How to keep courting your customers long after the sale

Chief Creative Officer

As a married guy who wants to stay that way, I’ve found that the fewer opportunities my wife and I have to compete with each other, the better we get along. For example … 

She bakes; I cook. She gardens; I landscape. She ovulates; I just watch.

It’s not until we go to the dentist that all the harmony we’ve achieved goes up in vapors and Jillian becomes the Mike Tyson to my Evander Holyfield’s ear.

The ultimate prize for a perfect check-up—a sticker that gets posted to the fridge plus six months of bragging rights when the loser gets pummeled with insults like Yuck Mouth, Dumpster Breath, and the nastiest one of all …


For years, we’d been deadlocked. She’d come home with her sticker. And a few weeks later, I’d peacock through the kitchen with mine.

It wasn’t until our most recent visit that one of our fortunes changed.

* * *

The playing field couldn’t have been more level. We had the same doctor, the same hygienist, and for the first time, our appointments were on the same day. 

I hadn’t seen Jillian since her morning visit. And nobody told me the outcome when I settled in for my own exam that afternoon.

By now, the staff was just as invested in our little contest as we were.

I have to think dental hygienists become desensitized to the horrors they see in their line of work. At least above the neck. 

So, when she kicked off her inspection with an accusatory “What happened?!”, I knew the degree of neglect I presented must have been something special. 

For the next 25 minutes, she chiseled and scraped as if she were descaling a showerhead. 

Gruesome stuff. And she had only done the lowers. 

Later, when the dentist came in for a final once-over, she stood with her back to me as she washed her hands.

“You know …,” she said. 

Her words hung in the air as she turned off the water, grabbed three paper towels, and slowly dried her hands. Then, looking at me over her right shoulder, she broke her silence with “… your wife got a sticker.”

That was it. I knew I had lost the title.

“We had some problems today,” my hygienist said. “But maybe we can still give you a sticker.” 

“No,” I said. I swung my legs out of the chair and stood up. “You have to earn a sticker.”

That’s when she opened a drawer, pulled out something shiny, and with her pen wrote something across a white smiley tooth. Handing it to me she said, “How ‘bout we call this one an ‘encouragement sticker’?”

(The birds pretend there’s no tension in the house.

* * *

I stopped just short of ending that story with a “service with a smile” reference. But my trip to the dentist reminded me of how the customer experience after the sale influences your likelihood of repeat business, referral business, and if you’re not paying attention—losing business. 

We’ve all heard some form of sales being more easily won from current customers vs. cold prospects. And it makes perfect sense. Then, five minutes later, we’re all piling into the Jeep for another elephant hunt.

Here’s the truth:

The closer you are to your customers, the longer they’ll stick around. Maybe even spread the word.

This isn’t about brand loyalty. That’s more of a boulder than a nugget. It’s about the smaller steps you can take to continually remind your customer that they were right to choose you.

Here we go in three … two … one …

Catch them off guard.

Ever get a special deal or friendly hello from a company because it’s your birthday month? Sure, you may appreciate it. But it’s been done a million times.

Wouldn’t it be more fun and memorable for your customers if you acknowledged them in an unexpected way? You betcha! (I lived in Minnesota for five years, so I can say that.)

I recently got served a discount because it was the anniversary of my subscribing to their emails. A small twist on the ol’ birthday month trick, but it was different enough to raise an eyebrow—and prompt a purchase.

Whether it’s a weird anniversary date, a made-up holiday, or a special offer “just for the Steves,” look at your customer data and use your imagination for unique ways to make them feel special.

Ask them how you’re doing.

It seems simple enough, but how often do you check in with your customers to make sure you’re delivering on the promises you made to get them in the door?

Lasting relationships don’t run on autopilot. Just as you appreciate check-ins from your spouse or partner, your customers will be equally jazzed to give you their unvarnished feedback—especially because it will benefit them. (Remember, we are ALL selfish little creatures.)

If things are going smoothly, wonderful. But if you’re falling a little short, it’s better to know when you still have time to fix it. Plus, it gives your customer a glimpse at how you handle the situation when things go south. Then, you’re not just earning their business. You’re earning their respect, too.

Oh, and one more thing …

If you want to collect feedback from multiple customers at once, never begin your note with “Dear Valued Customer.” That’s like saying, “We’re delighted to have your business, but we couldn’t be bothered with looking up your name.” Madness.

Give them a voice.

The more your customers can participate in what you do, the more ownership they’ll feel over the end product. This triggers what behavioral scientists call the “endowment effect”—where people place more value on what they already own.

(h/t to Nancy Harhut and her marketing must-read, “Using Behavioral Science in Marketing.”)

Whether your customers can become co-creators, participate in beta testing, or provide input in focus groups or surveys, involving them in the process benefits them—and you. Another bonus …

… the more invested your customers are, the harder it’ll be for them to walk away. 

Hey, anyone else feel all the air suddenly leave the room?

That’s what happens when the behavioral scientists crash the party.

Here’s a song to play you out >>>

See you next time. – Toothsquatch

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Chief Creative Officer
Matt is a professional storyteller. That used to be a thinly veiled way to say you still lived with your parents. But the truth is stories have existed since the dawn of humanity and they still have the power to move people, even if it’s no longer from the path of a charging mammoth. Throughout his career on both the agency and client sides, Matt’s work has been known to compel audiences to indulge in higher thread counts, abandon Lenten sacrifice, or move to the suburbs. He’ll even conjugate a noun if he has to. The bottom line: Matt is our agency twofer. Strategy and Creative. The Big Idea and Stealth Deployment. He’s a single expense yielding a dual return. And who doesn’t love a bargain?

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