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Brand new customers only? Seven ways to nurture your valuable client base

April 11, 2011 by Fiona Humberstone

What is this obsession with chasing after new customers all the time? Driving the children to school the other day I was incensed by a Direct Line advert, bragging about introductory discounts, presumably for new customers.

Remember the Nationwide advert for “Brand New Customers Only”? That ad worked because we’ve all experienced the injustice of special deals being offered to new customers and not us loyal ones.

And is it just me or do you also go through the same rigmarole every year of needing to take out a new car insurance policy (often with the same provider) because it’s cheaper to sign up again online than it is to renew?

Seriously? It doesn’t make sense and financial service providers are some of the worst culprits. But I wonder if small businesses aren’t just as bad? Do you spend your time and energy on looking after the clients you have, encouraging them to do repeat business with you? Or is your marketing strategy all about the new business?

New customers cost up to seven times more to win than leveraging business from your existing customers. And your existing customers, who presumably know you, like you and trust you, are likely to spend up to three times more than new clients. So if the financials don’t add up, why do we do it? Why do we spend so much time and energy chasing new business rather than nurturing our valuable client base? And if we should be nurturing our client base, then how do we do it?

I’ve recently run a Customer Retention conference with customer management expert, Liz Machtynger, so this is a subject that’s very close to my heart.

Here are seven ways you can nurture your valuable client base:

  1. Brand for the long term. Is it possible to create a brand that helps you retain as well as attract new customers? I think so!
  2. Be clear about what sort of clients you want to retain. Not everyone you work with will be your ideal client. The client that waves the biggest cheque won’t necessarily be your most profitable client. Think hard about which clients will be delighted with what you know you can deliver.
  3. Take some time to nurture the relationship at the outset. Liz calls this “getting your customers safely on board” – listen to your customers: what they want and how you can deliver that.
  4. Recognise and reward your customers. Take the time to say ‘Thank You’ for a piece of work. This might be as simple as a postcard in the delivery box, a range of tailored offers or inviting special clients to an event you’re running. Make them feel special.
  5. Lose with grace. If a customer leaves you, recognise when it’s best for both of you. Don’t take it personally. Get yourself ready to win them back (assuming it’s the right thing for both of you – it isn’t always…)
  6. Take your clients on a journey. Develop a range of products and services to keep your clients coming back. It sounds obvious but I know of many wonderful businesses who don’t think further than the first interaction. Explore how you can help your clients over the long term as well as the initial quick fix.
  7. Find out what your customers are really thinking. Ask them! Either via a questionnaire, online survey or just face-to-face. Call them to say thank you and find out how their experience was. You can use this feedback to improve your service.

Has this got you thinking?

Fiona Humberstone is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy.

 

Giving your customers reasons to love you

April 08, 2011 by Jonathan Clark

I have been thinking about the brands we love and how to improve customer retention. Let me tell you a couple of stories.

Three years ago, I took delivery of a car and on the way home it literally died. I did not see the car again for four months. However, the gentleman who looked after my “case” was exceptional. He updated me regularly, kept me totally informed on progress and made a bad situation OK. The car firm also sent me a range of well thought-out sorry gifts that were actually appropriate and of suitable value. I am now very loyal to this brand and I have a good opinion of them.

The other day, my wife and I were chatting about Clark Plc expenditure. We had decided to tighten the belt in a few areas and Sky TV was first on the list. With three kids of different ages, all of us have different viewing requirements ranging from football, Disney and South Park to Grey’s Anatomy. We currently have the full Sky package. It was going to be challenging to cut back.

In fact, my wife had a very, very good experience with Sky TV. The man on the phone listened and came up with a superb idea that was appropriate to the situation and our request. It was surprising and well delivered. To be frank I think we were expecting a bit of a challenge. It was the opposite. So now I have a great opinion of Sky, Clark Plc has the viewing requirements sorted and I will tell people about the positive experience.

So this got me thinking about two things: why we become loyal to certain brands and how businesses can improve customer retention.

Rewarding loyalty

In order to establish a loyalty scheme of any kind we need to establish who it is we actually want to reward and what it is we want to reward them for. If our most valuable customers are 100 per cent loyal to us then do we give them rewards just for being there, or do we concentrate on making the less valuable customers more valuable? We must ensure that we are adding value to our business and not simply creating a discount scheme.

Defining our objectives needs to be the first step – are we looking to reward behaviours that are good for our business, such as a customer spending more within a certain time frame, for instance?

