Are You Losing Money Like This?

by Sarah on November 10, 2015


I can’t help but ogle the pile of garlic I’ve brought in from the barn where it was curing. Filling the cardboard box three-quarters full, it might just bring us all the way through to spring.

We had a good harvest this year.

It’s a wonderful feeling.

But then I have to do something that is always a little painful . . . I grab a few handfuls from my glorious stash and go outside and put it back in the earth. By next July it will be ready for harvest.

It’s not easy putting these heads of garlic back in the ground. I just want ALL of what I got right now.

But then I have to remind myself that if I invest a little bit from this harvest into next year’s crop, I’ll get more next year. And if I go a step further and plant even a little bit more than a little bit each year, I can increase my harvest year after year after year.

I’m tempted to hang on to it all. So I don’t have to settle for supermarket garlic in May or June when my stores run out.

But I know by doing this now, I’m investing in bigger harvests over time.

It’s a worthwhile sacrifice.

So it always surprises me when I have conversations with clients like the one I had a few weeks ago . . .

Let me explain . . .

You didn’t do this?!

I’m working on a video sales letter (VSL) for an alternative health newsletter. Their current control is flagging and the alternatives they’ve tried just aren’t cutting it.

The client offered me a nice fee plus royalties to put something new together.

And I’m excited to take up the challenge and help them grow their audience.

But I have to tell you, something this client said during the project intake discussion put a little damper on this excitement . . .

See, I asked her, are there any retention issues when it comes to subscribers? Anything I can preemptively address in the initial customer acquisition promotion I’m working on?

And the client said, in an offhand manner, well, a lot of our customers forget they subscribed to us. And they call us up requesting a refund.

The thing is I wasn’t surprised at this.

Why? Because once we started talking about working together on customer acquisition, I subscribed to see what their current sales funnel looked like. See, I like to get the big picture. Not just think about one isolated sales piece.

And over the next 2 months, all I received from them after subscribing was a monthly email with a link to their newsletters.

That’s it.

Honestly, even I almost missed their email – and I’m writing a package for them!

So if I’m forgetting who they are and not paying attention to their mailings, what must be going on with their other subscribers?

They did just about nothing to thank their new customers for subscribing. Nor did they do anything further to keep their customers close.

And everything was online. Lost in the jumble of emails in my inbox.

A simple snail-mail thank you note would make a huge dent in the retention problem. And that’s just the beginning of what they could do.

This is the problem that many marketers make. They spend a ton of time and money on getting new customers. But then do hardly anything to keep them.

In contrast, one of my other clients has recently asked me specifically to help them in this process. They want to invest much more time and money into getting more customers on their autoship program and retaining them.

Like my garlic stash, it’s a smart investment in future profits.

The biggest, easiest profit-generating “secret”

See, here’s the big “secret” about making money in your business. The most expensive sale is the first one. It’s a crime to not take full advantage of your house list with a solid backend strategy.

Noah Fleming wrote a book on this: Ever Green: Cultivate The Enduring Customer Loyalty That Keeps Your Business Thriving. He’s worked with thousands of businesses and he points out how many cost-effective things you can do to increase your customers’ lifetime value. But how often marketers get caught up in the next conquest.

He tells of one story where he helped a client develop a campaign to bring back lost customers. They sent out mailings to 3000 “lost” customers and got 140 customers to buy from them again. But the CEO wasn’t so pleased . . . He complained that they’d only gotten back 140 customers over the 5 months they’ve been running this campaign.

However, when Noah dug a little deeper he found the company had made $50,000 on these revived customers. And only spent $3000! A pretty nice return on investment, wouldn’t you say?

Now think about how much money you spend on getting new customers. How much the list rental costs, the media buys . . . How much harder the sales package has to work to get the conversion . . . and how much more copywriting you need for this and how much more this costs . . .

Isn’t it insane not to invest some money into keeping this customer a while after you’ve acquired them? To put effort, time and creativity into holding onto this lifeblood of your company. And seeing how long you can keep them close? Or even pull them back when they’ve started to part ways with you?

As marketer and copywriter, Dan Galapoo  a.k.a. Doberman Dan argues in his newsletter, “You can’t afford not to do this! Look the costs of doing this are marginal. But the costs of not doing this are much greater than you can possibly imagine.”

Think about it.

So, here are a few simple things you can do to hold customers close and grow their value:

1. Thank them

First simply thank them. Independently from when they get the order, make sure they hear that you appreciate their business.

2. Make them feel wise

In the same thank you letter, you can reiterate why their purchase was such a good idea. Highlight the benefits, put in a few testimonials and make them feel super smart about buying from you. And cherished.

By the way, this letter ideally should be offline. I’ve gotten a few nice letters like this from online marketers. And even though I know why their doing this, I can’t help but feel touched that they sent this to me. There is nothing like the little surprise of getting a real paper and ink letter in the mail from someone who until now was pretty much a virtual entity to you. It makes the whole transaction seem much more substantial.

