5 Ways To Gain Customers (and Keep Them)

Feb 28, 2022

For small business owners, the only thing better than a new customer is a repeat customer. Make that sale the first of many with these acquisition and retention tips.

Lauren SpillerSr Content Writer
5 Ways To Gain Customers (and Keep Them)

If you’re a small-business owner trying to recruit new customers, you’re probably thinking a lot about marketing and how much you’re willing to spend to promote your brand. According to our 2021 Post-COVID Changes Survey*, 60% of small-business owners spent more than $1000 per month on marketing. How can you make sure you’re getting your best return on investment (ROI) while growing your customer base?


GetApp 2021 Post-COVID Changes Survey: Monthly marketing spend for small businesses

The answer is customer lifetime value (CLV), or the total value of a customer relationship over a lifetime. Put simply, repeat customers are more cost-effective than new ones. If you can get multiple sales from a customer who saw your Facebook ad or heard your radio jingle just once, your efforts will have resulted in a higher CLV.

It makes sense, then, that customer acquisition and customer retention go hand in hand. Here are five customer acquisition and retention tips that will help you gain customer loyalty, prevent customer churn, and grow your customer base while ensuring your best ROI.

1.  Reward repeat customers with a customer loyalty program

Customer loyalty programs are a great way to entice customers to continue purchasing from you. These programs can range from basic punch cards to more extreme options such as encouraging your most loyal customers to get your brand logo tattooed on their body in exchange for a lifetime discount. While we can’t speak to the efficacy of the latter example, a 2021 Marketing Science study found that customer loyalty programs really do increase sales, although it depends on the type of program.

The study identifies two types of loyalty programs: Tiered and non-tiered. Tiered programs increase rewards the more you spend, such as in the example below from Fat and the Moon, a small business that sells natural skincare products.


Example of tiered reward program from Fat and the Moon, screenshot taken by author (Source)

Non-tiered programs promise a reward for frequent purchases, such as a sandwich shop that gives you your tenth sub for free when you show your punch card. Marketing Science found that non-tiered customer loyalty programs increase CLV by almost 30% over a five-year period. However, this has less to do with increased spending per transaction or frequency of purchasing, but the reduction of customer churn.

Whether tiered or non-tiered, customer loyalty programs are a great way to nurture relationships with customers, and may provide psychological benefits as well when repeat purchases result in positive reinforcement, such as a free item or a discount. If you’re thinking about implementing a customer loyalty program as part of your customer retention strategy, check out our small-business loyalty programs software directory. These platforms manage the more time-consuming tasks involved in customer loyalty programs, such as mapping customer behavior and tracking points earned.

2. Incentivize existing customers to spread the word with a referral program

Referral programs are similar to customer loyalty programs in that they reward existing customers. However, they go the extra mile in bringing in new customers without dipping into your customer acquisition budget. In the example below, an Austin property management company rewards clients who refer other rental property owners with a month of waived management fees.


Stone Oak Property Management’s referral program, screenshot taken by author (Source)

Referral programs are effective because they’re based on trust. According to Nielsen’s 2021 Trust in Advertising Study, 88% of consumers are more likely to trust their friends and family for an honest review of your product or service than any other form of marketing. And your customers are essentially providing you with free marketing when they have a positive experience and spread the word.

If you have an online store, you can easily implement a referral program by giving your customers a unique code to share with their friends. This makes it easy to track referrals and make sure that your current customers get rewarded. Referral marketing software can help with this as well as other tasks, such as following up with customers and managing affiliates.

3. Solicit customer feedback through surveys to boost customer experience

Customer satisfaction surveys provide you with a valuable opportunity to learn what you’re getting right and what could be improved in terms of customer experience, which can make a big difference in your customer retention efforts. But, you’ll first want to ensure that you’re asking the right questions.

Here are a few tips for writing the most useful customer satisfaction survey questions:

  • Make sure each question addresses a specific goal. Gartner research suggests that customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys should be based on this question (full content available to Gartner clients): “How satisfied were you with your recent experience?” From here, you can modify the question to address a specific goal, such as, “How satisfied were you with the search function on our website?”

  • Use an odd-numbered (5- or 7-point) rating scale. This avoids ambiguous feedback and is a happy medium between too few options (such as satisfied, dissatisfied, or indifferent), and too many options, which can overwhelm respondents.

  • Use open-ended questions. Yes or no questions can give a limited view of a customer’s experience and prevent more nuanced feedback from respondents who were satisfied with one aspect of their experience but dissatisfied with another. Open-ended survey questions can uncover issues with your online store that aren’t yet on your radar.

Customer satisfaction software can help you customize and run surveys as well as analyze the results, so that you can assess your team’s strengths and quickly address any recurring issues that might cost you customers. Check out our database to learn more.

4. Stay competitive by revisiting your customer service strategy

We hate to break it to you, but unless your product or service is extremely niche, your customers can find it elsewhere. And if their experience with your business is subpar, you will have a difficult time retaining customers.

