Get More Out of Your Customers: Increasing Customer Lifetime Value
by Aden Andrus • December 18, 2019
In business, there’s a temptation to get fixated on driving new sales. You can’t guarantee how often or how long a new customer will buy from you, so it’s easy to fall into the trap of building your campaigns around first-time sales.
There’s nothing technically wrong with that approach, but it does have some significant flaws.
When you’re focused on maximizing first-time sales, it’s easy to accidentally end up optimizing for one-time sales. It can also be very hard to run profitable marketing campaigns because achieving profitability on your initial sale can be very difficult for many businesses.
As a result, when you’re focused on first-time sales, you can end up shutting off your most profitable campaigns (at least, in a long-term sense) and investing your money in the wrong channels.
To avoid making these sorts of mistakes, it’s important to figure out, use and optimize your customer lifetime value (CLV). So, in this article, we’re going to take a look at what customer lifetime value is and how to maximize it.
What is Customer Lifetime Value?
In a nutshell, customer lifetime value is the total amount of money you can expect to make from a new customer. It might take weeks, months or even years to make that money, but on average, you’ll make it.
So, if you sell $20 widgets and your average customer buys 5 widgets over the course of 2 years, your CLV is $100.
The great thing about CLV is the fact that once they’re a customer, any repeat business you get from them is just money in the bank. It takes a lot of time and money to win over a new customer, but it takes little-to-no marketing investment to get an existing customer to buy again.
Now, while 44% of businesses spend the majority of their time trying to get new customers and only 16% focus on improving CLV, finding ways to increase your CLV is one of the best ways to grow and stabilize your revenue stream. A better CLV means better results for your business, which is why it pays to figure out how to increase your customer lifetime value.
7 Ways to Increase Customer Lifetime Value
There are a lot of ways to increase customer lifetime value and most of them could be (and are) the subject of their own blog post. However, since the point of this post is to help you brainstorm ways to improve CLV, we’ll briefly discuss 7 different tactics you can try and point you towards resources you check out for more information.
1. Improve Your Onboarding Process
As a general rule of thumb, if you want people to spend more money on your business, the key is to give them a great customer experience. You’ll notice that this is a general theme through most of the recommendations in this article.
And, where does the customer experience start? For many businesses, it starts with the onboarding process. Generally speaking, the onboarding process is most important for services and SaaS-type businesses, but even ecommerce business “onboard” new customers through emails, packaging, product quality and customer service.
First impressions are huge, so making sure that your onboarding process is as smooth, pleasant and fulfilling as possible is one of the best ways to reduce churn and increase CLV. To learn more about how you can improve your onboarding process, check out this article.
2. Provide Ongoing Value
Many businesses interact well with their customers during the purchasing and/or onboarding process, but never take things any farther. Once the client has signed on, or the product has been delivered, they consider the job done and move on.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it isn’t a very good way to get long-term business.
People buy because of perceived value. The higher the perceived value-to-cost ratio, the more likely they will be to buy. This principle applies before, during and after the sale.
So, if you want to get customers to come back and buy again, you need to continue to provide value long after the original purchase. This helps you stay top-of-mind and build a relationship with your customers that makes them want to buy from you again. All of the value that you provide after the sale just gets added to the perceived value of your products or services.
One of the best ways to provide ongoing value is through content. Email marketing, videos, blog posts, how-to-guides and more all provide value over time. As result, people remember your business, have positive feelings associated with it and are more likely to come back and buy again. For more information, check out this article.
3. Blow Them Away With Your Customer Service
Your customer service team can make or break your business. In fact, a third of your customers may give up on your company after a single poor customer service experience.
No one wants to have to contact customer service in the first place. Having a poor customer service experience just adds insult to injury.
On the flip side, however, since most customer service experiences are relatively unpleasant and frustrating, if you can provide an awesome customer service experience, you can win a customer over for life. To learn more about how you can improve your customer service, check out this article.
4. Build Relationships
This tip applies more to services businesses than ecommerce businesses, but for any business, relationships are key. If people feel a connection to you, your business or someone on your team, they’re much more likely to keep buying from you.
We all crave connection. It’s part of the reason why social media works for companies and not just individuals. If your customers feel like you get them, they’ll want you to succeed and show their support with their wallets. To learn more about how to build effective relationships with your customers, read this article.
5. Listen to Your Customers
People love to feel heard. Everyone has opinions, and when we feel like those opinions are heard and valued, we feel valued as well. So, if you want to build relationships with your customers and learn about what they want from your business, take the time to listen to their feedback.
To be honest, it can actually be quite difficult to grow your business without customer feedback. You are not your customer, so you’ll never know exactly what their motivations, aspirations, wants and needs are…unless you ask.
There are a variety of ways to listen to your customers. Pay attention to your reviews and to comments on social media. Talk to your sales team. Send out surveys. Call up your customers and ask them what your business could do better. It’s all valuable information that will help you provide a better experience.
And, as a bonus, it will make your customers feel heard and valued…which will make them more likely to come back and buy again in the future. For more ideas on how to get customer feedback, check out this article.
6. Personalize Your Customer Experience
In today’s depersonalized digital world, it’s easy to feel like just another number. That’s why personalizing your customer experience can be so powerful. In fact, 77% of consumers have spent more money on or recommended a brand because of a personalized service or experience.
So, whether you’re creating a personalized user experience in your app, a custom product or simply personalizing a services package to meet a client’s needs, personalization sells. When people feel like your business cares about them and has invested in them as an individual, they’re much more likely to come back for more. To learn more about the power of personalization, take a look at this article.
7. Upsell and Cross-Sell
Of course, no discussion of ways to increase CLV would be complete without mentioning cross-sells and upsells. Done right, cross-sells and upsells are an easy way to improve customer lifetime value—both immediately and over time.
Cross-selling is a great way to get people to buy additional things (like purchasing a phone case for your new cell phone), while upselling is an effective way to sell more expensive—but more valuable—things.
Both approaches can allow you to increase the total amount your customers spend, but only if you can match your upsells and/or cross-sells to the needs of your customers. As with all of the other ideas we’ve discussed in this article, if your upsells or cross-sells aren’t part of a good, customer-focused experience, they can actually do more harm than good.
The key with cross-sells and upsells is to focus on offering things that your customers would legitimately be interested in. There needs to be a good reason to suggest additional or alternative products/services. If the reason is, “I want to make more money”, your customers will sense your avarice and run away. To learn more about this, take a look at this article.
The key to increasing your customer lifetime revenue is to focus on delivering a great customer experience. People are used to being treated like commodities, so being treated as valuable and important will make them eager to come back for more.
The better your customer experience is, the better your CLV will be. And, the better your CLV is, the easier it will be to achieve your marketing and business goals.
By the way, if you’d like some help figuring out and improving your customer lifetime value, let us know here or in the comments. We’d love to help!
How do you approach customer lifetime value? What do you do to improve it? Have any ideas to share? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.