Romancing the Customer: 5 Ways to Keep Long-Term Customer Relationships Alive

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The purpose of content marketing is to attract and retain customers by giving them exactly what they want—when they want it. You romance your prospects by providing the information they need, then building trust over time, so they’re inspired to do business with you. You win them over with your expertise, knowledge and helpfulness.

After putting in all that work to build those long-term customer relationships, don’t spoil it by taking your loyal customers for granted. Here’s how to keep the romance alive…

1. Anticipate Their Needs

The secret to knowing what your customers need before they know they need it is a matter of understanding their buying habits. Tailor your gifts—discounts and special offers—to match what they want, and not what you want them to buy.

It may work to put overstock on sale if you’re a grocery store…you can usually count on impulse buys. But online customers are carefully researching which businesses they engage with. They’re more likely to continue to buy from you if you’re offering exactly what they’re looking for.

How to Know What Your Customers Want and Need:

  • Listen to their questions and comments – ask for feedback. Ask how you can improve, what products they would like you to offer, and what they’d like to see from you. Find out what gives them trouble…and fix it.
  • Analyze buying patterns – it’s no accident Amazon shows you what other customers have purchased alongside the items you’re considering. Suggestive selling works, especially when there’s a social component.
  • Harness social proof – keep an eye on industry information shared on social media. If your customers are mentioning you and sharing your content regularly, you’re doing a great job. If they’re sharing information published by your competitors, they’ve lost interest.

2. Don’t Take Them for Granted

Keeping their interest alive for the long term requires relationship maintenance. Just like any long-term relationship: you need to show you care by doing something special. Remember their birthdays, surprise them with unexpected gifts, and delight them with exclusive offers, upgrades, or new products you know they’ll love.

3. Be Unpredictably Predictable

Consistency is great customer service. Delivering the excellent service your customers expect is essential to keeping their attention, but you also need to surprise them now and then with something unexpected.

Flowers and candy on every birthday or anniversary are nice, don’t get me wrong, but knowing exactly what’s going to happen can get pretty dull. Don’t fall into an advertising rut. Shake things up with something entirely new, like a contest with a big prize or a 10-year anniversary dinner for your biggest customers.

4. Show Them a Different Side of You

You’re cultivating a nice reputation: you’re knowledgeable, reliable, and consistent; a good provider. Use your social media and your blog to invite your customers into your processes. Show them your innovative side, your creative ideas, and your vision for the future.

5. Value Their Opinions

A partnership should never be a one-way conversation. Ask your customers for their opinions and act on their suggestions. Everyone hates being ignored. Ask for honest opinions and ideas, and incorporate the smartest and most popular answers into new offerings, customer service protocols, and service updates.

It’s always good to remember that, whether you’re dealing with consumers or business buyers, you’re in a relationship with a human being. Like every long-term relationship partner, your customers need to be nurtured, wined, and dined with appreciation, fresh content, and new ideas. Your ability to please depends heavily on how well you really know your customers.

 

Want to learn more about nurturing your customer relationships over the long term? Download this FREE guide: Side Door Thinking for more information about how you can use content marketing to build customer loyalty.

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Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! Want to learn more about effective content marketing? Whether you decide to outsource content marketing or not, this eBook is chock-full of great information on content marketing. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how content marketing can help you ramp up your website and complete your marketing strategy.

You’ll learn how to:
  • Increase Your Referral Rate
  • Increase Your Social Media Reach
  • Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
  • Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
  • Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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5 Ways to Ensure Your Customer Relationships Are Never One-Sided

You’ve got your business blog and social media channels all set up and you’re busy churning out engaging tweets, sharing photos and videos your customers love to repost, and filling your blog with insightful content—but you’re still feeling unsatisfied with your marketing efforts. Your audience is lovin’ your content; they’re engaged and hungry for more. So now what? How do you maximize your content marketing ROI?

