The beautiful thing about the digital revolution is how it has simplified our lives. We can use the advanced computer technology and online presence to free up more time to spend with our loved ones doing the really important things, right? NO, WRONG!
Technological advancement has allowed mankind the ability to do more things in less time, and as a result—we want to do even more things lest we fall behind in the rat race. Keep this in mind as you think of your customers. These are people whose brains are being filled with more information and choices than at any other time in history. This presents a problem with focus, attention span, and memory, and that means your business can be forgotten very easily. It’s not a malicious forgetfulness, it just…is. Human beings are creatures of deletion, to borrow from Tony Robbins, and they spend their days figuring out what to pay attention to since it’s impossible to focus on every sensory input received. If you want customer loyalty, you need to increase the times that your business is one of those inputs, and you’ve got to do it creatively and memorably.
Customers are fickle, sensitive, and a bit demanding these days, but they are people. As Jeff Gitomer says, people hate to be sold, but they love to buy, and they buy when they feel you are looking out for their best interests. You want to make sure that, out of all the choices and confusion, your business is thought of first the next time your customers have a need that you can provide. All you have to do to become a uniquely pleasurable sensory input is to remind them more frequently. Here are 9 ways to stay in touch with customers that keep your business top of mind, tip of tongue, and make them say “Wow!”:
Pretty cliché, right? Well, it works. Sending postcards to keep in touch with valued customers makes them feel important if you do it the right way. First, you hand write the message. Remember, you’re developing customer loyalty with most valued customers, so you should not have more than a few hundred or you’re crossing into a commodity business model. Hand-written notes take about 5 minutes so in an 8-hour day you could knock out 96 of them. Stagger them over a few weeks, a little each day, and this becomes manageable. Include something personal about the customer, maybe referencing her last purchase and how she’s doing with it. Offer your services and make no attempt at a sale. You’ll make an impression. One woman I know who owns an upscale women’s clothing store has an artist draw beautiful pictures on quarterly postcards. People love them so much they wander into the store just to complement her latest design, and then of course, they buy something. Want to start them really talking? Put a QR Code on the back of your postcard for mobile tech users that links to your website Blog or an online Video that gives them some great information they can use. They’ll never forget the cool points you just earned.
Similar to postcards in that both come through the mail, but the distinction is that this is a special offer for repeat and valued customers. Remember this—it has to be for your most valued customers (MVCs)! The last thing you need is for one of your MVCs to compare notes with someone off the street who never heard of you but got the same offer. Your credibility turns to muck in a hurry. Tailor the offer to their purchases and you look really cool. For instance, you could send all of the people who bought chainsaws from your hardware outlet an offer on bulk quantities of chain oil, referencing their original purchase. How do you know what each bought? You make it your business to know, and with today’s database and contact management tools, it’s easy to keep a purchase history on everyone.
Now this just isn’t a cold call, it’s a warm, personal contact from you to a customer. The key here is to check in with them to see if their purchase is serving them well, be it product or service. I got a call from a car dealership called Paradis Ford three months after I bought the car to see how I was doing. The caller was the salesman who sold me the car, who happened to be the general manager of the dealership. He ended up driving twenty miles out of his way to drop off a bottle of touch up paint ($3.78 retail) to my house. I referred at least ten people to him while I lived in the area.
Ahh!!! The cheap and easy way that technology has allowed us to follow-up is through email. Be careful, though. Don’t be a spammer. Ask MVCs for their email address if they’d like to hear about special deals just for them. If they give their addresses to you, they are volunteering to receive your occasional correspondence because they perceive a value to it. Don’t let them down. You can use this creative contact method like number 2, except you’re saving the cost of postage. Don’t forget to encourage everyone to visit your terrific website frequently to get even better deals. You do have a website, don’t you?
Similar to the special offer, let customers know through any of the means already given that you’re having a special event just for them. Bookstores like Borders do this all the time, having speakers and authors come in for one-hour workshops. For MVCs, make these events or classes free and it will lead to more business and that elusive loyalty. If the event has tremendous value, you can even charge for it, but use sound judgment as to what value is. Once again, targeting is key. Someone who came to your store and bought 5 books on sports heroes will think you’re a schmuck if you invite him to an oriental cooking class, but have Jerry Rice in for a book signing and you’re golden.
Does your business have a newsletter that goes out to loyal customers? This is an easy way to provide them with valuable tips and information while keeping your name in front of them, a true win-win. Combine this strategy with number 4 and you can do this very economically. Your newsletter is targeted to those people who have ordered from you in the past, so the tips should be light and relevant to your business. Have a pet store? Tell people how to remove ticks from their dog without going to a veterinarian. Get the idea?
This is a special version of number 5 that is for your sophisticated clientele, though increasingly less so as taking online courses and webinars is one of the chief ways leaders get their information and training. It is super-focused on specific buyers who use social media, email and frequent the Internet. You can run these courses for free or charge for them, depending on how advanced your website is (i.e. does it support e-commerce). The rub here is to educate your customers to be more informed about the usage of what you provide. If they know more, they use it more. If they use it more, they benefit more, and if they benefit more, they’ll want more of whatever it is.
Stop laughing! Be the only gal on your block to make house calls. This applies more for business-to-business (B2B) but can apply to business-to-consumer (B2C) relationships as well. This isn’t feasible for global businesses, but is for local establishments. Whether you sell grain and stop by Farmer Brown’s on the way home from the store or you sell cars and stop in on that dude needing some touch-up paint, people will remember the act because they know it is above and beyond the call. That is why they’ll support and refer your business in the future.
Ahh, the granddaddy of them all in 2011. Social media can be the engine that drives many of the other methods in this article. For instance, Facebook is THE way to drive local traffic to events, as well as the growing Google Places and Google+. Want to offer an online course for your white-collar B2B clientele? Post it in the 4-5 relevant Groups on LinkedIn to use that medium as a marketing tool. There is way too much to go into on social media here, but if you’re ignoring it these days you are missing one of the chief ways to keep in front of your trusted clientele.
These 9 methods above combine good ole, down-home and timeless courtesy with the methods of contact you have available to you in the 21st Century. Use them effectively and develop a loyalty from your customers that your competition has all but given up on.