How repeat customers improved my business

champagne

“Repeat business is both an honour that confirms you’re doing something right, and a reminder to push yourself to keep serving the people who love what you’re doing,” says entrepreneur Kyla Kirkpatrick. Here, she shares her secrets to earning repeat business.

It has been 10 years since I started The Champagne Dame and I am still surprised by the number of people who keep coming back to my masterclasses and events.

After years working as a brand ambassador for Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy I decided to start The Champagne Dame, which allowed me to be an independent ambassador of the Champagne region. My first public champagne masterclass was in 2008. I listed the event online and waited with trepidation for people to purchase tickets. I had worked really hard on my content and on the day I delivered my presentation with passion and gusto, which spelled success.

A few months later I listed another public event, a little more confident after how well the first had gone. When I turned up for that class I was panicked to find out that 70% of the room had been at my last event – but I was set to deliver the same content. It was both an honour to discover that they had enjoyed and learnt so much at the previous class that they wanted to know more, and a wake-up call to me. From that moment on I realised that I would have to keep changing, improving and creating new products and content for these loyal clients.

Since then, I’ve been careful to nurture repeat customers. It is not only more cost effective to turn existing clientele into repeat customers compared to acquiring someone new, but if you treat them well, loyal clientele become great advocates for your business.

Build a database and acknowledge loyalty

Collect your clients’ details – with permission, of course – and put them on a ‘club member’ or VIP list so you have a ready-made database for future reference. If you have an ecommerce site, you probably already have a mechanism that does this for you, extracting from customers’ shipping and contact details. If your business is more service-oriented like mine, use events where customers are present to distribute loyalty cards or data capture cards that they fill in – offering a prize draw will guarantee they fill this card in.

Building a database is critical for repeat business. By using a database, contact with customers who already know and trust you becomes cost effective. Regular communication is key, but avoid constantly selling to them. Give them value: interesting content, advanced notice of events, or an insider look at something they won’t get anywhere else. Use association – give them content you know your customers will relate to. For example, if you own a restaurant in Australia, give your clients the top ten restaurants to dine in when in Paris.

Build a community

Focus on building a special community between your loyal clients. Let them share their experiences to foster a sense of belonging between them. As The Champagne Dame, I try to enhance my attendees’ experience by adding them to my VIP guest list, which gives them offers and events exclusive to my community.

You can create a club or forum on your website, but existing platforms, like a private Facebook group, are also great as members can communicate between themselves in a familiar format. The best part is you don’t need to be highly involved in this, as most connections will develop organically.

Build a following and keep innovating

While repeat business is great, it also takes a different kind of hard work to make sure you stay relevant and in demand. I have now presented to more than 10,000 people in a decade and let me tell you it doesn’t get easier.

Today, more than ever, it’s critical to aim for continuous improvement and delivering something new – whether you intended it or not, customers see that as part of your offering. People have shorter attention spans, higher expectations and have seen it all before. You need to keep extending yourself so that your product or service is ahead of the market and the best version it can possibly be.

Avoid complacency by taking time out to critically review your offering and think about how to take it to the next level. Sometimes this leads to new opportunities, for example, through The Champagne Dame masterclasses I kept hearing the same thing from attendees about the narrow range and quality of champagne available in Australia. Pairing that with my knowledge that the Australian market was the fastest growing in the world led me to my new online business, Emperor Champagne, founded on research obtained through loyal clientele. These learnings (some of them surprising) have allowed us to shape the business and stay relevant as well as grow through innovation.

While acquiring new customers is exciting, we’ve found that investing in repeat business is extremely rewarding. Not only do happy, engaged customers spread the word on our behalf, they give us new ideas and opportunities to grow as well. Listen and learn from your loyal customer base and you will thrive.


About the author

Kyla Kirkpatrick is the CEO and founder of The Champagne Dame and Emperor Champagne. Kyla, who has a double degree in commerce and Chinese mandarin, left a promising career in finance in 2005 to move to France to study the world of Champagne. Three years later she launched The Champagne Dame and has since presented to over 10,000 people including Kerry packer and Elle Macpherson. Recognised as one of Australia’s leading champagne educators, in late 2017 Kyla launched Emperor, Australia’s largest online champagne retailer.