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.

Generational marketing: How to market to Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers

There’s a lot of buzz about generational marketing and a LOT of overgeneralized advice when it comes to targeting your ideal audience:

  • Millennials love Snapchat!
  • Baby Boomers are steadfast and drawn in by reliability!
  • Generation X is cynical and always looking for a bargain!

Making heads or tails of the generational differences and similarities (let alone coming up with a marketing strategy) can leave any marketer scratching their head, regardless of their own generational viewpoint. It’s a challenge to identify the common traits amongst your audience and to know what they want.

Most businesses simply focus on marketing trends and follow the next big idea. At best, they concentrate on their ideal segment and target their marketing efforts there, because, well—it’s hard to be everything to everyone.

But if you don’t understand generational marketing, you may not be reaching all of your ideal audience members…and you could be missing out on connecting with potential leads.

What is Generational Marketing (and Why is it Important)?

At the heart of it, generational marketing is a marketing approach that segments the population by the time period they were born. Each person (and thus each generation) is powerfully shaped by world events, trends and developments occurring when they come of age. Think of the Vietnam War and what it means to Baby Boomers compared to what 9/11 means to Millennials.

The three main generations that make up today’s adult consumer base are:

  • Baby Boomers (born 1945 – 1964)
  • Generation X (1965 – approximately 1982)
  • Millennials (approximately 1983 – 1998)

The importance of each generation plays into marketing because whether Baby Boomer, Gen X or Millennials—that generational influence shapes the values and communication styles of the consumer. At the core of marketing strategy are demographics: data and information about your customers.

Using that data to connect with your target audience is what gives you a marketing advantage.

After researching your customer, you may discover your target customer fits solidly in one demographic, but for most businesses, the target is spread across several generations. This means you must learn to craft your marketing message to each generation in a way that resonates with them.

Understanding Cross-Generational Marketing

If we examine the generational spread, we see 30% of the overall market is made up of Millennials, 27% Generation X and 30% Baby Boomers (the youngest Generation Y and the older Silent Generation comprise the difference).

Essentially, if you don’t use strategic marketing to all three of the main groups, you could end up missing out on a third or more of the consumer base! For most businesses, that’s a scary prospect.

Now, maybe your target audience is very specific. For example, let’s imagine your business designs children’s lunchboxes—the perfect product for parents of elementary school kids! It seems logical your demographic is between age 25-45: Millennials and the tail end of Generation X.

Your marketing efforts are focused on the young parent—how to add convenience and simplicity to their lives. Knowing your demographic, Millennials are tech-savvy and primarily swayed by influence of their peers, you might reach out to Influencers: bloggers and Pinterest-loving moms, and perhaps focus your social media efforts on Snapchat and Instagram. Knowing Generation X seeks discounts and coupons, you may throw in a coupon deal or a BOGO sale.

BUT, a closer look at your demographics might surprise you. 2.7 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren (a steady 7% increase since 2009). If you don’t include strategies to reach those Baby Boomer grandparents in your lunchbox marketing efforts, you’re missing a big audience!

Finding Commonalities Between Generations—and Appreciating Their Differences

While you can’t be the perfect fit for every consumer, you CAN learn what appeals to each generation and use it to shape and diversify your strategy. In our example of marketing lunchboxes, a simple shift to include additional Facebook marketing could reach your grandparents. While we often think of Millennials as the tech experts, Baby Boomers are surprisingly comfortable with Facebook. The biggest pet-peeve of this generation? Feeling ignored or overlooked by Millennial-focused marketers!

Understanding that the Baby Boomer Generation values quality, so they’re willing to spend a little more on a product they feel is high-end and lasting may also help shape your strategy. All of the generations are now active online shoppers. Although you might not see Boomers oversharing their personal information on Facebook, rest assured, they’re on Facebook and it’s a good way to reach them.

Demographics are one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s arsenal. Knowing who your customers are is the first step, but understanding what they want will help you take it deeper. Build a strong relationship with your customer by reaching them in a way that truly resonates with who they are and what they value.

Need more specifics? Want to take a deep dive into each generation and what they really want? Learn how to reach Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials too!

My Generation EbookAre you ready to know your audience better?

Download our free guide on Generational Marketing. We’ll show you how to market to Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers … sharing what you’ll need to know about marketing to each generation!

