Customer Retention Strategies for Small Business Owners & Agencies

Customer Retention Strategies for Small Business Owners & Agencies

Key points

  1. Providing excellent customer service is key to retaining clients.
  2. Offering incentives via a referral program can be an effective strategy for improving client retention.
  3. Providing ongoing support, suggesting new services or products, and sharing helpful resources can help retain clients.

Agency and small business owners benefit greatly from applying client retention strategies instead of focusing on purely increasing their number of customers. In order to retain an existing client, you need to be aware of retention strategies that I’ll introduce you to below.

But first, why is it so important to keep your loyal customer close to you, and what are the reasons for losing customers in the first place?

Why is customer retention important for small businesses?

Every business owner should know that it’s easier to keep an existing customer than invest time and money to find a new one. The biggest benefit is that it’s easy to sell a product or service to an existing customer than to convince a new one to make a purchase. Another one: just a five percent increase in client retention has the potential to boost company revenue between ​25 and 95%​.

Studies have shown that it’s also much more expensive to find new clients than to invest into retaining existing ones. The US Small Business Administration suggests that companies with a revenue below $5 million per year should spend between seven and eight percent of their revenue on marketing. Most of that budget will be used for customer acquisition.

Let’s say you spend $1,000 on marketing which results in two new clients. The customer acquisition cost (CAC) would be $500. Depending on the service or product you’re selling, it might take you some time to break even on that cost before you make a profit.

Instead of spending $500 on new customers, you could’ve used $100 to reduce the yearly recurring service subscription of a churning customer, and be left with a $400 profit. As you can see, the return on investment (ROI) isn’t always great when you’re purely looking to increase the number of new customers.

Another reason why you shouldn’t just focus on increasing your customer base is that it’s hard for small business owners to compete with companies that have a bigger marketing budget. They can easily afford resources to create lead generation tactics in order to acquire a new customer. You’re better of spending your budget on retention marketing, and impriving customer relationships.

With that said, let’s look at effective customer retention strategies for small business owners that you could put into place.

10 customer retention strategies available to you

What exactly defines a customer retention strategy? Simply said, it’s one or a set of initiatives that have the potential to increase your customer lifetime value, and prevent churn.

These strategies can be used at any point in the customer lifecycle to build a long-lasting relationship, starting with the day they purchase one of your productized services until right before their annual subscription renews.

Some client retention strategies can be automated, others need active involvement from your team.

Here’s a list of the strategies we’ll talk about in more detail.

  1. Client onboarding

  2. Customer experience & service

  3. Self-service

  4. Personalization

  5. Surveys

  6. Complaints

  7. Referral programs

  8. Social proof

  9. Customer education

  10. Upselling

Client onboarding

With a great client onboarding strategy you can help your customers wrap their heads around your services in a matter of minutes instead of days. For many agency owners, the best solution is to hop on a call with every new client. While this strategy is personal, it also requires a lot of work and doesn’t scale well.

Instead, you could:

  • send your clients a welcome email with next steps

  • put them into a drip campaign and send them an email sequence

  • send them a link to your help center or serve via virtual call center

If you’re using a client portal software such as, you can make use of the onboarding template available on all plans.

SPP client onboarding page

It allows you to embed a welcome video your clients can watch, link to helpful resources, and best of all, it’s always available a click away. If your clients need to review information, they can just navigate back to the onboarding form.

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Customer experience & service

Excellent customer service goes a long way, although it’s hard to track how much it improves the customer retention rate. One thing is clear: if your team is doing a stellar job by answering questions in a timely manner, and going above and beyond for your customers, they’ll appreciate it.

Here are a few things to ensure that your agency provides great customer service:

  • own your mistakes and take responsibility for mistakes

  • be consistent with your services and delivery times

  • don’t make promises you cannot keep

  • try to respond as quickly as possible

If you combine your customer service with amazing customer success, you have even better chances to wow your clients. The customer success team should your clients by heart, anticipate their needs, and help them reach their business goals.

For agency owners, the success team also presents the opportunity to upsell clients and increase the company revenue. More on that later though.


