Don’t Show Customers the Door — Automate Post-Purchase Retention

Why do most affiliate programs ignore the customer after she buys?

Because most of them think the job is over once the sale is made. The first-time customer is the most expensive conversion there is. You’re lucky if you can convert two percent of new prospects to a sale.

Repeat customers buy more frequently and are easier to control, but there’s still an obstacle. You must build loyalty with the first purchase to persuade them to become repeat customers later on.

The first sale is when your job begins — not ends. Personalization and knowing every little facet of your customer’s behavior is a worthy goal, but there’s an easier (and much cheaper) way to get going. Now. When your customer places an order.

Post-purchase follow-up is critical — and difficult to do manually. You need to discover what the customer really thinks.

Step into your customer’s shoes. Ask yourself: What’s the first thing I think about after I purchase? Some possible answers are:

  • This is a mistake. I don’t know if I’ll get what I paid for.
  • My significant other will kill me for making this purchase.
  • What did I buy???

If you’re like many, you think you made a mistake. Not a bad mistake, but you just committed some cash for a Thing. Suddenly, you’re not sure that Thing fits into your life.

When a company fails to follow up, it is indirectly reinforcing your doubt.

Bottom line: Most people doubt the purchase decision they just made. On the Internet, few companies do anything to alleviate that doubt.

After a purchase on the Internet, you usually get:

  1. A thank-you page with a record of your order
  2. Maybe an automated email follow-up with your receipt and links back to the site
  3. A package in the mail, which arrives anywhere from 2 to 14 days later. There’s no predictability unless you pay for guaranteed overnight shipping.
  4. An automated post-purchase message designed to make sure you’re happy rather than worried and to assure you that you’ll get what you want — and a chance to buy some more

If your affiliate program or Internet business is only doing steps one through three, you’re in the majority. Only a few do step four, but those few tend to do well. With some simple technique and the use of an automated follow-up system, you, too, can achieve this easily.

Automating Post-Purchase Follow-Up

One of the best places to build loyalty and branding based on revenue is your ordering system. This can be as complex as Amazon.com’s amazing customer service system, or it can cost about $20 per month through companies such as AWeber.

Most Internet orders go through an online ordering system, or shopping cart. An order is placed, and often an automated email is sent to confirm the customer’s purchase.

That email is probably sent to an autoresponder, usually an email address whose only job is to send a message. Imagine if you turned that simple autoresponder into a series of follow-up emails to build loyalty, ensure customer satisfaction, and to begin cross-selling when appropriate.

I use a five-step automated email system that delivers customers customer service and the reassurance they need and eventually cross-sells related products.

It’s quite simple (you can send as few, or as many, emails as you want):

  1. Email from your ordering system can be sent to a secondary email follow-up system. You simply copy the email address from the order form to a third-party email system. This sends the usual autoresponder. AWeber enables you to send up to six more messages based on the date the initial order was placed.
  2. Three days later, you send a second email to check in with the customer to make sure his package has arrived or to invite him to email and/or call if he has questions. If the package will take longer to arrive, you can note this in the email as well.
  3. Seven days after the first contact, you follow up again. You assure the customer that you are available if she has questions. This is a great place to up-sell and cross-sell related products in your P.S. line.
  4. Fourteen days after the first purchase, follow up again to invited feedback on your ordering process. Send the customer to a Web page to fill in a short survey. Offer a discount, coupon, or incentive to buy again (you can do this earlier, but be careful to test. You can push too hard).
  5. Twenty-one days after purchase, follow up with your latest deal or promotion. Thank your customer and offer another invitation to visit your Web site and purchase.

When they buy, don’t email only once. Test repeated mailings. Customers form an opinion of your business within 30 days of purchase.

During that period, they decide to be repeat customers. Or not. What you do right after the sale determines much of their satisfaction.

The purchase is a signal of brand trust. Repeat buying is a sign of brand viability. It all begins with simple, human communication.

You can automate the process easily and achieve more value from every sale you make.

Pay attention to your customers after they buy. It will pay off for you.

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