Remember those collectable sticker books or postcard anthologies you had as a kid? Your mission was to collect as many stickers, postcards – or in my case, Pogs (those round cartoon-covered cardboard discs found in drinks caps) – as possible, then trade them with your mates in the playground. No sooner had you found that longed-for Taz Pog, than you were on to the next one.

The thing about collectibles is that you don’t get to enjoy your latest addition for long before a new one comes along and distracts you. The problem many businesses have is they see customers as collectibles: it’s about the numbers they have on their books, rather than how to keep the customers they already have happy and build strong, lasting relationships with them.

It costs up to 25x more to obtain a new customer than it does to maintain an existing one. When you're trying to grow your business, it can be tempting to fall into the trap of spending all your time on sales. Of course, acquiring new customers is essential to any business, but not if it means you have to replace them a few months down the line. So, how can you keep your current customers happy enough to not only renew with you, but recommend you to their peers? Here we share our top tips for creating delight in your existing customers.

Delighted customers smile in a circle

1. Continue offering valuable content

If you've followed the inbound methodology in order to attract, convert and close your customers with valuable content, why would you stop there? Don't lure customers in with Quality Streets, only to fling Liquorice Allsorts at them once they’re in (sorry to all liquorice lovers). If you do this, you might find they move elsewhere pronto, so work hard to make your product indispensable to them. Try building a resources area on your website which only existing customers can access – this gives an exclusivity they’ll really appreciate. It could contain anything from additional downloadable materials, to a support blog or video tutorials sharing tips and tricks for how to get the most out of your product.

2. Make your customers the heroes

Reach out to your current customers and invite them to share the successes they've had with your product or service, and to celebrate the impact their work has had on their own customers. At ESM Inbound, we've helped our customers do this through customer-centric content such as case studies, surveys, crowd-sourced blog posts and hero campaigns on social media. Testimonials from happy customers are like gold-dust – a recommendation from someone already using your product and getting great results is far more likely to resonate with your prospects than your latest brochure ever will.

If you need input from customers to create content, you'll need to be sensitive in the way you go about asking for it. Offer to call at a time suitable to them, and be prepared to be patient if they ask to reschedule at the last minute – by showing you’re flexible and really keen to speak to them, you’ll show you truly care and put them first.

3. Training, coaching and workshops

Do you run training as part of your onboarding process when you take on a new customer? Why not extend this to include optional workshops with existing clients to introduce any new features of your product, celebrate successes and ask questions? There are many ways you can conduct coaching opportunities with your clients, other than offering on-site training days.

Hosting webinars is a great way to add value to your product. They’re a low-cost way to deliver a training service – for the customer as well as yourself. Hosting a weekly Twitter or Facebook chat to enable this will give you valuable content you can use, as well as unique insights into the problems customers face and the pain points they have. These chats are good for creating brand awareness, in addition to delighting existing customers.

4. Go above and beyond

Showing you appreciate and respect your customers’ loyalty, and that you too are prepared to go the extra mile to support them in any way you can, will really resonate with them. This isn’t a case of ensnaring them, then forgetting about them; like in any meaningful relationship, you have to constantly prove you are thinking about them, want the best for them and willing to change your behaviours according to their needs. In short, they need to feel appreciated.

The odd bouquet of flowers through the post, delivery of doughnuts to their office or even just a friendly Friday-afternoon email to the team telling them why they were a great customer that week, are sure ways to deliver sunshine. You don’t have to spend buckets of cash on them, but unexpected small, personal gestures to tell them specific things they’ve done well will delight everyone involved.

5. Ask for their opinions

Keeping communication channels open is one of the cleverest things you can do to delight customers. This doesn’t mean only when helping with their workload, strategy or business goals. You need to be creating conversations around them outside of your standard agreed work; talk to them as people and – most importantly – ask for their opinions.

A great start would be to ask customers if there's anything they wish your product or service could do – and then go about making this happen, and share your plans for improvements in the future. Or, if there is a change to your product coming up on the horizon, tell them you’ll dedicate some time to walking them through the new features. You could even create a quick questionnaire using a tool such as Typeform to send out to customers, getting immediate feedback about various parts of your business you could tweak.

And finally...

'Delight' should be at the top of your priority list when it comes to your marketing strategy. Put 'delight' last on the agenda, and you might as well add 'churn' to your business plan.

Your current customers are your best marketing asset – get the 'delight' part of the buyer's journey right, and this will in turn, help you attract new customers, with your existing ones as your best advocates and promoters.