Customer service and self-service go hand-in-hand. While clients love it when a real person responds to their questions, some things can be resolved without any human intervention.

In the productized business world, many clients know what they need, so they’d like to:

  • send new requests and tasks whenever they want to,

  • be able to manage their subscription, and

  • change their payment method at will.

With SPP, you can encourage customers to manage their subscription on their own.

SPP subscription client self-serice

This takes some of your responsibilities away while increasing the customer retention. Think about it: if a client wants to upgrade to a more expensive plan, they don’t even need to reach out–they can just do it themselves.


Being on a first name basis with your clients is not enough when it comes to personalization. The longer a client is subscribed to your service, the more you know about them.

A great way to achieve this is by personalizing the experience. According to a study published by Statista, 90% of consumers don’t appreciate irrelevant brand messaging.

One of the main reasons customers turn to small businesses is due to the fact that those offer a more personal touch. Funnel your client base into a CRM such as ActiveCampaign that you keep up-to-date with every little detail, from purchases to interactions with your emails.

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A simple personalization strategy any agency owner can use is to rely on your CRM data to send a coupon for birthdays.


Customer feedback is important if you want to retain them for a long time. Doing surveys is a great way to hear from a select group of customers.

  1. You can either talk to them on a call, and write down their thoughts, or automate surveys.

  2. An e-commerce business can place QR codes (generated via any of these best QR code generators) on shipped products to collect feedback.

  3. For those running a service business, a modern client portal allows them to let their customers rate orders and tickets.

In the end, ratings are just that, a number. It might not be enough to accurately judge why an order/ticket has been rated the way it was.

Luckily, with the power of automations, you can ask for more detailed feedback. For instance, I explain in a LinkedIn video how to:

  • set up an order.rated or ticket.rated webhook

  • use to check if the rating is bigger than 3

  • then send an order message via API asking for more information

automation in to check if an order is rated > 3 post message in SPP

With this automation you can engage with happy customers, get their feedback, and understand their point of view. Ideally, you’d also set up a similar automation for lower ratings to find out why a client wasn’t happy.


There are clients who never mention they weren’t a fan of your services (a.k.a. the silent treatment), others are very vocal. You should learn to appreciate the latter because they give you the opportunity to do better. The former, however, walk away, and might never return.

The reason for not filing a complaint can vary greatly. Sometimes customers don’t know how or they think it wouldn’t make a difference. Make sure that your clients know that you’re always receptive to feedback, be it positive or negative.

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It could be a simple contact form or a live chat option that allows them to send feedback without too much hassle. Or an email that simply asks about feedback—nothing more, nothing less. Use the complaints to improve your service, and show your customers how much you care, and that you want to retain them.

Referral programs

Many successful small business owners have grown without throwing money into marketing strategies. The only one they deemed necessary was word-of-mouth in combination with a little gift in return, also known as a referral program.

What better way to advertise your business than by using happy clients who do the work for you? In return, you can give them discounts for your services, or a commission. If you don’t want to handle complicated payouts or deal with coupons, in SPP you can simply top up their account balance. This allows your customers to spend their commissions on your services–a win-win-situation.

If you’re afraid that your referral program could be abused, start it off slowly. Limit it to big clients who’ve been with you for a while. You can also limit the referral program and make it invitation only. You’d have to approve each affiliate manually, which might limit the reach of the referral program.

Social proof

I’m sure you’ve seen testimonials on agency websites praising how clients loved working with the company.

Leverage the power of social proof by embedding client testimonials on:

  • your website,

  • your order forms, and

  • on social media.

Social proof is incredibly important on order forms as it can increase the conversion rate during checkouts. We’ve put together a tutorial how you can embed testimonials easily here.

order form social proof testimonial in sidebar

If you’re lucky, you don’t even need to ask for testimonials. Some clients are very vocal on Twitter and other social channels. Simply grab a screenshot of their testimonial, and use it on your website.

It’s still a nice gesture to ask if they can be quoted though!