5 unexpected insights you can learn from competitor research

You can’t see the road ahead if you’re too focused on the rearview mirror. When it comes to learning from competitor research, many businesses adopt a “keep your eyes on your own paper” mentality.

Yet, we all know we can’t exist (or thrive) in an echo chamber. There are many valuable lessons your competitors can teach you. It’s not about letting competition derail your focus or dictate your company direction. One-upmanship is a surefire recipe for disaster and it’s a far better strategy to focus on what you do best.

But if you aren’t popping your head up every so often to look around, you might miss out on valuable insights and lessons from the competition. Here are five surprising insights you can learn from competitor research.

1. How to better serve your customers

At the end of the day, success is always, ALWAYS about who can serve the customers’ needs the best. The first lesson comes from looking at your own customers. Why did they choose you above the competition? If you can’t pinpoint the reason organically, don’t be afraid to ask! One-question micro surveys are becoming more and more common. They don’t feel intrusive but give great insight into your customers’ mindset.

Look at the customer experience your competition is offering as well—both online and offline. How are their customer reviews? What are they doing to walk their customers through the sales pipeline, wow them, and keep them coming back for more? Don’t mimic your competition but learn from them and discover what about their customer experience is working (and what you could do better).

2. Your own unique strengths

If your competition is big, your small company offers personalized experience. If your competition is innovative and trendy, you’re classic and reliable. Look at your competition and discover what’s unique about your company. How do you differ from your peers and how can you turn those differences into strengths?

Check out customer reviews and feedback. Look at their hiring practices and team positions they’re working to fill. Create a SWOT analysis to assess your own Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Don’t one-up the competition or attempt to outdo them at what they do well. Focus on your unique strengths and bypass them instead. It’s always easier to forge a different path than attempting to outrun someone on the same trail.

3. Gaps in the market

Create a gap analysis of your company’s performance and where you would like to be. Then look at your competitors and the market and do the same. Where are the customers who aren’t being served by you OR your competitors? What customer needs aren’t being met? Can you target this segment?

How do you find out the market gaps? Listen to your competition and learn from competitor research. When you attend an industry event, visit their booth. Listen to their presentation. Talk to your shared suppliers. In which areas do you overlap and which areas leave a big hole? Start finding ways to fill that niche.

4. How to boost your web presence

Your competitors can show you what you need to do to boost your web presence. Look at their social media posts. Visit their website. Search for them regularly. Pay attention to the online activities they do well and again, draw ideas from the gaps in their web presence.

Competitor search rankings (SERP) and analytics on keyword use can give you a huge insight into your competition’s online persona. If you share a common target audience, look at what’s clicking (and getting clicks). Do your competitors regularly update their blog? Does their team share informative video tutorials on social media? Are the CEO’s insightful posts the hot-tip on LinkedIn? Learn what’s working for them and then do your own unique version.

5. What mistakes you can avoid

It’s easy to learn from what your competition is doing right, but there are plenty of valuable lessons to extract from competition when situations go wrong. Typically, when one industry member runs into trouble, it’s a signal for their peers to start putting their ducks in a row. Fast growing startups looked at Uber’s missteps last year, and quickly tightened up their best practices.

Keep an eye on the press and buzz for your entire industry and your competition. Set up a Google Alert for news about your company, and also set one Google Alert up for each of your peers so you’re the first to know. When you see a horror story, use it as a cautionary tale. Don’t simply think, “thank goodness it’s not us,” but ensure there’s no way it could become you in the future.

You can learn some very valuable lessons from looking at your competition. Keep your eyes on the horizon but take off your blinders so you can see the 360-degree view. Don’t seek to compete with your peers. Instead, learn from them so you become even stronger.

Speed up your sales cycle

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If you align your sales and marketing teams, they become an unstoppable force. Marketing influences how people think and feel, building and nurturing relationships—and relationships drive sales. Period. Your sales team spends 80% of their time with the 20% of the customers who are ready to listen. Your marketing team, on the other hand, spends their time building and nurturing that other 80% of your customer base—getting them ready to open up.

If sales are the finish line, marketing is the marathon. Many forget marketing is a long-game strategy. In fact, only 15% of businesses see their marketing teams as primary revenue drivers and yet, without your marketing team, you’re losing the opportunity to influence and grow potential customers into loyal fans and advocates of your brand. It’s all about building long-term relationships.

