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
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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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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

Give your customers a big ol’ “bro hug!”

The Bro Hug

When you see an old friend, do you give them a handshake or a ‘bro hug’? Of course, if you’re under 30 years old, you give them a hug to let them know that you’ve missed them and you appreciate them. It’s more intimate than a traditional handshake.

What’s a ‘bro hug’? It’s a visible sign of an ongoing relationship. You give one to a close friend or family member, someone who you know fairly well. It also carries with it the implication that, “I’m on your side. I’ve got your back. You can count on me!”

Have you ever considered giving your customers and prospects a bro hug to show them how much they’re appreciated? I’m not suggesting that you literally hug them, but to do so in the way you communicate with them.

Think about it… many companies still do the functional equivalent of standing on a chair and shouting at their customers and prospects. They make very little attempt to maintain ongoing relationships with them, but instead focus on transactions – closing the sale. In today’s world of empowered customers, that antiquated model of communication is simply too formal and non-personal.

So, what’s a successful way to communicate?

Consistent, ongoing, helpful communication that builds a relationship and establishes trust over time. Content that educates, informs and inspires is an awesome example. This customer-centric style of communication improves the odds that when a prospect is ready to buy, he or she will consider your company first.

To solidify a back and forth dialogue with their valued audience, successful marketers arrange events: open houses, webinars and training sessions, or they use surveys and focus groups.

How can you reach out with both arms and give your target audience a big ‘ol bro hug? Here are several ideas:

  • Ask your audience for feedback regarding their needs on a regular basis. Look for opportunities to have one-on-one conversations and build relationships with them at industry events. Get them involved in contests, crowdsourcing campaigns and surveys.
Here’s a great example of communicating with your audience that John Deere engineered:
At a trade show, the global equipment giant debuted the “Chatterbox,” a portable structure styled to resemble a piece of heavy equipment where customers could “talk back” and really give a piece of their mind to the company. This strategy was wildly successful, and was followed with an extensive marketing campaign that proclaimed, “We listened to you. Here’s what we did with what you told us.”
  • Make it easy for your audience to ask questions. One of our clients has a website with an extensive knowledge center that is highly valued by its customers worldwide. One key to its success: A search form centered at the top of their web page, inviting interaction. Other companies add a live chat feature to their website, enabling potential customers to talk to a human being and get answers to their questions. It’s all about initiating dialogue!
  • Use a conversational style of writing and communication. It’s okay to be a little bit informal and conversational because it makes your audience feel like they’re dealing with real people who care – not a faceless brand.
  • Provide a consistent, ongoing and helpful stream of communication to your audience, focusing on their needs, preferences and aspirations – not on your company’s new product and service enhancements.

If you need help creating this type of customer-centric communication, please contact us. We’d love to chat with you.

(See how that works, bro?)

 

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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