Customer education

Educated customers are happy, require less hand-holding, and might spend more money on your services. How do you educate them though?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Create an onboarding page inside your client portal that contains a demo video and tips to get started.

  • Fill the welcome email you send out with useful information and next steps so clients know what to expect.

  • Put your new clients into a nurture email funnel were you send them helpful tips and tricks.

What about calls, you ask? The productized model doesn’t really leave a lot of room for calls because they are often not the best use of your time (or that of your clients). That being said, you can still hop on an introduction call with high-value clients who subscribe to your most expensive yearly plans. It really pays to get personal with them.


Talking to high-value clients on a call might be the perfect opportunity to find out about their wants and needs, and upsell them on your services. A lot of agencies run on a “show little, upsell later” model. Their website only gives you a peak into their service offering. The upselling starts once a customer purchases the first service.

SPP Upsell option

If you’re not into doing calls, you can also upsell after checkout right away based on the service purchased. Here’s a tutorial on how you can set up an upsell form inside SPP.

5 ways SPP can help small businesses retain customers

I’ve already mentioned SPP a few times above, but let’s look at a few concrete examples how our tool can help you implement client retention strategies for small business owners.

1. Make all messages accessible in one place

The SPP client portal changes the way your team and your clients communicate. The back and forth across multiple email threads is tiring. By using SPP, everything is as accessible as you want to make it.

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Clients can respond to messages in the client portal or via email. Any time you or your team posts a message in an order, the customer receives a notification in the client portal and via email.

Rather than having dozens of separate email threads for each project, their response shows up in their order any time a client replies to a message. This bypasses any confusion during communication and gives you clear history of who said what and when.

No longer will your customers be annoyed because you missed their email, and cancel their subscription with you.

2. Subscribe customers to a mailing list

As already mentioned, attracting new customers costs more than retaining current customers. It makes sense that you use a retention-boosting way to stay in contact with your clients. Here’s where retention email marketing comes into play.

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At SPP, we make it easy to tag and subscribe your customers to a mailing list in MailChimp or ActiveCampaign. This allows you to re-engage them via email, help them get the most value from your services, and send occasional updates or newsletters about your services.

Whether you send clients monthly updates on your services or generally useful content, it keeps them engaged with your business. Ultimately, this translates to an increase in retention as your business stays fresh in your clients’ minds.

3. Send checkout abandonment emails

Sometimes, people abandon your order form during checkout; maybe their card failed, or maybe they got distracted–it happens to everyone. The percentage of abandoned carts is usually ​between 50% and 80%​. However, it’s possible to reach out to those customers and reclaim the lost sales.

SPP sends a strategic recovery email that brings clients back right where they left off and gives them an easy option to finalize checkout.

4. Send business updates

Whether you have something exciting happening this month or are adding something new for your subscribers, you’ll have to keep them in the loop to keep them interested in your business. However, you can also send updates to upsell clients to the next tier in your subscription offerings.

Let’s assume you offer the following services:

  • Content creation,

  • Content graphic creation

  • Video content creation

Those ordering content creation might also be interested in graphics for the blog posts, so it’s easy to upsell them. Others might want you to turn their written content into a video format they can share on social media.

Don’t forget to ask customers when they create an account if they’d like to opt-in before you send any marketing related emails. We have a handy opt-in field item for order forms.

5. Reach out to your best users

SPP has a client report feature that enables you to determine who your best customers are—this month, this year or throughout all time. Since they are already loyal, they might be interested in making additional purchases.

dashboard new clients revenue

While you may be tempted to use automation here, these high-value clients will respond much better to a personal message from the founder or their account manager.

This increases customer loyalty and keeps them interested in your agency.

Staying connected is key

Whether you’re looking to increase customer satisfaction and retention, or just wanting to avoid issues stemming from missed emails, it’s more important than ever to stay connected with your clients.

Customers should know that you care about earning their business time and time again. It’s not enough to say you care; you have to show them through your actions to retain them.

With the customer retention strategies mentioned in this blog post, you should have everything you need to grow your business, and keep your churn rate low.

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