As consumers became more inclined to shop online than in person over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, excellent customer service became even more critical for customer acquisition and retention. Companies such as American Eagle expanded their return policy indefinitely, while Target enhanced its existing curbside pickup program with new order pickup and same-day delivery features.

The pandemic has also forced small-business owners to revisit their customer service strategy. When we asked small-business owners what changes they anticipate making to their customer service strategy after the pandemic, 49% said they’d increase online engagement through chat.

CRM 5 ways

Changes to small-business customer service strategies in light of the pandemic

Other popular answers included launching new customer service training (36%) and implementing dedicated customer service software (35%). These are all great options to improve your business’s customer service strategy as well.

Tips for supporting your customer service team as you grow your business

The changes that small-business owners have made in light of the pandemic ensure that their customer service representatives are more available and better trained. As your business grows, the demands on your representatives will increase. Here are some tips for supporting them, so they can continue providing excellent customer service and boosting your customer retention:

  • Stay on top of customer service software trends, such as internet of things (IoT) technology. This might look like collecting real-time data from sensors on your equipment so you know when it needs maintenance, which can improve customer service by allowing you to mitigate issues well in advance and reduce customer wait time.

  • If you’re providing a service, offer online booking. According to our 2021 Consumer Experience with Booking Service Appointments Survey**, 70% of customers prefer to book services online.

5. Turn to the data (but be transparent about it)

Customer data platform (CDP) software collects, centralizes, organizes, and analyzes all your customer data, so that you can tweak your customer acquisition and retention strategy in response to trends and behaviors. Do customers tend to make one purchase and not return? Or perhaps you’ve seen an increase in sales after a successful marketing campaign, only for revenue to wane once the hype has worn off.

CDP software can help you pinpoint where customers are leaving your acquisition funnel so that you can modify your strategy accordingly. It can also enhance your marketing strategy by analyzing customer interactions throughout the entire customer journey and delivering the right messages to customers at the right time. This can help persuade a potential customer to make that first purchase, or retain customers who were considering shopping elsewhere.

We do have one caveat: Customer sentiment around data privacy is evolving. By the end of this year, third-party cookies will cease to exist, and businesses that don’t incorporate transparent marketing practices will lose customers. Here are some ways that small-business owners such as yourself can make the shift to more transparent marketing practices in an effort to retain customers:

  • Give your customers more control over their data. Make sure they can opt in or out of sharing their information. Lead generation software can help you obtain their permission through website forms that collect customer data in a transparent way.

  • Explain to customers how their information is protected. Be clear about the actions your business is taking to safeguard customer data as well as your methods and how you’re using that data. All-in-one marketing platform software can assist with message coordination across multiple channels.

  • Ask customers for their feedback. When we discussed writing customer satisfaction survey questions earlier, we emphasized the importance of phrasing your questions with a specific goal in mind. You can ask, “How satisfied are you with our marketing tactics?” to gauge how those tactics are performing.

Supercharge your customer acquisition efforts through tech

You’ll find that a lot of marketing advice treats the sale as the end goal. But your customers are your greatest assets. When you treat them well, your customers will spread the word about your product or service, provide you with valuable feedback, and most importantly, stick around. Respect their wishes when it comes to data privacy, and invest in customer service. Here’s a recap of the tools we mentioned to help you achieve all of the above:

  • Small-business loyalty programs software automates processes such as mapping customer behavior and tracking loyalty rewards. It allows you to more effectively engage with your customers and offer them a variety of incentives for staying loyal to your brand.

  • Customer satisfaction software helps you collect, organize, and manage customer feedback. It can integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) and product management solutions to help apply customer feedback to your business interactions and product development.

  • Referral marketing software automates the process of creating, customizing, launching, and tracking referral campaigns by rewarding customers for recommending your brand to their friends and family. It helps you encourage customers to refer others by offering rewards in the form of vouchers, coupons, loyalty cards, and more.

  • Customer service software enables better communication with your customers. It helps you offer support, answer questions, resolve complaints, and maintain client satisfaction.

  • Customer data platform (CDP) software is a central repository for customer data that helps your marketing team to better understand each prospect, segment customers, and provide a more personalized experience.

Want more information?

Survey methodology

GetApp 2021 Post-COVID Changes Survey*

GetApp conducted this survey in April 2021 of 455 U.S.-based respondents to learn more about marketing and technology trends. Respondents were screened for decision-making roles in sales, marketing, or customer service at companies with 2 to 250 employees.

GetApp 2021 Consumer Experience with Booking Service Appointments Survey**

GetApp conducted this survey in March 2021 of 217 consumers to learn more about their preferences and challenges around booking services online. Respondents were screened for their recent scheduling of online services.

About the author

Lauren Spiller

Sr Content Writer
Lauren Spiller is a Sr Content Writer at GetApp covering customer service and customer experience with a focus on customer acquisition through SEO. She has an MA in Rhetoric and Composition from Texas State University and has presented her work at the European Writing Centers Association, Canadian Writing Centres Association, and the International Writing Centers Association conferences.

She is currently developing content for a workshop series on SEO writing.
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