Lesson 3: Maintaining Relationships
Developing long-lasting relationships that create loyalty
3.1 Relationship Marketing
Welcome to lesson 3 in the PhD in Follow-up course. In previous lessons we have discussed the all-important tasks of Finding Prospects by honing our networking skills and using digital marketing. We talked about Creating Customers from those prospects using tactics like email marketing, social media engagement, and our Tools for Success.
Throughout these processes, there have been some common factors that are essential to any successful marketing strategy.
It does not matter what business you are in, your products and services must have a perceived value to consumers. Promote the benefits of your products rather than the features.
No matter how your customers are reaching out to you, be sure to respond immediately. Disregarding or ignoring their interaction can have a negative effect on their opinion of your business.
Customer information is easily accessible. Use that information to personalize your interactions with prospects, customers and clients. This will enhance their experience and promote loyalty.
It’s not enough to make one or two attempts to connect with prospects and, even after they have made a purchase, repeated follow-up connections are essential. Show your customers that they are valued and appreciated and they will remain loyal and refer you to others.
One thing that these factors all have in common is that they focus on improving the customer experience. In this lesson we delve even deeper into that concept by exploring the realm of Relationship Marketing.
3.1.1 Creating Loyalty
Relationship marketing focuses on customer loyalty and long-term customer engagement rather than shorter-term goals like customer acquisition and individual sales. The goal is to create strong, emotional connections between your company and your customers. This leads to ongoing business, free word-of-mouth promotion, and information that can help you improve what you offer which often generates more of that free advertising and increases referrals.
Acquiring new customers can be challenging and costly. Relationship marketing helps retain customers over the long term, which results in customer loyalty rather than customers who purchase once or infrequently.
When you take the time to build relationships, the typical aspects of marketing become simplified and genuine. You are creating an emotional one-on-one connection and a memorable experience. It becomes less about the sale and more about the satisfaction that comes from building long-term relationships. That is where the real-life riches are made, internally and externally.
Relationship marketing is important for its ability to stay in close contact with customers. By understanding how customers use your products and services and observing additional unmet needs, businesses can create new features and offerings to meet those needs, further strengthening the relationship.
3.1.2 Implementing a relationship marketing strategy
Today’s consumer has a wealth of information literally at their fingertips.
With the abundance of information on the Web and flourishing use of social media, most consumers expect to have easy, tailored access to details about a brand and even expect the opportunity to influence products and services via social media posts and online reviews. Today, relationship marketing involves creating easy two-way communication between customers and the business, tracking customer activities and providing tailored information to customers based on those activities.
With a wealth of customer data in place, the company can begin to segment these customers and develop unique marketing strategies for each segment. A customer who appreciates a product’s value has different qualities than one who has had a helpful customer service experience. These customers are loyal for different reasons, and require tailored relationship marketing strategies.
This is where CRM and marketing automation software can support a relationship marketing strategy by making it easier to record, track and act on customer information. Social CRM tools go further by helping to extend relationship marketing into the social media sphere, allowing companies to more easily monitor and respond to customer issues on social media channels, which in turn helps maintain a better brand image.
Relationship Marketing Strategies
3.1.3 Reviews and Testimonials
With the best presentation and consistent promotion, your brand can market itself. The more people who give positive feedback about you, the more trust you gain from your target audience. Don’t pass up the opportunity to ask your satisfied customers to write a testimonial for your website or to post a recommendation on social media. The positive feedback your happy customers give you is equivalent to running a successful advertising campaign.
Remember though, reviews can go both ways and you have to be ready to cure negativity when it rears its ugly head. When customers have had a negative experience, they voice their frustrations on social media for the whole world to comment on. These comments are the driving force in today’s consumer decision-making process.
We know that not every customer’s experience is going to be a positive one but, if they receive a prompt response with a viable solution to their complaint, these experiences can often be turned into long-lasting customer loyalty. Some research suggests that negative or controversial publicity garnishes more attention than positive feedback. If that negativity is transformed into a positive experience, this can go a long way toward building trust and respect for your brand.
Make sure to check in on your reviews often so you can highlight the positive and effectively deal with the negative. Send out occasional surveys to customers to find out what you’re doing right and what you could do better. Adjust, recalibrate, and try again. Customer needs and preferences change often, so changing up your strategy once in a while will probably be necessary, too.
Get so good at follow-up that you explode the number of referrals you get and loyalty goes through the roof.
Here are five simple steps to effectively follow-up after a sale.
3.2.1 Send a note to say thank you
It’s important to say thanks after making a sale as part of making it a good experience for your client. SendOutCards has several beautifully crafted options for thank-you cards in their catalogue or you can design your own with an added personal touch.
You can include messages such as “We are here for you!” in your card and make sure the note contains contact details and the name of a person who can be reached in case the customer has an issue or question. Ideally, this person should be the one who handled the transaction since that is who the client knows and trusts. Keep it friendly, more like a card to a friend than a standard ‘thank you for your business’ mass mail-out.
Following up on a first purchase will ensure that the product the buyer received met their expectations. This lets them know that you are invested in their well-being and increases your chances for establishing a repeat customer.
3.2.2 Follow up regularly
Check in from time to time just to keep the communication and interest alive.
Follow-up a week or two after the sale and find out how everything is going. Are they happy with their purchase? How was the service they received? Do they have any questions? But don’t overdo it. The customer’s time is precious. Especially, avoid trying to make a sale at this stage. Instead, listen to your customer’s needs and opinions, and try to resolve any issue they might have.
Send a card on their birthday or when holidays roll around. Sometimes a ‘just because’ card has more sentimental value than a typical birthday or standard holiday card.
Something that says, “I’m thinking of you!” and has a personal message inside like, “Just wondering how you’re doing in that empty nest of yours?” These types of touches go a long way in nurturing relationships and keeping your business top of mind and displayed top of shelf.
3.2.3 Keep the lines of communication open
Ask your clients for permission to communicate with them. Then send helpful information and advice based on their needs and interests. Focus on high-value content, such as guides, articles or educational webinars. This is the phase of consolidating the trust between you and your client. You want them to feel like they can contact you any time to discuss whatever is on their mind.
The Shuffle App lets you create mini websites right on your mobile device that can provide your clients with the latest information on your products or services and keep them updated on special offers. Or, maybe there’s an event you know about that they might want to attend. Any excuse to keep in touch will help to foster a solid relationship and hone those loyalties.
3.2.4 Repeat customers
Talking to existing clients who have already made a purchase might seem like a waste of time, but it is actually the key to future sales. Regular contact will help you understand their needs, give you ideas about product improvements and set the stage to offer a complementary product.
Keep records of purchases and send emails to those customers who have purchased similar products, or expressed an interest in a product or service, when a similar product or upgrade is available.