3. Build Your Relationship

A good customer knows and trusts you. That’s why they buy from you repeatedly.

But this rapport that allows for multiple sales doesn’t just pop up out of thin air. You’ve got to let them know a bit about you and build that relationship.

And for this, there’s nothing like autoresponder emails. Of course, you shouldn’t neglect to send over a few snail-mail missives as well to keep your customers aware that you are a real company with real paper. Maybe even toss in a print free report or CD here and there.

These follow up emails and letters can remind your new customer why they bought from you and expand their understanding of who you are and what you offer them. They can also be the tool for working on the next step . . .

4. Sell the upsell – really sell it.

Many businesses are reluctant to push another sale on a customer soon after they bought from you. But the truth is, that is when you should push the hardest. They’re feeling excited about what they just purchased from you and they have already made the hardest step to trust you to buy from you.

Now of course, this doesn’t mean you have to just sell sell sell. No, this process should be integrated with the rapport-building process of the autoresponder emails and follow up letter series.

It can be in drips. It can be through more subtle vehicles like a bonus webinar or report for new customers.

But you should be offering them more solutions. More comprehensive solutions.

Key for doing this right so it pays off in the long term (and makes the customer feel like you know their pain) is to integrate this with finding out about them. Ask them why they bought from you and help them see how you can help them even more. Ask them about their problems and offer solutions. Use mail, email, surveys. And don’t forget your customer service reps and the good ole phone.

5. Make it worth their while

Reward your loyal customers for their loyalty. Make them feel appreciated. Send your customers a special free product, gift card, coupon or access to exclusive information after 3 months or six months.

You can let them know there are incentives for staying with you down the road. Or you may decide to try surprising them and see how that helps with retention.

Or mix it up. So they know enough to want to stay. But also are pleasantly surprised and can’t wait to see what else will appear in the mail as they continue to do business with you.

6. Keep them current

Finally, don’t overlook the value of a simple monthly snail-mail newsletter. It doesn’t have to be a lot. A page is fine.

But it can have a big impact. A newsletter keeps you positioned as a helpful resource. It keeps you in their mind, reminding them of what you offer. It affirms you care about them. It confirms that you’re a decent company worth doing business with. And it builds their belief in your products and solutions.

One key thing to include in your newsletter: Profiles of other customers who are enjoying how your products changed their life. There is nothing more powerful than other people’s success stories to keep your customers hooked on what you offer.

Last year I purchased a course on eye exercises. For 3 months I did the exercises diligently. Then when summer rolled around things got to busy. It seemed my eyesight had improved but not significantly yet. Not enough to keep me going with it when life got hectic. So I put it aside.

However, every week I get an email newsletter from the guy who created the course. And every time he features success stories along with great information about eye health and eye strength.

And every time I see it I think, I’ve got to start these exercises again. If there is one thing that may help me resume this discipline, it is seeing other people succeed. And if I can see some progress, I may share my story and then recommend it. And I certainly won’t send the course back.

Don’t hold out on your customers and they won’t hold out on you!

I may be saying things you already know. But I suspect not since I see so many marketers that do great getting new customers but forget to keep them. And even the ones who work on the backend don’t go as far as they could.

Invest some time, creative thought and money into making your customers feel appreciated. Get to know them and make sure they know who you are. And don’t get stuck online. Make yourself tangible with some snail mail action too.

Just like my garlic crop, you’ll find your customer lifetime value grows bigger, too.

Have a great example of how to retain customers and increase their lifetime value? Please post it in the comments below.

Like some help getting your retention/backend process upgraded? Send me an email sarah at healthymarketingideas dot com.

Like to republish this article? Please do. Just make sure you include the following paragraph at the end:

Author of the ebook “How To Write Irresistible Copy For Nutritional Supplements”, edited by Bob Bly, Sarah has brought in new customers and increased revenue for dozens of natural health companies. Her clients – both B2C and B2B – include Sun Chlorella USA, Lombardi Publications, Now Foods, Ecuadorian Rainforest, and Vitakem Manufacturing. Learn more about her strategic marketing and copywriting services and get a copy of her free report, “5 Internet Marketing Mistakes . . . And How To Fix Them For Online Success” at


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Valerie November 11, 2015 at 10:24 AM

Remembering to ask the right questions before a project starts saves a lot of headaches. Unfortunately, freelancers get so excited about landing a job that they forget to ask. I had that problem a few years ago and learned a painful lesson. After that experience, I drafted a list of questions and use it whenever I talk with a potential client.

Do you have a list of questions, or have you been freelancing long enough that you remember the most important questions without using a list?

BTW, great post!

Sarah November 11, 2015 at 2:17 PM

Valerie, great point. In fact I have several different sets of questionnaires I use depending on the project. And I always have it in front of me when I speak to a client so I can focus more on what the client’s saying, then worrying if I’ll forget something.

Great idea for a future post!

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