By Brandon Carter | Updated on Mar 18, 2014 2:13:00 AM
There’s a longtime adage in business that says it costs five times more (or even more) to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. It’s cited all over the place, but no one is quite clear on its origins. Don Peppers attributed it to a Harvard Business Review article “from a couple decades ago.” Ipsos Loyalty says it’s outright untrue.
The truth is, there are a number of cost variables every company has in play that muddy the waters between retention and acquisition. There are complicating factors on each side of the equation, but in general, it’s going to cost more to bring a customer in than to keep one in the fold.
That makes it sound so easy. Combine it with the Pareto Principle (80% of sales will come from 20% of customers) and you’ve got yourself a simple game plan for untold fortunes.
What those adages don’t mention is that customer retention is harder than acquisition.
Acquisition is a game that can be rigged. You can make all kinds of brand promises and deep discounts and publicity stunts that will convince people to fork over their money.
It’s keeping them in the fold that’s hard (especially if the promises you made about your product don’t exactly match the actual experience). Customer loyalty cannot be rigged.
Loyalty is cheaper – you’re looking at tactics like emails versus advertising spend. Even a full-fledged loyalty program will generally be cheaper than an outbound acquisition campaign.
But it’s harder. Why?
Acquisition isn’t exactly easy, but customer retention requires an entirely different level of commitment. Whether it’s six times the revenue, or even just 5% more revenue, it’s absolutely worth it. Consider the lifetime value of a customer vs a one-time purchase - as well as the friends & family of that loyal customer in today's connected environment - and it's a no brainer.