Getting their attention is only the first step. Now it’s time to create an interactive dialogue with your current and potential customers—ensuring both your customers and your pocketbook stay happy, long-term. Here’s how…

1. Know Your Customers’ Needs
If you want to know what your customers are thinking, just ask! Surveys are a great way to get specific feedback and find out what you’re doing right (or wrong). With web software like SurveyMonkey or Google Consumer Surveys, setting up surveys is easy, and interpreting the results is even easier.

To get the most from your customer surveys, keep the questions simple and look for objective answers as opposed to feel-good positive responses. Your questions should inspire honest feedback. Offer open-ended follow-up questions so you can learn exactly why your customers answered a particular way. Don’t be afraid to probe those sensitive areas.

Finding out why something isn’t working for you has far more marketing mojo than than that Hey, it’s all good response you get when asking biased questions. And try not to shoot yourself in the foot; we’ve heard too many stories about service reps warning customers that their follow-up survey answers must all read “excellent,” lest the rep get in serious hot water. Now that’s just bad business. Look, if you get back nothing but excellent answers, wise up. Rarely is every single customer 100% satisfied.

If your follow-up survey results reveal a dissatisfied customer, reach out! Let customers know they’re valued. Offer to improve your products or services and strive to make things right.

2. Fine-Tune Your Website
High-level website visitor information is nice, but it really doesn’t give you the specifics. Dig into your analytics for the good stuff. Which pages are rubber and which are glue? Find out where visitors come from, how long they stay on each page and where they go from there. That’ll help you determine your most and least appealing content and use that information to add value.

More to the point, you can look at the behavior of individual users to reveal where you went wrong. By sampling your new customers and sending personal emails based on their behavior, you can find out what they really want from your company and whether your website provided the answers they needed.

3. Grow Your Advocacy Network
Satisfied customers are your very best advertisement. Make them happy and they’ll spread the word to more people than a billboard on a bus. What’s more, their reach is often heavy in potential customers who fit the same demographic. It only makes sense that your customers’ friends will have similar interests. Understand that your followers want to engage and share. When you build trusting relationships with your customers, they will happily spread the word.

Give them what they want: a voice. They want to know you value their needs and opinions. Oh, and also give them freebies and coupons. Customers like swag.

4. Get Ideas
Is there a better think-tank for idea generation than your own customers? Find locals and issue a personal invitation for coffee or lunch. Give them the chance to offer input, ask where you can improve, and listen for ideas—you just might snag some surprising insights you’d never considered before. Face-to-face care and interaction is such a novelty these days, so if you do it right, your customers will love it (and blog about it)!

5. Become a Native
By initiating two-way communications with your customers, you’re in the position to understand who they are. Learning to speak their language is key, but, while you may change your language to suit your audience, remember that authenticity is critical. If your customers smell deception, you’re toast. You can’t develop accurate buyer personas unless you get the full picture.

Social media and comment-enabled business blogging spelled the death of one-way customer relationships, so if you’re using social media to advertise and not to respond to your customers, you might as well be investing your entire marketing budget in newspaper ads. Your customers want and expect two-way relationships. Put it out there, be available, responsive, and helpful, and it’ll pay off big.

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Creative Building Blocks — Delivered Monthly to Your Inbox

Marketing creativity is the ability to tap into our mental pool of resources — knowledge, information, insight, stats, examples — and combine them in unique ways.

The larger the library of building blocks, the more visionary your ideas will grow to be. We sift through and share the best innovative marketing tips, tactics, reports and ideas, then share them with you in our monthly grow eNewsletter.

Exercise inventive thinking!

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Infograph: By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships without talking to a human

I’ve been watching holiday movies with my family and this line from the comedy Elf cracks me up every time, “I like to smile. Smiling my favorite.” To which the boss replies, “Make work your favorite.” (See the 15-second clip)

The catch is, lately I find myself smiling at work. Over the course of the last year, we’ve helped a variety of strong local companies dive into content marketing. It has been said that…

If you believe in something, it won’t feel like work.

I’ve come to believe that a solid content marketing strategy not only prepares our clients for success today, but also in the future. Here are a few eye-opening stats (via a short infograph):

By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships without talking to a human.