Smart business owners understand it’s vital to align marketing and sales strategies so both teams understand their objectives and keep each other apprised on initiatives. Both teams should work together to connect with and benefit the customer. Here’s how…

Step 1: Build a Unified Team Culture

Sales and marketing can’t exist as two separate or misaligned entities. While for many small businesses they’re interconnected pieces of the same department, sales and marketing might still often feel like two separate teams playing different games.

It’s important to align marketing and sales teams so they’re working together to speed up the sales cycle. This starts from the beginning. From the moment you onboard a new team member, they should be immersed in your company culture. Take time in your hiring process to discover team members who aren’t only right for the task at hand, but the right fit for the company. Seek team players who are passionate about seeing things from the customer’s perspective.

Encourage everyone to have a good time and get to know each other. Don’t underestimate the importance of office get-togethers and activities. Your sales team needs the valuable information only the marketing team can provide. Your marketing team needs to understand the goals of the sales team, so they’re driving toward the right outcome. Sales teams share customer pain points with marketing, the marketing team address those pain points to drive sales.

Help your team build solid connections. Like those motivational posters say: it’s all about teamwork.

Step 2: Solidify Your Marketing-to-Sales Information Pipeline

Formalize and solidify your marketing-to-sales handoff process. Only 24% of companies formalize their marketing-sales handoffs, but companies who establish clear, shared responsibilities between marketing and sales see strong improvements in their inbound ROI.

This sales-marketing misalignment almost always comes from a lack of communication. Nearly half of sales professionals name “communication breakdown” as a huge problem between sales and marketing teams. Provide plenty of opportunities for teams to share and exchange info—conducting a monthly standing meeting is a great way for teams to keep each other in the loop.

Remember sales is all about closing the deal and getting to the finish line. Marketing is the marathon: walking through customer strategy in their shoes—cozying up and getting to know them well; delving into the mind of your customer. Your marketing team understands the demographics of your customer base: who they are and what they need. They understand how to influence the way they think, and how to nurture the relationship (thus, speeding up the sales cycle). Can you think of anything more vital for your sales team to know?

Step 3: Create Opportunities to Listen & Work Together

In one survey of over 1,000 U.S. sales and marketing specialists, two-thirds of salespeople believed marketers were wasting their time. With awareness building, promotion and branding activities, of course it’s important to keep an eye on your bottom line. But marketing tactics aren’t just in place to give everyone “warm feel-good fuzzies.” Sales-team buy-in comes when they realize the value of marketing. Customers who aren’t ready for cold calls, may still listen to marketing. Marketing is all about building long-term customer relationships—opening the customer up to listen to sales. This value should be clear to your sales team.

Bring your sales and marketing teams together on every project, right from the get-go to foster strong communication. Marketing can help sales build their customer relationships. Your sales team has valuable insights from their customer interactions on the front lines. Coordinate your campaigns with your sales team and ensure they’re aware of every promotion and special offer so they can sweeten the pot. Your marketing team should help your sales team look GOOD to the customer. Give them what they need to know.

At the end of the day, when you align marketing and sales, they’re both about building relationships to speed up your sales cycle. Both teams support and work together with the customer in mind to ensure you’re always headed toward the right target. It’s a relationship of reciprocity. Keep your teams aligned and cohesive for great returns.

Great Content: The cure for the engineer’s marketing allergy

Content Allergy

How to speak that engineer marketing language

The first rule of marketing is know your audience. Find out what they want. Connect with them and show them how you will solve their problem like no one else. Reach your audience on a personal level. Get in their head.

Yet, for right-brained marketing creatives, getting inside the head of analytical engineers is like getting in the head of a calculator: challenging to impossible. To market to engineers, you must think like an engineer and speak their language. This leaves some marketers at a loss, running with fluffy, feel-good messages that ultimately fall flat or come off as less-than-credible.

When selling your technical product, your customer’s engineering team is comprised of critical decision influencers if not THE prime decision maker. No matter who ultimately ends up pulling the trigger, you need the engineers to buy-in if you want to grow your sales. Engineers play a vital role in the sales process—you’ve got to reach, connect and influence them to close the deal.

So, how the heck do you speak to engineers on their level? What makes an engineer tick?

Inside the head of an engineer

Engineers really are a different breed. The usual stereotype of a stubborn, analytical introvert probably comes to mind. While this picture may hold a grain of truth in certain cases, it’s important to let go of stereotypes and understand what really appeals to the mind (and heart) of an engineer.

