4 Innovative Ideas to Build Your Customer Database

How to build your customer database…it’s a tough question that keeps many business owners up at night. You want to reach your customers and clientele on their level. You want to meet their needs, provide service that wows them, and keep them coming back for more.

But at the same time, many marketing managers worry about coming on too strong and getting too personal. You want to build a genuine relationship with your clients—not wear them down or come off as invasive.

While your key customers value their privacy, they also expect personalization—so many companies end up attempting a balancing act. Yet, most research shows customers willingly share information, provided they know it’s being used to create a positive experience.

Your best bet? Give customers opportunities to share information openly rather than staying quiet and waiting for data that will never come.

Here are four innovative ways to get your customers to open up: 

1. Conduct (Short) Surveys to Capture Details

Micro-surveys have become quite popular over the last few years. These quick surveys consist of less than five questions and are often conducted right at the point of sale. While they’re obviously effective for collecting customer satisfaction metrics in B2C settings such as retail, they’re ALSO a great way to capture metrics about your key buyers, even in B2B. But don’t get greedy—keep your surveys short. Measure overall satisfaction or let clients quickly assess one issue like delivery speed. If you want to collect a demographic metric, focus on one, such as company size or volume. Keeping it concise keeps your contact from feeling hassled.

2. Work with Micro-Influencers Who Click with Your Audience

Micro-influencers (those with a social media audience of under 5000 followers) are also great promoters of your brand, especially seeing as 85% of consumers trust peer recommendations over traditional ads. This same approach works for B2B sales as well. Campaigns driven by micro-influencers show 60% higher engagement. For a much lower cost than a “celebrity endorsement,” an influencer will share your products or services with their enthusiastic and loyal peer supporters—many of whom share commonalities you can use for segmentation as you build your customer database.

3. Offer Subscribing Customers Incentives

Can you give your top clients access to exclusive notifications? Bonus content? New products or services before they’re otherwise publicized? If you want to collect customer data by sharing a weekly newsletter or another piece of content, then give them exclusive access or extra incentives for handing over their information. Customers respond well to value-driven opt-in incentives: a series of demonstration videos, a printable maintenance schedule, an easy reference guide. Don’t offer a one-time opt-in to trade for their email address and contact information and then forget about the relationship. Use communication, incentives, bonuses and exclusive opportunities as a method for building that ongoing relationship and discovering more about your clients.

4. Provide Easy Signups to Build Your Customer Database

How easy is it for your clients to share their data with you? When your customers visit your website or place a job order, are they given a clear, easy way to sign up for future communication? It may seem like a no-brainer, but many businesses skip this critical step. Clients may visit your website one time, but if you want to build repeat business, create a clear, obvious, easy method for capturing those leads. Customers spend under a minute on a website (sometimes far less time), so don’t miss out on a chance to build a connection.

If you want to build your customer database, it’s important to focus on building your relationships. When you’ve forged a strong bond with your clients, built loyalty, and offered them incentives, they’ll keep on comin’ back for more.

12 tactics to transform your email signups from a trickle to a torrent

CB TransformEmail

Your email list is one of your most valuable owned assets. It’s the key to engaging your target audience and building trusted relationships with them. But most marketers don’t do enough to build and nurture theirs.

“But wait just a minute,” you protest. “I put a newsletter signup form on the home page of my website. Isn’t that enough?”

In a word, no.

At the most, you’ll get a trickle of subscribers from this approach. What if you could grow that trickle into a torrent – signing up a larger number of the right people and growing your list much faster?

Here are 12 innovative ways to do just that:

