't live in fear of the occasional negative review or feedback from complaining customers. Use these instances to learn and grow because they're your greatest marketing assets.

Complaints allow you to learn of any deficiencies that exist with your products and services. They uncover the things you need to improve upon and let you know what's important to your customers—what they expect from your brand.

Naturally, you can't please everyone because there are always going to be some customers that will be unhappy no matter how much you cater to their every need. In the big picture, those customers will be few and far between.

4. Stay Attentive to Your Customers' Needs

retention marketingStaying on the topic of customer feedback, be sure to respond to all types of customer communications quickly. This includes both positive and negative reviews, and questions you receive via direct mail, email, and your social media channels. Your customers expect a response to their email within an hour, so make your prompt response a priority. One great idea that treats customer service as a marketing tool is to adopt an automated reply system that will let them know you received their message.

(There's more on automation below.)

With social media, the average wait time is a ridiculous nine hours. You can certainly get ahead of this statistic and in doing so, you'll likely rank ahead of your competitors.

Jet Blue, the sixth-largest airline in the U.S., uses their social channels to not only interact with their happy customers, but also to problem solve and address the concerns of dissatisfied ones. They reply to any @mentions, but they also monitor keywords and relevant hashtags to see who's talking about them. Then they respond to those as well. This is a great habit for every brand to adopt.

5. Educate Your Customers

A great way to stay in touch with your customers is to continually provide valuable information to them. Email newsletters are one of the best customer retention strategies you can use. The Neilson Norman Group reports that newsletters are great for cultivating relationships with your customers, even when they're not actively making buying decisions.

Charity:Water is a nonprofit that furnishes clean drinking water to developing nations. Their e-newsletter is a progress update designed to inform each donor where their money's going. It also includes a visual timeline and details of the project they're supporting. This is valuable information for a donor. Donors don't want to give you their hard-earned money and wonder if it's really going where you said it was. Don't make them ask. Tell them precisely and let them know how important their donation is.

You can also educate your customers about a product they just purchased. For instance, Trello is a project management software solution. How do you use it? Well, you can dive right in and figure it out for yourself, but you'll probably miss out on a lot of its features. That's why they created an automated email drip campaign that explains how it works as both a project management mechanism and a productivity tool. 

Webinars Work, Too

Webinars can serve as an effective inbound marketing technique. This is a great way to show someone your product and how it works. Naturally, you'll want to get as many people to attend as possible. According to GoToWebinar, the average webinar attendance rate is 44%. This is a common key performance indicator (KPI) to track. But put your focus on registrations. When you get a prospect to register, you have a great opportunity to nurture them as a lead. 

6. Underpromise, Then Overdeliver

customer retentionNever promise what you can't deliver because you run the risk of losing your current customers. Not only that, they'll likely spread the bad news. reports that a dissatisfied customer will tell around 20 people about their negative experience with your brand.

A popular retention marketing strategy is to underpromise then overdeliver. That means you do more for your customers than what you promised. In turn, you exceed their expectations.

Consider this simple example. Let's say you tell a customer you'll get an order to them in two days. Instead, you make that delivery in one day. That's underpromising and overdelivering. You can apply that principle to any customer service situation. Just always do more than what you said you'd do.

It's a somewhat controversial philosophy in the marketing world. Some studies even reject the notion that customers are going to be thrilled with getting more than they expected. Rather than take sides, make sure, at the very least, that you always deliver on your promises. That's a customer satisfaction essential. If you can do a bit more than that, all the better. It's unlikely that a customer will complain that you were too kind to them.

7. Offer Your Customers a Rewards Program

One of the many ways to improve customer retention is to provide a customer loyalty program. This will reward your patrons for making specific or frequent purchases or helping to spread the word about your brand. 

About 70% of consumers are more likely to give your brand their stamp of approval if you offer a solid loyalty program. Plus, about the same percentage of them claim that a loyalty program will make them more likely to stick with your brand.

The Starbucks Rewards customer loyalty program is a perfect example. You need to download their fully loaded app, then the fun begins. The more you buy, the more free food and drinks you get.

  • You're awarded with two "stars" for each dollar you spend.
  • You get rewarded on your birthday (if you've made at least one purchase by then).
  • You get free refills during any visit.
  • You'll also get info about special member events and more in your email inbox.

Starbucks recently upgraded their loyalty program so you can redeem rewards faster. You only need 25 stars to start enjoying benefits. Every star counts towards a reward. You also get more choices—so you can customize your drinks for free. 

