How to Forge Relationships Beyond the First Purchase

When it comes to Online Business, the practice for many has been to get a customer to a stage where they are willing to hand over their credit card number. There is no thought given to whether anything can happen after the sale and so nothing else does happen. Its quite possibly for this very reason that many Web Developers themselves have no idea what to do after the sale and so their skills and expertise stops with setting up payment gateway integration for your website.

Successful entrepreneurs know that long-term success is less about the very first purchase than it is about the strength and longevity of the relationships they enjoy with their customers. So it would follow that if anyone were to be successful, one of the first things they could do is to give some thought to what they would do if they were in their customer's shoes.

A Customer Relationship extends well beyond the first sale. When a person becomes a customer, its not the end of a process - it's actually the start of new one.

Before being a customer, they were just browsing or ringing to make an inquiry. When the person became your customer, they stopped being unknown to you. Now, they are a customer and its up to the business to decide how long they stay. Ultimately, you want them to become loyal and vocal fans who become your word of mouth marketers.

When you reflect on your own experiences as a customer, whether it's at the supermarket, a restaurant, vet's clinic or football ground, its interesting to identify the different ways in which different organisations do things for you, their customer - before, during and after a sale.

For example, about a year ago we had to buy new computer equipment for our business. Being unable to find a company able to provide us with everything we wanted, we ended up buying what we needed from two very differently operated businesses.

The first company we dealt with built us an expensive special purpose computer, which cost a lot of money. During the pre-sales process everyone we dealt with was incredibly helpful, giving us specialist advice, making recommendations on how to make even better decisions and generally being professional and attentive. Once the transaction was processed and we had our computer the business considered that to be the end of the relationship. A year later and they still haven't followed up with us to let us know what they are up to, to find out if we need anything new or even to offer an upgrade on bits in the computer.

The second company we dealt with was for a straight forward low cost in stock product purchase. In contrast to the first computer company, this second business provided great information and help during the pre-sales process, then when we had to pay they offered suggestions for other things that could come in handy (cross and up selling) and now a year on I am now on their mailing list and get alerted to specials that might interest me. Sometimes they'll even call me and ask how things are going.

Not surprisingly, we continue to buy from the second computer store and would have them build any new special purpose computer in future.

At this point you may be thinking, "Well, that's OK for a computer business who employees geeks and has lots of systems to automate everything. There's no way I can afford to or would even know how to do something like that!" - and that's where the "Smoke and Mirrors" of Customer Relationship Management come in.

How do successful businesses keep their customers coming back, time after time?

Well-established companies recognise that the key to repeat business is to put in place a customer relationship strategy. This means knowing step-by-step, in advance, what they will do after the customer buys something from them and what they'll do to monitor and keep a track of how well its working.

Once they've got a strategy they need to implement it and they do this with the help of software applications called Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. Many international companies spend millions of dollars on them because they know that keeping existing customers is easier and cheaper than finding new ones.

There are two reasons it costs so much for these huge organisations.

Firstly, large organisations have large numbers of customers and often very complex communication strategies for maintaining relationships with them. As the number of customers increases, so too does the effort required to deliver the same high quality of communication to each and every customer.

And secondly, their leaders recognise that it's the systems and processes put in place today, that will reflect upon the quality of customer service they're able to provide tomorrow. They aim for growth and ask themselves... "How would I cope if I had 10 times the number of customers I actually have right now?".

How would you and your business cope if it happened to you?

Ten years ago there were only a few CRM systems you could choose between (which is why they were so expensive). Today, there is a CRM system to suit everyone!

With so many to choose from today, selling CRM systems has become very competitive which has driven the price down so low that some are even free if there are only a few of you who will use it(Zoho CRM provides a free online CRM system account for up to three users).

The CRM revolution that started with huge multi-national companies has now rolled into the world of websites. Many of the household name online businesses you'd be familiar with such as Amazon.com and eBay, wouldn't be able to operate without the CRM systems they have integrated into their website.

It's Like Getting an Entire Business into a Shoebox.

Having a CRM system that is integrated into your website (whether you're using a Content Management System (CMS) or straight HTML that's updated with Dreamweaver) gives you incredible control to implement relationship strategies in whatever way works best for your online business.

To learn more about how you can become more efficient in your own customer management practices, talk to us about end-to-end online business. Solutions Answers Results can get a complete website, including shopping cart and Customer Relationship Management system, up and running for you in next to no time. In fact, we guarantee the website you get from us will have paid for itself several times over by Christmas. Or, we'll give you your money back.

So, if you're selling to more than a handful of new customer each month and you've realised you need to keep in touch with them on a regular basis, get in touch today.

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