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Inbound Marketing  |   Marketing Strategy

How to Create an Effective Return Path (and Earn Lifelong Customers)

Bob Ruffolo

By Bob Ruffolo

Oct 6, 2016

How to Create an Effective Return Path (and Earn Lifelong Customers)

One of the most overlooked ways to grow a business is by increasing the number of transactions per customer. After all, loyal customers are the most valuable right?

Enter the Return Path.

Because you have received someone’s contact information through your Lead Magnet, you have the ability to continue marketing to them even after they’ve made a purchase.

You can offer new Lead Magnets, Tripwires, Core Offers, and Profit Maximizers because you they have raised their hand and granted you permission to contact them.

You aren’t a stranger trying to cold sell them on something they’re not even remotely interested in. You have a history together.

What is a Return Path?

In the Customer Value Optimization system, a Return Path is a strategy for frequent, friendly communication with your customers that encourages them to make more purchases (and/or refer business back to you).

The goal overall is to increase the average number of transactions per customer, but you can also use it to send leads towards another Offer they may have rejected from your company in the past.

Return Paths come in many forms and are anything that drive customers back to your website or business. They may include:

  • Email marketing
  • Exit Offers
  • Organic social media
  • Loyalty programs
  • Content marketing
  • Sales calls
  • Ad retargeting

Email marketing is widely regarded as the most powerful Return Path and the most profitable businesses are those who successfully delight customers through email.

Your blog, however, will likely be the Return Path that reaches the most people.

3 Timeless Marketing Strategies for Customer Delight

Delivering a quality product or service will always be the best strategy to delight customers, but that’s only the bare minimum.

Businesses with the happiest customers go above and beyond what is normally expected with the following three strategies for customer delight.

1. Take an Interest in Their Interests

As an Inbound Marketer, you’ve likely turned your brand’s website into an information hub for your buyer persona.

To keep your customers delighted and coming back for more, you need to continue to address their interests and provide informative, educating, or entertaining content for them.

Actively reach out to customers, encourage them to reply to your marketing emails, and use social media to keep a pulse on what questions they are asking and what things they care about right now. That’s the secret to creating content that’s fresh, engaging, and delightful.

2. Solve Their Problems & Answer Their Questions

You will never run out of delighted customers when you continually solve problems for them.

In fact, your customers’ on-going questions or pain points are great topics for blog content as these are usually queries they’ll type into search engines.

Problems for your buyer persona are opportunities for your business. Not only through the content you produce and the products you sell, but also in building a relationship and earning the trust of your prospects.

The more pains you’ve remedied for them, the stronger that relationship will be, and when it comes to solving problems for your existing customers, your top priority should be solving any problem directly related to, or caused by, your products.

FAQ content and instructional videos are incredibly useful, as well as strong customer support. HubSpot, for example, is a master of this offering free support over the phone and thousands of resources in its Academy.

Remember, everything comes around full circle. The problems you solve for customers turn into testimonials which help you attract more people who need the same problems solved.

3. Achieve Their Goals

Some people are motivated more by fear and others are motivated by what they can potentially accomplish. Most people are motivated by both.

Answering questions and solving problems eliminate the negative things from your customers’ lives, but this strategy is focused on adding more positive things.

An effective tactic, especially in the tech industry, is creating email campaigns for customers that show them how to maximize their benefits from your product or service.

Not only does this help them achieve their goals of using your product, you also increase their happiness with your brand.

Of course, you aren’t limited to email campaigns. Blog content, webinars, and social media can all be leveraged to help your prospects and customers accomplish more.

While addressing questions and fears will likely get more people in the door initially, helping them reach their goals will have the biggest impact on your brand’s reputation.

Frankly, it just takes longer to see the benefits from this type of content because most people simply won’t put in the work required on their part -- but the people you do elevate will be your biggest marketing asset in the long-run.

6 Tactics to Create Lifetime Customers

We’ve covered the three core marketing strategies for customer delight – understanding their interests, solving problems, and making goals easier to attain.

Now we’re going to look at seven key tactics for delighting customers.

1. Feature Case Studies and Testimonials

Case studies and testimonials are powerful social proof and should be featured prominently.

Aside from courageous early-adopters, most prospects want to see that your product/service has worked for others before they invest their own money.

Case studies and testimonials do more than provide marketing tools for your brand – they also improve your relationship with the customers featured in those materials. Sharing a customer’s success story boosts their confidence and allows them to get recognition for their hard work.

Plus, they get an inbound link to their website, improving their SEO and driving traffic.

2. Offer Exclusivity

Your customers are more valuable than leads and prospects – and they deserve special treatment. After all, they are paying your bills!

Here are a few exclusive offers you can make:

  • Feedback/suggestions during product development
  • Beta testing invitation
  • Discounts
  • Early access to new products/services

The more your customers feel involved and valued by your company, the happier they’ll be and the more helpful they’ll be.

Your paying customers are your best resource for valuable insights in product development, marketing, and staying relevant – exclusivity benefits you as much as your customers.

3. Grandfather Them

It’s funny – raising prices makes your current customers dislike you and makes your prospects want you even more. (They should’ve jumped on the lower price!)

You can create a win-win situation by grandfathering your existing customers in with their current rate and only increasing the rate for new customers.

This tactic works very well for customer retention.

I’m currently grandfathered into an AT&T contract with virtually unlimited everything and I only pay $60 a month – until their service lets me down, I’m not going anywhere!

4. Offer Loyalty/Rewards/Referral Programs

Loyalty and rewards programs are perfect for businesses that can get a lot of repeat purchases from their customers (i.e. restaurants, services like dry cleaning or car washes, etc.) 

They encourage your customers to make more purchases and they save your most loyal customers a lot of money.

The tactic that far too few companies are using is a referral or affiliate program. This is where you give your customer a commission for referring customers – either in store credit, cash, or a free gift.

Your best customers are already spreading the word about your business, why not reward them for it? There’s no better tactic for encouraging your customers to be your salespeople.

5. Provide Social Media Recognition

Major brands are finally learning how to use social media properly – you know, actually socializing with people, instead of blasting promotional content nonstop.

Here are several ways to delight customers through social media:

  • Like and share positive mentions of your brand
  • Reply to questions, concerns, and comments
  • Promote one of your customer’s pages (if they have a business)
  • Run contests
  • Highlight user-generated content

The most important thing is that you’re actively listening and engaging with people on social media. Seeing your interactions makes your brand more human and likable to prospects and customers.

6. Solicit Feedback

Let the opinions of your customers be heard. You should always encourage feedback from customers and occasionally you should directly ask for it with a survey or email.

The most important thing is that you implement their feedback into your business and then you follow up and show them that their voice is heard.

As long as people know you care about them, they won’t worry about little imperfections.

Putting it All Together

The content above was an excerpt of our new guide, "The Inbound Customer Value Optimization System (Using HubSpot). To learn more about creating a return path and  together all of the pieces of the Customer Value Optimization System, get your free copy of the full guide by filling out the form below.  

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Take this free, 5-minute assessment and learn what you can start doing today to boost traffic, leads, and sales.

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