Any good business owner knows the value of repeat business. The cost of generating additional business from existing customers is generally far lower than acquiring new customers, meaning a better return on investment for your efforts. One obvious advantage in this situation is the fact that existing customers have already chosen you from among your competitors as their preferred option, and provided you’ve given them a positive experience, customers like to stick with someone they know and trust. In this article, I will cover some ways you can help foster this relationship and use it to increase repeat business.

Communication and Accessibility

The first thing you want to do is ensure that you are accessible to your customers. Maintaining multiple access points and communication channels is a good idea as it allows your customers to reach you in a way that works for them. This helps ensure a positive experience for them and most importantly, means that they can get in touch with you quickly and easily should they be interested in subsequent purchases.

• Telephone — Make sure your customers have it and make sure it’s easy for them to find on your website, brochures, Facebook page, etc. This may seem obvious but you’d be surprised how many businesses make it a chore to find their number. You should even have a sticker with your business name and number on any HVAC products you install to save customers from struggling to remember your company’s name. Consider setting up call forwarding so that you can answer calls on your cell even when no one is in the office. Before thinking about trying to increase sales, start by making sure the customers who are already trying to reach you don’t give up and take their business elsewhere. People can be impatient, and I guarantee more people are “falling through the cracks” than you realize.

• Email — Provide an email that you check frequently and perhaps also include a prominent contact form and quote/appointment-request form on your website. Adding a ‘live chat’ feature to your website is surprisingly easy (a quick Google search should get you started) and can be a great way to provide fast communication with existing and potential new customers.

• Social Media — More on this later.

Always Follow Up with Customers

Tying in to this, it’s a good idea to follow up with your customers after a purchase to ensure everything went smoothly (with a new furnace installation, for example), and to ensure they are completely satisfied. Not only does this show them you care but it also helps minimize negative outcomes. Remember, customers won’t always contact you if they’re unhappy about something; people generally avoid confrontation and may not want to bother with the trouble of complaining about something relatively small, but won’t hesitate to share their negative feelings with friends, family, and even strangers online. Being proactive means you can remedy a situation which may otherwise have slipped under the radar. Emails are cheap and can even be automated.

Now that we’ve covered communication and ensuring a positive customer experience, let’s talk about some ways you can actually increase repeat business.

Rewarding Repeat Business, Referrals, and Reviews

One obvious way you can do this is to encourage and reward repeat business by offering your customers discounts, promotions, bonus offers, and other incentives for making subsequent purchases. You should already have a good relationship with your customers, so adding a bit of extra value can be a great way to ensure you’re the top choice when they’re ready for their next purchase. It may even tip the balance and entice customers to actually make a purchase they were on the fence about.

Furthermore, you should provide your customers with some type of incentive for referrals. People generally put a lot of faith in the recommendations of their friends and family, so leverage that by making it an attractive proposition for all parties involved.

Similarly, you could also encourage customers who have had a positive experience to share this with others in the form of a review, either on your own website or on third-party platforms like Google+ for Business, Yellow Pages, and other directories.

Segmenting Your Customers

Another great way you can be proactive and generate repeat business is by segmenting your customers based on their previous purchases, needs, or any other relevant characteristics. If you aren’t already, you should absolutely be building a database of all your customers. This should allow you to offer them relevant products and services that suit their needs. Because they’re existing customers of yours, you benefit from information your competition doesn’t have, allowing you to better anticipate and meet their needs. For example, have you sold them a furnace? Offer them duct cleaning or a maintenance/protection package. You could even form partnerships with complementary businesses and promote each others’ products. Just make sure you trust them, as you’re effectively staking your reputation and customers’ trust on this company.

Email Lists and Social Media

Finally, maintaining an email list of your existing customers can be a powerful way of generating ongoing business. Most email marketing platforms should also allow you to segment your customers so you can send out highly-targeted messages to different customer sub-groups. Similarly, maintaining active social media profiles on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for Business can be an excellent way of interacting with your customer base and offering enticing offers, cross-promotions, and so on. The key here is not to abuse it and to always offer your list/followers real value — don’t just spam them. In other words, don’t just send out promotions, be sure to include: interesting stuff, good deals, useful info/tips and guides, and relevant news from you, as well as third parties. Actually engage your customers and encourage them to share and participate and help you build an active “community.”

Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to strengthening and growing your business, by breeding loyalty, making customers eager to share their recommendations, and increasing revenue in a cost-effective way.