We then need to understand our audience segments. Customers are all different and treating them as one entity means that we may be missing the main motivational factors for some of them.

After we have segmented the audience we need to look at who is the most valuable to us and why – is it the segment that makes up the highest proportion of our base? Those who spend the most? Those who are the least hassle? Or those who we feel we might be in danger of losing soon? How do these customers stack up against our objectives?

Having understood who our customers are, we need to understand their motivations – this allows us to be relevant. What do they value most?

We are a business, so we also need to understand our own motivations – what would we like our customers to do? Spend more? Stay with us long-term? Again, we need to look at this against our objectives.

Adding all this up we can see who we should be targeting, what we want to encourage them to do and what is going to motivate them. Our aim is to identify positive behaviours we want to reward and habits we can seek to change in order to make our business more profitable.

In an environment where winning new customers will get harder, it is more vital then ever before that we cherish our current customers. Some are happy, some are apathetic and some may be disappointed. As spring approaches it would be wise to look over your customer base and reward them, tackling any issues with empathy and understanding. We do long for loyalty from them; let’s give them some reasons to love us and importantly to tell their friends and associates about the great experience they have had with you.

 

Jonathan Clark is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and the executive chairman of Bright Blue Day.

 

For more ideas on how to make your customers happy, read our guides to customer service, customer loyalty and how to deal with customer complaints.

QR codes should enhance user experience

April 07, 2011 by Zabisco Digital

QR codes are a relatively old technology but one which has really started gaining momentum in recent months, according the Search Engine Watch. So, with more and more social marketers taking an interest in QR codes, how can we make use of them?

The key has got to be in adding value for the target audience. QR codes shouldn’t be there “because they’re cool”, nor should they appear to help you “look innovative”. I believe the true innovation will come from the use of QR codes to enhance reality and create a better user experience both online and off.

Quick fad or valuable tool?

Consider what a QR code actually is and what it does. A QR code is a quick and easy way to reach a URL destination or other piece of online content. What it does, is to make engagement easier by saving people the time and effort of writing down a URL or typing it into their mobile device.

Next, consider whether or not your end user would actually benefit from QR codes. There’s no point using a QR code if the majority of your audience doesn’t use a mobile phone, right? And if it would benefit them, where and how would it do that?

My prediction is that QR codes will become really important for retailers selling physical products to consumers by including them on barcodes and labelling. So, let’s say I find a pair of shoes I love but they don’t have them in my size; imagine if I could scan a QR code to find out when they will be in stock and also to browse other colours or suggested alternatives — my offline experience has been enhanced by online!

Social validation will also continue to grow in importance, so imagine I’ve gone into a mobile phone shop and I’m thinking of getting myself the new Samsung Galaxy. I hear everything I need to from the salesman, he gives me all the specifications and pricing and even lets me have a go. If I’m sensible, I’ll go home and find out more about the phone and read all the tech reviews.

But why wait? A QR code on the phone could lead me to a tech review plus some real, personal reviews from other people who actually own the phone. It could even tell me where I can get the phone at the best price.

There is a whole array of other potential uses for QR codes but essentially it really needs to focus on adding value for the end user.

 

Laura Hampton is a copywriter and online marketer at Zabisco, a digital agency in Nottingham.

 

For more information, read our guide to QR codes.

The five most common email marketing mistakes

April 06, 2011 by Georgia Christian

There is a lot of advice out there to help ensure that your email campaign is beautifully created, sent out successfully and, most importantly, well-received.

What many people tend to forget — and this goes for seasoned email campaigners and newbies alike — are the common mistakes that are all too often made when you are developing the perfect campaign.

Here are five of the most common email marketing blunders. If you successfully avoid them, it will ensure that your content is relevant, good to look at, grammatically sound and entirely logical:

