Integrating New Customers

Most businesses spend a LOT to gain new customers; time, resources, energy and money.  But how much effort do we put in to insuring  we KEEP their business?

Last month, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the “newbies” who invade health clubs at the start of each year.  The piece recounted the impact the new members have on the existing membership.  Our resolution to “lose weight” and “get in shape” creates this annually recurring phenomenon.

The “bottom line” of every gym is no doubt positively impacted by this influx of new customers.  Perhaps the infusion of cash from all the new customers who soon lose enthusiasm is enough – but what if you wanted to actually build your long term customer base?

The article talked about “sweaty machines” and other gym etiquette violations that frustrate – and repel – long-term customers.  Why not assign an “ambassador” to give orientation to new members?  A sense of belonging is one of the top 3 motivators so helping them to feel more at home might increase retention.  In addition, some of the behaviors which currently send existing customers home – or worse – to a competitor – could be avoided.

One of our friends teaches hot yoga.  She regularly extends an invitation to come to one of her classes.  It’s not that I wouldn’t benefit from the workout, but I’m not particularly graceful and I’ve never done yoga.  The thought of looking foolish in a room of experienced practitioners is enough to keep me out of the studio.  What if there were a class specifically for targeted at beginners?

If part of your business model involves customers who are going to be doing something new; classes, workshops, social groups or even business networking – be sure you have a plan to help them successfully integrate into the existing group.  Share the plan in your marketing materials to overcome the unspoken “I don’t want to look/feel stupid” objection.

Recruit “ambassadors” from the existing group to help orient and serve as mentors to new members.  You can always offer logo gear to those who volunteer to help out as a way to say thank you.

Hold special “new member” orientation sessions with prizes and gifts to encourage attendance.

Offer “entry level” programs. Think “Photography basics for New Parents”, “Cooking, after Boiling Water”, “Beginning Ballet for Adults”, “Yoga for the Unflexible”.  If they names make you chuckle, great.  Humor makes a new situation less threatening and encourages the novice to get involved.

Create a Facebook Group. This can be a closed group where you invite new customers, members or prospects to post their comments and questions.  When a group of friends got serious about losing weight, one person built a “group” called “Apples and Pears” where the members share ideas, resources, tips, questions and encouragement.

Invest in humorous signs sharing “Do vs Don’t” scenarios.  Again, humor makes the message more palatable.    Some fun graphics can illustrate a point more gently and still be effective.    If you don’t have a regular physical space, you can make up a sheet you print from your computer to give to new attendees.

There are a lot of ways to integrate your new customers into your existing customer base.  With a little thought and creativity, you can help the newest feel at home and still not send your long-term customers in search of “some place else”.

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