It is that last prediction that sticks with me:

By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships without talking to a human. (source)

We live in an age of informed consumers and this trend will continue to change the way we do business. While it may sound like a chore, content sharing is a privilege. If you aren’t already securing your online position as a thought leader in your industry, I look forward to enticing you start in 2015. Collaborating with businesses like yours has made this a great year!

Enjoy the holidays,


Bob Wendt, President
Cultivate Communications

5 Great Ideas for Retaining Loyal, Enthusiastic Customers

Loyal, Enthusiastic Customers
Marketing is SO different than it was just a few years ago. While the Web makes it easier to start a company these days, 9 out of 10 startups still fail.

One way to claim a top 1% spot is to fully engage your customer base. A healthy bunch of repeat customers is one step shy of a wild band of brand advocates who will help you sell your product.

Hear that? Brand advocates are loyal, enthusiastic customers who sell FOR you.

No matter what you do, some percentage of your customers are only one-time opportunities. Others will appreciate your company so much they’ll become long-term customers, and they’ll recommend you to their family and friends. These are your potential brand advocates. It’s up to you to provide them incentive to continue to do business with your company.

Ask yourself right now:

  • What do we offer our customers that outshines our competition?
  • How do we show our customers we care?

Hint: If you can answer those two questions, you’re doing your part to generate a repeat customer base rampant with brand advocacy. Could you do more?

 

Try this:

1. Above ALL: Create Evangelists with Superior Customer Service

Loyal, enthusiastic customers don’t just happen. It starts with product and ends—or continues on and on—with exceptional customer service. Understand that customers don’t necessarily have to love you to continue to do business with you. Some will continue to buy your product or services because you offer something unique, because they’re resistant to change, or because your competition has a worse reputation than you do…but they’ll never advocate your brand.

Brand advocates are crazy about you. They love your products and services and their recommendations don’t come with an attached “but…”. As in, “The product is great, but the customer service is terrible.”

The first step to creating brand evangelists is to remove the “but…” with excellent customer service.

2. Offer Up Relevant, Smart, Emotional, Entertaining Content Marketing

How do your customers feel when they use your products or engage in your services? What are your customers’ interests? How can you help your customers solve even more of their most pressing problems?

Most importantly: What do your customers WANT?

It’s your job to learn these answers and provide the information, authenticity, and powerful storytelling they seek through engaging content marketing. Provide the best content on the Web that meets and exceeds your customers’ expectations—and your customers will love you for it.

Bonus: Great content marketing is great for search engine optimization (SEO)—so not only does content marketing help you cultivate brand loyalty, it also helps you gain new prospects and customers.

3. Reward the Refer-A-Friend

Refer-A-Friend rewards both the person referring AND the new customer. Dropbox is a great example. By offering extra storage on both sides, Dropbox increased signups by 60% and went from 100,000 users to 4 million in just over a year. Bam.

4. Create an Exclusive Club

Asking customers to “buy” a “rewards card” seems like a bad idea, but it works, and it works well. Amazon charges $99 per year for its Prime membership, and the rewards are worth it to both customers and Amazon. Perks include free shipping, movies, music, books, early-access deals, and more.

Here’s the kicker: Prime members spend an average of $1,500 a year, about $900 more than the average amount spent by non-member customers.

5. Give Back

TOMS is a company rooted in social good. The concept is simple: For every pair of shoes purchased, Toms provides a pair of shoes to children around the world most in need. The program has become so popular that Toms has expanded; now they also provide clean water, eyeglasses, training, and kits packed with items to help women more safely give birth.

 

Use these 5 great marketing ideas to inspire your customers to want to share their enthusiasm with others—so they tell others how much they like your products, your services, and the perks you offer to earn their business. This kind of ongoing customer lovin’ creates an emotional connection that’s difficult for your competitors to disrupt.

 
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Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! Want to learn more about effective content marketing? Whether you decide to outsource content marketing or not, this eBook is chock-full of great information on content marketing. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how content marketing can help you ramp up your website and complete your marketing strategy.

