The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka
Customers are the lifeblood of any business, and attracting new customers while strengthening your relationships with existing ones is a constant challenge. The best way to do so, however, is a matter that often leaves your sales and marketing staff at odds. Your sales force is focused primarily on closing the deal and landing new customers, while your marketing department wants to nurture customer relationships before and after the sale. No matter what your role at your company, however, it’s to your benefit to continue to nurture customer relationships long after they’ve paid their invoices.
Why Long-Term Customer Relationships Matter
We’ve all heard the adage that it’s cheaper to retain a customer than it is to acquire a new one. After all, you’ve already done the wooing. They already love your brand. If you maintain the relationship, they’ll come back to buy other products or services from you, increasing their customer lifetime value.
A customer with whom you already have a relationship is more likely to refer more business to you. They’re happy to tell others about how much they enjoy your brand when communicating through social media, review sites like Yelp, and face to face with friends. A single customer can help attract business from friends and family if they’re happy. And the best way to keep your customers happy is by paying attention to their needs and staying connected.
Managing Your Customer Relationships
Customer relationship management tools like Insightly and Salesforce make it easy to create profiles for each of your customers. You can track critical data like purchases, each customer’s birthday, and communication preferences. Companies use this data to better engage with customers. If you have your customer’s birthday, you can send her a email with a special birthday offer. If you know she has looked repeatedly at a certain item on your website, you can offer her a discount for it. Building a profile is a great first step; if you are in regular contact with a client, take notes each time you speak with them.
Social media is another fantastic tool for staying on top of customer relationships. Since Hootsuite lets you set up custom streams based on your preferences, it’s a snap to set up a stream containing the social media content generated by all your customers. From there, it’s up to you how far you drill down. You could create streams for different types of customers, such as those buying women’s clothes in one stream, children’s clothing in another, and men’s clothes in the last stream. You could set up a search for a keyword that relates to your industry to see who’s talking about it, and connect with them. The possibilities are endless, but what matters is using the info you gather to enhance your customer relationships.
Once you’ve set up customer profiles, it’s simply a matter of paying careful attention to what’s being said, especially if it relates to your product or brand. If a customer’s unhappy with your company, they might not bother to tell you, but reach out on their social network instead. If you’re monitoring your customer Tweets using your new setup, it’s much easier to discover customer concerns—and address them—before the situation escalates.
From a more positive angle, if you notice a customer tweeting about her search for product or service you provide (that they may not realize you offer), your sales team has a fantastic opportunity to respond and develop that interest into a lead.
Email is another great way to stay on connected to your customer. Don’t bombard your customers with emails, but do make your emails frequent and relevant enough to remind them of why they chose to give you their business. Sending one newsletter and one promotional email at specific times each week or month is a good start, but with a little creativity and careful data management, you can create targeted email campaigns for special occasions or broken out by demographic. Using the data gleaned through your customer relationship management software, you can deliver even more sophisticated and targeted messages, such as discounts for a customer’s birthday for example. The better targeted the offers, the better your connection with your customers.
The aim is to keep growing the connection. With intelligent application of the information you gather, you can build real and lasting relationships with your customers that won’t end with the sale.
About Megan Totka
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.