  1. Host a webinar. This type of event concentrates a wealth of knowledge and actionable advice into an hour or less, making it a great lead magnet. You can also record the webinar and continue to share it as a gated resource after the event is done.
  2. Use pop-ups to capture attention. Many people don’t like them, but study after study shows that they work. For best results, make the call to action something that’s of high value to the prospects you want to attract.
  3. Create page-specific pop-ups. For even better results, create offers that are customized to the content on the web pages where they appear. Consider the “next steps” you want your visitor to take after reading your blog post – and then tailor the pop-up accordingly.
  4. Add a form to the bottom of specific blog posts. The idea of this tactic is that the reader has gotten a taste of your amazing thinking. Now you’re giving them an opportunity to sign up to be notified when you publish more great insights.
  5. Offer a content upgrade. Update and expand an existing blog post that’s already performing very well. Then create an additional high-value resource on the same topic, and make it available via a pop-up registration form. Examples of effective content upgrades include worksheets, checklists and resource lists. A content upgrade lets people who really value your blog post to learn even more.
  6. Optimize your confirmation page. This is the page visitors see after they fill in and submit your enewsletter sign-up form. Most confirmation pages just say “thank you for subscribing.” But don’t forget as part of the double opt-in process, they must click on the link of an auto-generated email to confirm their subscription. Use your confirmation page to remind them of the value they’ll receive in return for completing the verification process.
  7. Insert a “learn more” link within your e-newsletter signup box. People who immediately see the value of subscribing can easily do so within the form on your home page. For the rest of your visitors, provide a link to a landing page where you can explain the benefits of signing up and enable them to do so there.
  8. Pitch your email newsletter to your Twitter followers. If you do this consistently, you’ll gain a small but steady stream of new subscribers. But don’t overdo it – once or twice a week is plenty.
  9. Use a blog post teaser. If you’re writing a blog post series, include a subscription form at the end of the first article. Encourage readers to register to receive notifications when you publish additional posts in the series.
  10. Convert your About Us web page into a squeeze page. It’s a frequently-visited page on most websites, but most bloggers never think to add a call to action and a newsletter subscription form to it.
  11. Add a newsletter signup link to your email signature. This is easy to do but it’s often overlooked.
  12. Include an email signup link in the author bylines of guest posts you publish on other websites.

It’s time to get intentional about growing your email list. The opportunities to expand it are many, if you think about the challenge creatively. Why not select one or two of the ideas in this list and experiment with them? Use the resulting data to decide which ones to keep and which ones to eliminate from your website.

Good luck experimenting!

How to choose the right email marketing platform

Choosing Email PlatformEmail is a critical element of any B2B marketing program because it enables you to communicate with your customers and prospects on a schedule that you control. In addition, if you grow your email list over time, it can become a strategic asset that can help you grow your business. And, don’t forget that costs per-person emailed actually decreases as your list gets larger. Like any marketing technology, email marketing platforms very widely in their features and usability. Here are some tips to select the right email marketing platform for your organization.

Step 1: Define your needs

First, create a spreadsheet that summarizes your team’s wish list of features and functionality. Next, rate each feature on a scale of 1 to 5, where five is essential and one is optional. Use this list to reach consensus with your team on its must-have features. Important features to look for include these:

Personalization. Personalized emails almost always perform better than those that are not. Look for email service providers that enable you to personalize subject lines as well as the body of the message.

A/B testing. You can never be sure what your audience will respond to. That’s why you need to run experiments with your emails. The concept behind A/B testing is simple: Create two variations of a headline, call-to-action button or other page element and send them to a sub-set of your list (e.g., 500 people each). Then, see which one performs best. Once you declare the winner, send that version to the rest of your list.

Performance tracking. To what extent can you track audience interaction with your emails? You not only need to track message open rates, but also click throughs for each of the links within each message.

Templates. How easy is it to set up templates within the email platform? Does the email platform vendor need to create the templates for you, and at what cost? You’ll want a lot of flexibility here, especially as you segment your list. Be sure you can customize templates with your organization’s branding requirements.

Deliverability. Before selecting an email platform, make sure you ask about these features, which can enhance the deliverability of your messages:

  • DNS, SKF and DKIM certifications help receiving mail servers verify the authenticity of your messages, which helps improve deliverability. Your email provider should be able to help you create these settings on your server.
  • Ask if the provider “seeds” client lists with email addresses, so it can verify the deliverability of each of them and can identify any problems before they become major issues.
  • Ask if your messages will be sent out from a shared IP or via a dedicated IP address. If it’s the former, you have little control over the reputation of that IP address. If another client is spamming its lists, your deliverability could suffer. With a dedicated IP address, you will be the only domain sending email over it, which improves your reputation and therefore your deliverability.

On boarding. What resources does the email platform provide to help you move your email lists over to their platform? Do they offer training or live support to help you solve common problems?

Support options. How quickly can you reach someone to help you solve a problem when it occurs? You should have the option of working with a human being when you run into big problems that need to be solved immediately, whether by phone or live online chat.

Step 2: Evaluate email platforms

Open your wish list of rated features and add columns to the right for each of the email platforms you are considering. Once again, rate each feature on a numerical scale based on the extent to which it supports the functionality you need.

Step 3: Trial use

Once you’ve identified one or two email platforms that appear to be a good fit, request a trial use. You need to determine how well each tool fits into your workflow before you make a final decision.

