Quiz Time: Who do you think is more important to your business: a) someone who is your customer, or b) someone who is not your customer? Now, I know that’s a tough question, so I’ll give you a few minutes to think hard about the answer. Give up? Here’s a hint: the answer is “a”. (I’m not big on subtle hints.)

Your customers are important to your business for the simple reason that this is where all your sales, future sales and referrals come from. Customers pay all your overhead, all your salaries, all your improvements, and all of your training. (If they don’t, then your business is going the wrong way! Stop reading this article and go sell something!)

Your company couldn’t exist without customers. Strangely, however, a lot of contractors seem to be trying their best to lose their customers. How?

By not contacting them. By forgetting about them. By letting them wander the Yellow Pages searching for another contractor when it’s time for their next service call.

Regrettably, contractors as a group have a bad habit. They service a customer one time and think because they did such a great job, that customer is theirs for life. But that’s not what happens.

According to recent surveys, the reason 55% of customers leave is due to “indifference.” The customer thinks the contractor doesn’t care whether they stay or not. How could you possibly allow that perception to go unchallenged?

The simple fact is this; contact is the way to keep customers. Contact isn’t some kind of big marketing mystery. It’s easy things, like follow-up phone calls after repair or service calls, thank you letters, holiday cards and customer newsletters.

The newsletter is, of course, where you have the most print space and the best opportunity to build your relationship with customers. You can use a traditional four-page format to send helpful, home care information – at no obligation to the recipients. With a quality design and useful content, it forges a far better image than plain advertising, thus strengthening the relationship between you and customers. Plus, it gets your name into their homes two to four times a year. That’s a huge point.

“Regularity and consistency” beat “Occasional and erratic” every time. I hear of contractors sending out a newsletter once, to a great reception. Then the second effort is late, and the third effort doesn’t get done. The momentum got waylaid and so did the retention effort. Retention is a program not an event.

For those who do it right, customer retention newsletters are among the most cost-efficient marketing methods around. Think of it. A good customer retention newsletter can cost less than $3 a year per customer (including postage) for four issues! Not a bad return on investment, especially since it involves returning customers.

Remember to make your content more “helpful” rather than “sales-full.” This is the time to boost your relationship, after all. Sales pieces can be sent on another day.

When creating your newsletter mailing list, you should include every customer who has written you a check in the last 48 months. That’s a paltry expense when you consider all you’ve just read.

Build a fence around your customers with a solid customer retention campaign. Invest in a good, regular customer newsletter that keeps your name and your services in customers’ minds all year long. In time, your customers become “unswitchable.” You’ll get more referrals, greater loyalty, and more sales.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Readers can get the free report “The #1 Costliest Mistake in Contractor Marketing” by emailing freestuff@hudsonink.com with your mailing address. If you would like an exclusive turn-key Customer Retention Fall newsletter sample fax your letterhead to 334-262-1115 with the request or email freestuff@hudsonink.com. (Be sure to include your mailing address.) Call 1-800-489-9099 or check out www.hudsonink.com for more free information.