You see, engineers undergo an extremely rigorous academic curriculum and their jobs demand they pay strong attention to detail. The adage “measure twice, cut once” refers to this trait. Engineers are even more valuable to their organizations for how they think, just as much as the skills they bring to the table.

But despite this specific way of detailed thinking, most engineers are extremely humble and even insecure about what they don’t know. Most are also self-aware enough to realize how much they don’t know. Engineers primarily rely on their own perspectives to make decisions, but they also know there is likely someone outside their immediate area of expertise (read: knowledgeable salesperson) who will further educate them about a product. That’s where YOU come in.

Appealing to engineers is key to marketing in the technical world

It’s the rigorous attention to detail and calculated decision-making that makes engineers so valuable during their company’s purchasing process. While typically not the final decision maker, 69% of engineers provide input into the buying decision, making a huge impact when it comes to closing a sale.

Clearly, winning this group of influencers for a technical product purchase is critical. But how do you market to engineers?

Being measured decision makers means engineers are naturally skeptical. They’re taught to question every message they hear and compare it with their own experience and knowledge. This careful way of thinking leads to innovation and progress—where engineers really excel!

Because of their skepticism, traditional marketing and advertising are unlikely to work with this consumer group. They rely on their acquired method of thinking, research and judgment to filter out irrelevant preliminary options before calling in the expert. Engineers don’t commit to buy until they’re completely comfortable with their understanding of a product. To appeal to technical experts, marketing itself must adapt and offer what the engineer craves the most: information-packed, relevant content.

The 2017 Smart Marketing for Engineers Research Report sheds light on engineers’ methods of learning about a product. Over 90% of engineers said they’re more likely to partner with a vendor who produces new and current content. Why? Because engineers love to be informed.

They want to learn before they commit to the purchase.

This means engineers do their research. They spend time reading up on your product, knowing the specs and compatibility with current equipment and understanding exactly how it works, often BEFORE they’re in your purview. If an engineer contacts you? Well, you know he or she has already done their homework.

Where do engineers go to research before they buy? The top 5 sources they turn to are:

Content Source % Surveyed Engineers’ Usage
Search Engines 43%
Supplier/vendor websites 37%
Online technical and trade publications 29%
Trade Shows 28%
Printed technical and trade publications 27%

From the table above, it’s clear that engineers prefer easy-to-access, powerful, informative technical information. Furthermore, 3 of the top 5 content sources are digital, signaling that engineers value convenience and expedience in accessing information.

After consuming enough content to provide sufficient confidence in the final few options, an engineer is happy to engage with a product expert. Though confident in their ability to sift the product offerings down, they seek affirmation to ensure the recommendation or purchase is the best choice. If they receive this validation, the salesperson will gain the engineer’s unwavering brand loyalty. Backed by individual research and external validation, engineers see no sensible need to conduct the exhaustive research effort again. When they’re ready to buy, they don’t hesitate.

When engineers are presented with direct, succinct and logical information, they’re ready to buy and the confidence they need to converge on a buying decision increases dramatically.

Valuable Content Chart

Engineers are willing to spend time reading mid- to long-form content, like case studies, e-books, books and whitepapers. How-to videos are also a great way to appeal to engineers, especially for those engineers between 25 and 35 years old.

Driven by logic, engineers use the power of information to educate themselves about a buying decision. Due to their pragmatic method of thinking, the input provided by engineers is sought out and highly valued by final decision maker. Developing marketing strategies to target this unique influential group is critical to success. If you want to sell a technical product, you should be marketing to engineers.

Engineers want and expect informative content. The data shows investing in well-researched, carefully crafted, long-form content has a high likelihood of return when targeted at engineers. Instead of traditional marketing methods with flash, humor and emotional appeals, engineers need a more technical marketing meal.

Engineers also tend to stick with solutions that work. Rather than reinventing the wheel, they’re busy working bigger and better inventions. For you, this means that when you’ve won over an engineer, you’ve got a customer who will stick with you for the long haul. Business owners are smart to reach out to this technical audience to win the race for their initial and repeated brand loyalty.

So, the real question is:

How much informative and educational content is your company providing to appeal to your engineering targets? Time to get started creating better content for engineers. First step, develop your content marketing strategy. Let’s chat

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.