Reward your customers for doing business with you and they'll reward you by continuing to be a customer. 

8. Use Marketing Automation

marketing automationWhen you're trying to keep up with your customers' needs manually, it can become very time consuming. In some cases, in can turn into an almost impossible undertaking. You want to keep your brand fresh in your customers' minds on a regular basis, but that takes work. Marketing automation will allow you to take some of your tasks and respond better and faster.

One of the most popular uses is to nurture customers through the buying cycle.

Once they show an interest in your product or service by providing their email address, you send them an automated response. Based on their actions, it triggers another automated reply. This is known as an email drip campaign. 

With marketing automation, you can also:

  • Remind customers about your brand (special sale or offer, etc.). 
  • Send transactional and/or shipping information in real time.
  • Automate campaigns across multiple channels (aka multichannel marketing).
  • Ask for a review or feedback.
  • Retarget customers based on abandoned carts or sessions.
  • Target customers that haven't purchased from you in a while.

You can even use marketing automation to clean up your contact list. Imagine you have a customer that isn't opening your emails and they haven't responded to your efforts to win back their business with a sweet deal. You can create an automated message that speaks to them directly.

HireVue produces assessment and video interview software. If recipients haven't opened any of their emails after a few months, they send an automated message asking if they'd like to stay connected. The subject line reads:

"Saying goodbye is never easy to do… So, we thought we’d give you a chance to rethink things."

If you open that enticing email, you'll have an option to stay on their list. Otherwise, you're automatically removed and HireVue releases an inactive subscriber from their contact list.

Of course, don't let automation replace your attention to providing a human touch. Lauren Freedman, president of the E-Tailing Group, warns against too much tech, especially when it replaces a one-on-one connection with your customers. She said:

“Stellar service should be non-negotiable and merchants shouldn't hide behind self-service tools and technology when it comes to knowing their products and taking care of their customers.”

Use Personalization

According to a Business 2 Community article, nearly 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from a business that uses their name in correspondence, makes recommendations based on previous purchases, or is aware of their purchase history.

Personalization works. People love to see their name in writing. But it's much more than that.

Personalized marketing is a strategy all its own. Essentially, you're collecting data that pertains to your customer, then you create a marketing experience that speaks to them based on that dataThe personalization could rest in their address as much as their name. Or their particular interests, past purchases, or—the size of your dog. Really. DoggyLoot segments its email subscriber list by the size of their canine companions. 

The bottom line. Embrace personalization. Better yet, embrace hyper-personalization: the right product and content at the right time.

9. Learn from the Masters of Retention Marketing

The best way to learn how to keep your customers is to look at the brands that are keeping theirs. Here are a few retention marketing masters whose footsteps you can follow. 


There's a purpose behind everything you buy at TOMS. With every sale, you're standing with the company on issues that matter. One example is their "One for One" policy. For each pair of shoes you buy, a pair is provided to someone in need. Make your customers feel like their purchases are part of something bigger. Donate a portion of each sale to a charity or cause that's important to you.


The mega-popular tech company is known for their luxe electronics with the matching price tags, but that doesn't stop anyone and everyone from buying their products again and again. Once a customer always a customer seems to be the consensus as Apple's customer retention rate typically hits around 90%. Their highest retention rate was 93% in 2015. How do they do it? It was a Mac vs. PC campaign that got it started, but it also takes creating a cult-like following with a high-quality product and outstanding customer care. Make a good product people want and treat your customers well. That's a recipe for success for any brand.


The world's largest online e-commerce marketplace originally started their Prime membership to provide faster delivery for their customers. Then a good thing got better. They added additional benefits like Prime Video and Amazon Music to the mix. For a yearly subscription fee, customers receive rewards for their membership. Whether you charge a subscription fee or not, give your customers benefits like exclusive content or access to special events. Just make sure you're offering them something they want. 

10. Retention Marketing 101: Send a Handwritten Note

People love to receive a handwritten note. It stands out amidst all the electronic clutter they receive each day. On average, a typical office workers receives 90 emails each day. Americans send and receive over 90 text messages each day. That's why greeting cards are still so popular. They're different. They're more personal. The greeting card industry is still raking in $8-billion per year. 

Handwritten notes can help your business, too. When you use this retention marketing method as part of your brand's marketing strategy, you're showing your customers how much their business means to you. Plus, it's the kind of down-to-earth, personal touch you can start using immediately. Why don't you start today? Contact us to find out how handwritten notes can help your business succeed. 

Topics: retention marketing, customer retention, customer satisfaction