  • You want and/or expect instant success. Banish the thought from your head immediately. With email marketing your aim is to develop a relationship with your customer and this takes time, sometimes more time than you think you have. You’ll need to have patience and a strong resolve. You and I know, understand and accept that Rome was most certainly not built in a day so don’t be in such a rush to get that campaign out “like yesterday!” Make sure you are 100 per cent happy with it and it has been tried and tested before you send it out. You won’t regret it.
  • Your message isn’t clear. You want it to be powerful, concise and with a strong call to action. If there is any doubt in your mind that it lacks these points then you need to reassess it, even if it sets you back time-wise. It will be worth it in the long term, believe me.
  • You aren’t entirely sure you have permission. If in doubt, here’s a quick question you can ask yourself to check: “Have they specifically requested to receive my emails?” If the answer is “no”, then you have to go back to the drawing board and work on building up your subscriber list. It’s a simple enough task and will ensure that your emails aren’t deemed spam.
  • You have subscribers on your list that haven’t heard zip from you in six months. Go through the process of getting them to remember you again. Send a friendly “remember me?” email and guide them to sign up to your newsletter again. It’s the best way to ensure that your subscriber list remains entirely “opt-in” and therefore more valuable.
  • You buy an opt-in list. I have one word for you here and that’s “unscrupulous”. Your target audience is specific and so is the product or service that you are trying to market, so sending your campaign out to 20,000 people who you don’t know and who certainly don’t know you is not a good idea. Neither is getting blacklisted for spamming, which is what would probably happen if you took this unsavoury route. 

 

Georgia Christian is the editor of the online email marketing service Mail Blaze.

 

Balancing the personal and professional on Twitter

April 05, 2011 by Bryony Thomas

I regularly give talks for entrepreneurial businesses on how to make their marketing pay. Top of my list for most is to try social media as part of their marketing toolkit. And within that, I almost always recommend Twitter.

Particularly if the business in question is one where authentic one-to-one relationships count (which is most).

Despite being on public display, Twitter is a remarkably intimate medium — in as much as people seem willing to share all sorts of personal information. Now, I don’t mean those girls who seem intent on sharing everything… that’s what the block button is for. I mean business people being willing to share that they’re having a bad day, or that their children are ill or that they’re not in the best mood, or whatever. And, vice versa, people share great news from a child winning a painting competition, to their love of the view from their window, to closing a fab new business deal. Which is why it is such a great tool for building genuine relationships with real people.

But, there’s a balance to strike. Now, this isn’t an exact science, but as a rule of thumb, if you’re using Twitter as a business tool, I suggest a mix of about 80 per cent professional and 20 per cent personal. And, of the professional tweets, I’d make at least half of that sharing content that is not your own. Of the personal, remember your audience.

I have a few rules to keep it comfortable:

  • Be yourself. Don’t try to effect an image or give an impression of someone you’d like to be, be yourself. Talk honestly about your business, your goals, and what’s important to you. It’s much easier to maintain being yourself than to put yourself under pressure to maintain some sort of character you’ve created.
  • Don’t Tweet when drunk or angry! I know it’s tempting with smart phones to always be online, but there really are times when it’s best to keep yourself to yourself.
  • Would you say it at a networking event? I think of Twitter as a bit like a professional networking event. So, I might talk about the dresses on Strictly, who won X Factor, or the weather… I might even talk about something interesting (!) But, I personally tend to steer clear of religious beliefs, deeply political conversations, or flirtation.
  • Would you be happy for your most important client to see it? If you Tweet it, it’s out there. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable for your most important client to see it, don’t say it.

So, should you show a bit of personality? Yes, definitely. People like talking to real people. Should you use it as a confessional or dating service? No, not if you’re using it as a business tool.

 

Bryony Thomas is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and is Chief Clear Thinker at Clear Thought Consulting.

The truth is, nobody cares about your blog...

April 04, 2011 by Chris Street

…well, that’s what you’d believe if you listened to the traditional marketers, online sceptics, and old-school business brains.

But – actually – there is a grain of truth in the shocking statement. Nobody cares about your blog.

Unless you give them one, two, or all of the following things:

* Useful information, such as ‘How To’ guides

* Proven case studies highlighting a return of some kind

* Open, engaged topical discussion without a hard sell

* Real-life experience and expertise in your niche for their benefit

* Passion and knowledge, packaged up in readable chunks

Or, alternatively, are you banging out a flog blog? Sell sell sell? Broadcasting, not listening?

If so, then of course nobody cares about your blog – after all, how are you really, truly, genuinely helping the reader?

Think give give give, and see what comes back – in time.

This may seem like obvious stuff, but there are a surprising number of flog blogs out there, and when you consider that 70% of all newly-launched blogs fail/quit/end within their first 12 months, you’ll see the importance of a giving ethos to ensure that your audience cares about your blog.

And, rather than being a blog death statistic, wouldn’t you rather care about your audience? If you care for them, they’ll take care of you. And that’s one guarantee careful blogging can give you.

One of the main things to remember is to forget yourself.

Posted in Online marketing | Tagged Blogging | 4 comments

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