Welcome to the first edition of the 2017 Tuesday Tidbits.

Let me ask you a question. It’s only January 3rd, but have you already reached out to your existing customer base? If not, do you plan to? And when?

Many companies believe a retention strategy simply revolves around communicating frequently with their customer base, and if they do that, those customers will continue to buy. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I believe that consistency is more valuable than the quantity of communication, but the most important thing of all is a principle I call The Appropriate Reason.

This principle suggests that with all customer follow-up, messaging and communication, there’s an appropriate reason for what, when, and why. Too many companies don’t understand this, and they’re reaching out with the wrong messages at the wrong times. It’s damaging to their ability to build loyalty and develop relationships with their customers.

Communicating with your customers with the right messaging at the right time can feel like a phone call from a friend, but the wrong messaging at the wrong time can feel like you’re being smacked across the face.

A company I did business with delivered a pleasant experience, but they never followed up. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did finally hear from them about seven months later. When they finally followed up, it was to ask me to leave a public review of my experience on a review site. This is too little and far too late. In this case, the company would have been better off not following up at all, and instead attempting to re-engage me later – treating me as a prospect.

Salespeople, in particular, are often guilty of reaching out at the wrong time, but it’s usually not their fault. They assume (and their compensation is structured based on the assumption) that once they’ve inked the deal, their work is done. They get their commissions, and they’ve moved on to find more new customers. Some companies even go so far as to have separate teams dedicated to customer loyalty or customer satisfaction, departments which rarely or never interact with the sales team. I cannot overstate how fundamentally flawed this practice is.

Repeat after me: The most important work you do is done after the first sale is made. The bulk of your efforts should be in the care and nurture of your clients. You cannot do right by your clients if you’re reaching out at inappropriate times with the wrong messaging. And please, for the love of all that is holy in this world, never, ever outsource the “satisfaction” of your clients to a department without a sales responsibility.

We should ask for things like reviews, referrals, testimonials, and positive word-of-mouth only when the time is right, and for every business, that’s going to be different.

Here’s a better question to ask today: Ask yourself what else you can do that adds value and enhances the lives of your customers lives. Here’s a hint: it’s always appropriate when it’s not self-serving. When it’s serving your interest over theirs (buy this, review this, give us this) you have to be far more discerning about the right place and the right time.

And now here’s your key challenge: It’s a New Year. You’ve now got an appropriate reason to reach out right now. Not to pitch or sell, but to add value, to check in, and to see how the year is shaping up. Do this, and the sales will come naturally.