Step 4: Selection and implementation

Select the email platform that is the best fit for your company. Import your lists and set up your templates. Then, you’re ready to go. Good luck with your new email platform!

Rock your list – it’s your biggest asset

Rock Your List

Do you have a strategy for growing your email list and using it to communicate with your target audience on a consistent basis? If not, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

Email isn’t a sexy topic, but it represents the backbone of nearly every successful content initiative and digital marketing success story you’ve ever heard about. There is no better tool for building your online community and communicating with them on a regular basis than email.

Why is email vital to your company?

Email amps up trust. When someone signs up for your email list, it’s a sign of trust and interest in your brand. They’re intrigued by the content they’ve seen so far, and they want to learn more about how you think and the solutions you offer. Even if they aren’t ready to buy immediately, they’re thinking about it.

You own this. Your email list is an asset that you own and control. In contrast, the owners of the social media channels you use tend to change their rules on a regular basis, as they explore various models for monetizing their audiences. If you don’t own the platform, you’re at the mercy of someone else. That’s a huge plus for email. You own that. Plus, this asset can be valued if you ever sell your company.

Repeat traffic. An enewsletter, published on a regular basis, keeps prospective customers returning to your website to engage with your content. It’s essential to educating and nurturing your target audience down the path to a sale or other desirable action.

Email enables you to communicate with your audience in a creative, personalized way that blog posts or tweets can’t. Considering that research shows that people buy based on emotions and then backfill with logic, then it’s essential that you include this tactic in your marketing mix.

How to jump-start your email list

Even if you have an anemic email list, it’s not too late to transform it into a powerful marketing tool. Here are some “bodybuilding” tips for your email list:

  • Deliver your best content to your audience. Always. Audience attention is a fickle thing. Make a commitment to deliver real value with them on a consistent basis, sharing information that is tailored to their needs. Make them feel COMPELLED to sign up for your enewsletter, just so they won’t miss your NEXT big insight!
  • Place an e-newsletter subscription form prominently on your website. Many companies treat this as an afterthought. It should actually occupy a key position on your website. Here are some recommended locations for it:
    • Above the fold, on the home page
    • Above the fold, In the right-hand column of content
    • Centered, between your website’s masthead and its primary content area. This is a can’t-miss location.
    • In a pop-up window. Many people don’t like pop-ups, but they work. Make sure you select one that plays well with mobile devices – otherwise, Google may penalize you.
    • Make sure it’s clear and easy to understand. Limit the number of fields – the more you ask for, the less likely they are to fill it out.
  • Provide them with a compelling reason WHY. Be very clear about what you’ll provide them in return for sharing their email address with you. What will your enewsletter contain that is unique and valuable? How often will you send it out? What will they miss if they don’t subscribe?
  • Exchange something of great value for their email address. Offer them an ebook, a checklist or other exclusive content. But remember: This is a two-step process. Just because they gave you their email address to get your latest content asset doesn’t automatically give you permission to email them on an ongoing basis. After you get them to sign up for your free goodies, make a separate ask for the newsletter subscription. Get permission – always!
  • Publish consistently. Just like your blog, your enewsletter needs to be published on a consistent schedule. Your readers will become conditioned to receive your communications at a set date or time of day, increasing engagement.

What’s your subscription strategy?

email subscription strategy

In today’s online world, there’s a real danger to “building your house on rented land.”

In other words, by publishing your content on platforms and channels you don’t own, you run the risk of them unexpectedly changing the rules and compromising its visibility.

Twitter. LinkedIn. Facebook. Medium. Apple Newsstand. These and other channels where you may be publishing and promoting your content have complete control it. They decide whether it lives or dies and the extent to which it is visible to the world. This problem has been well documented, so I won’t belabor it any further.

What’s important to note from a strategic standpoint is that you need to focus your content on platforms and channels that you DO own. Your website is the first and most obvious place to do that. But another one that marketers often overlook is one of the oldest, least sexy forms of online media: email.

An email subscription strategy is critical

In today’s uncertain environment, it’s critical that you have a healthy and growing email list, because it gives you the ability to communicate with your audience whenever YOU want.

Do you have a strategy in place to grow your subscriber list? If not, now’s the time to formulate one. Here are some things to keep in mind:

High visibility form: Your website should have a subscription form in a prominent location on the home page and other important pages of your website. Some people put this box in the right-hand column of each page, which is easy to do if your website is based on WordPress or another blogging platform. Others use a popover box, which appears on top of the content of your web pages, or a “welcome mat,” which loads above your web page content and commands attention (visitors can also click a button to scroll down to the page’s content).

