When your past customers are asked for a recommendation, will your business be top of mind?  Or will they respond that they used a company that did great work five years ago but are not sure the firm is still in business. If you have lost track of your past customers, you’re letting gold slip through your fingers because nothing comes close to a personal recommendation when people are ready to buy.

Customer cultivation is an art and a science: the art is in providing helpful information; the science is in establishing a process that makes follow-up contacts routine.

  Creating a Process
Work with your marketing people to plan a schedule of how you will regularly contact customers you have worked with during the past five years. There are many possibilities: a monthly email, a quarterly newsletter, a seasonal card, a phone call, a letter or handwritten note, or a combination of these tools.

Remember the No. 1 rule: do not waste your awesome customer’s time. Every contact must offer something of value: it could be informative, thought-provoking, entertaining, or generous.  People are inundated with computer-generated emails that have little relevance to them and their daily lives. You must be sure that every communication you send adds value.

Develop a schedule and stick to it. You may not want to touch past customers more than monthly in order to avoid over-exposure. It’s far better to produce a few quality contacts a year than send out bi-monthly generic emails they’ll just delete.

  Creating a Message of Value
Plan your headlines or subject lines carefully. In an email, the subject is the most important line of the email because your readers will either click or delete based on whether they judge that the email is worth their time to open. The same goes for articles. If the headline doesn’t interest them or comes across as too promotional, your message will be lost.

Look for quality material you can re-package for your customers. Don’t plagiarize, but do check out government agencies, associations and non-profits that provide valuable information about such topics as hurricane preparedness or protecting your property from flood damage, wildfires, earthquakes, freezing temperatures or severe storms. Most information is provided as a public service and the agencies want it distributed as broadly as possible. Just cite the source.

Remember the value of a personal connection. Sending a pre-printed card is not effective, but if you jot down a personal note to show you took time to think about that awesome customer, the card will be read and remembered.

Cultivating the awesome customer is a long-term proposition that requires planning and effort. But with the right combination of contacts over a period of years, you can have that past customer remembering that you are an awesome contractor. And that’s a reaction that is well worth the effort.