You’ll learn how to:
  • Increase Your Referral Rate
  • Increase Your Social Media Reach
  • Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
  • Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
  • Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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4 Steps to Creating a Big-Picture Customer Touch Plan

 
If you don’t have a customer touch plan, you’re not alone. We’ve run across quite a few small business owners who weren’t even familiar with the phrase—yet, a customer touch plan is one of the most effective marketing tools for small businesses.

Let’s start with a no-frills definition…

What Is a Customer Touch Plan?

“Touch points” are every contact you have with your customer, whether online, in person, on the phone, by direct mail, via email, on social media—or any other potential contact point. Every time your brand gets on prospect or customer radar, that’s a touch point.

A customer touch plan consists of the deliberate efforts you employ to create those touch points. To communicate with your customers, you create those moments—they’re opportunities to get your customer thinking about your brand, your products, or your company.

Your touch plan may include:

  • Distribution of digital, TV, or physical marketing materials and ads—this can include both content marketing and direct mail
  • Employee contact with customers (customer service, billing, sales, management, security, help desk, etc.)
  • Website visits, downloads or emails
  • Social media/promotion/shares

Opportunities for customer touch points come along frequently, but taking advantage of every possible opportunity can be both overkill and creepy. Your customer touch plan should be carefully crafted and designed to be personal, but not intrusive.
 
customer touch plan

Step 1: Gather Your Customer Data

You probably already have a wealth of customer data at your fingertips. Most people are connected by their email address to social media accounts that will yield location, birth date, age, gender, and other personal details. Other handy details include past purchases, reasons that customer has contacted your company, and what type of device they use to access your website.

Data-driven marketing is all the rage—and for good reason: it works. Therefore, your first step is to consolidate and organize your customer data. If you’re not using customer relationship management (CRM) or other project management software to manage your customer interactions, it’s time to adopt and adapt.

Step 2: Use Your Customer Data

With data in hand, you can decide when you want to contact your customer, plus the best channel to use to reach that customer with a personal message.

Data-Based Customer Touch Point Ideas:

  • Send a greeting or special offer on your customer’s birthday. If you really want to stand out, send them a present. What would get your attention more? A computer-generated birthday postcard or a product sample? If you don’t sell goods, how about something really unusual, like a small box of chocolates with a real card? Great customer service is about going the extra mile.
  • When a subscription is set to expire, treat it as a new sale. Send your potential repeat customer updated information, current offers, and whatever you would send to a new customer who is deciding to buy. Win their continued loyalty. Sadly, most companies take loyal customers for granted—but repeat customers are your hidden GOLDMINE.
  • Location-based touches might include references to local sport teams or local events.

Step 3: Interact on Social Media

These days social media IS customer service, so be hyper-responsive, don’t skimp on the details, and don’t leave social media management to your inexperienced intern.

Your social media plan should include interactive content such as polls, surveys, and answers to comments. Document your social media engagement (here’s where that CRM comes in handy again) and look for the types of engagement your customers best respond to.

Step 4: Follow-up

When should you follow up? Almost every single time: whether it’s new sales, customer service issues, mailings, surveys, or social media. The goal is to ensure your customers are satisfied with your response. Put an internal process in place to ensure every interaction receives a prompt and thoughtful follow-up. Be sure to take notes so everyone in your organization knows each customer’s current status.

………

Your main objective: Build a customer touch plan strategy.

After you’ve explored all these steps in-depth, go back to square one and create a customer touch plan strategy that incorporates all of these elements, but be sure it’s tailored to your business and to your customers. Keep your strategy flexible—you’re going to be adjusting it over time based on what works…and what doesn’t work.

Over time, as you craft a more refined customer touch plan strategy, you’ll be loading your CRM with great information you can use to better understand your customers, which will also help you craft a more targeted marketing plan. As your customer data becomes more refined and personal, you’ll be able to confidently reduce your random marketing efforts and send only highly targeted campaigns. The goal of an effective customer touch plan is to make your customers feel appreciated, not hammered with spam.

Questions? Let us know in the comments!