Offer an exchange of value: Ideally, your content should be so compelling that visitors can’t wait to sign up for your newsletter. In the real world, however, readers usually need an incentive to sign up – an offer for a free white paper, special report or other valuable resource. Once they submit their email address, they will have access to a web page with they can download their freebie.

Be consistent: Create an editorial calendar and publish your newsletter on a regular basis. Consistency is key. It doesn’t matter if you publish once a week, once every two weeks or once a month. Establish a publishing schedule and stick to it.

Upsell them: At the end of blog posts, offer a free download of a relevant special report, worksheet or other resource. The link should lead the reader to a landing page where they can give you their email address in exchange for it.

Ungate some resources: Even though you’ll want to grow your list quickly, don’t “gate” every resource you offer to your website visitors. A combination of free and gated is best. Remember, you want to give your visitors a strong taste of your best thinking. This is a real opportunity to turn the tables: Instead of forcing a visitor to give up their email address in exchange for your special report, why not create a free, ungated resource that is so good that the reader will say to him- or herself, “I want to sign up for the newsletter so I can get access to more of this awesome thinking!”

Related article: Marketers: Why are your sales flatlining?

Online Personalization 101: WHAT it is, WHY You Need to Use it & HOW to Get Started

 
online personalization photographingtravisYou see it all day, every day. You open your inbox and there it is: your name in the subject line. You get home from work after a busy day, kick up your feet and flip on Netflix—and there it is again: your name. You sign into Facebook and you see an ad pointing you to a website you recently visited.

Coincidence? Never.

WHAT is Online Personalization?

The aforementioned examples are all instances of online personalization (sometimes called content personalization). BusinessDictionary defines online personalization as “tailoring the presentation of a website’s content to match a specific user’s instructions or preferences.” This form of custom-tailored marketing is achieved by collecting data about prospects and customers, then using that data to tweak online experiences to perfection.

WHY You Should Care About Online Personalization

Online personalization has become a key part of digital marketing strategies. As humans, we crave customized experiences. A study from the University of Texas at Austin attributes this to our desire for control. Google searches 30 trillion pages, 100 billion times a month. 60 hours of video is uploaded every minute on YouTube. More than 30 billion pieces of content are shared each month on Facebook.

Get the point? There’s A LOT of content out there! Online personalization helps you break through the noise and improve your marketing ROI.

HubSpot reported:

  • Personalized emails improve clickthrough rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%.
  • In-house marketers who personalize web experiences (who are also able to quantify that improvement) see a 19% uplift in sales, on average.
  • 40% of consumers buy more from retailers who personalize the shopping experience across channels.
  • Leads nurtured with targeted content produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities.

And the list goes on. Hey, online personalization works!

HOW to Get Started with Online Personalization

Not every business can be a giganto expert at online personalization like Amazon.com (constantly pulling data and signals to personalize their users’ shopping experiences). However, there are a few basic things you can do to hop aboard the online personalization train, today.
 

1. Segment Your Email Marketing

Online personalization in email marketing is one of the most cost-efficient methods. Don’t always send the same email to everyone on your list. Break your lists down into various segments and tweak your messages accordingly.

Examples:

You’re in the staffing business and you work with companies looking to fill positions in marketing and IT.

  • Segment out the companies that have a need to fill marketing positions into one list. Then, send a monthly email featuring your top marketing candidates.
  • Likewise, create a separate segment for companies looking to fill IT positions. Send a separate monthly email featuring your top IT candidates to this list.

Sending a monthly e-newsletter? Most email marketing software (like MailChimp and Constant Contact) offer the option to insert a ‘receiver name’ field. Use it!
 

2. Segment Your Social Media

Facebook uses data in ad targeting that’s fairly easy to implement. Let’s say you offer computer repair services to small- and medium-sized businesses and you’re only able to offer those services within 50 miles of Brookfield, Wisconsin. You’re not going to want to run a Facebook ad that will be seen by everyone and anyone in the entire United States. Determine what your target audience looks like and set up your ad accordingly.

Here’s what your targeting might look like…

online personalization

Online personalization is not only a great way to break through the marketing noise and improve your marketing ROI—it’s also a really fun way to get creative with how you market to your audience! Give it a shot and you’ll be amazed at the results.

Need some help getting started with online personalization? Contact Cultivate Communications.

 


Image “Hello My Name Is” courtesy of Flickr user Travis Wise licensed under CC by 2.0.