Everyone wants new business. But sometimes we get so wrapped up in trying to predict what the next great lead-gen tactic will be, we forget that new business doesn't come just from new customers. It also comes from your current customers, and it's a lot cheaper to acquire, to boot.

Most marketers have undoubtedly seen the Bain & Company study that put hard numbers to the new-versus-existing-customer conundrum: it's six to seven times more expensive to gain a new customer than it is to retain an existing one, and a 5% increase in customer retention can boost profit from 25%-95%.

You can always try to make your customers happier by sending them free goodies, responding to emails quicker, and smiling more when you see them, but odds are that any gains you'll see aren't going to move the needle much. It takes more than extra elbow grease on your part—it takes a new approach.

The practice of adding game mechanics to your marketing arsenal will accomplish more than adding a bit of fun: It adds incremental value. Here are three ways to make your existing customers more profitable via "gamification."

Give as often as you take

Haranguing customers with emails, newsletters, and other sales materials that all contain the message "Buy more from us!" can easily lead to customers buying less, as become annoyed and disenchanted with your brand. The value equation for this scenario is unbalanced: customers see more value only if they buy more. However, by applying strategic game mechanics, you can make customers feel as if they're being rewarded immediately and continuously from your communications. In turn, they'll be more inclined to buy because they feel you've been giving them value all along.

One way to start is by looking at your email marketing. What can you do to add more value there? Asking your customers to read your copy is asking them to perform work—often boring work with little or no immediate payoff. So start by cutting your copy in half. Then cut it in half again, and make what's left more focused and interesting.

Next, figure out two things: What is the one action you want the recipient to take after reading this email, and what are you willing to give them for it? If you're trying to get them to make a purchase with a free training incentive, back that train up and do something a little unconventional: Make them earn it. Studies have shown that people actually enjoy something more if they've earned it rather than if they're just given it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Darren Steele is the strategic director of Mindspace and co-author of the gamification book, I'll Eat this Cricket for a Cricket Badge. Darren can be reached at darren@mindspace.net.