How to organise client events: your 14-step guide

Organising client events: here's your 14-step guide.

Organising client events: Here’s your 14-step guide.

Face-to-face interactions are a great way to deepen business relationships. While one-on-one meetings are well and good, often it makes sense to organise group events.

(There’s more on that topic here: Discover the 4 different ways in which you can grow customer relationships face-to-face.)

So how should you go about organising group events?

This is something that my consulting clients often ask me; here’s a summary of the best tips I’ve learned over the years…

1. What’s your strategy for the event?

Think carefully: why do you wish to host an event?

  • Is it to attract new customers, by giving them a glimpse of what you do? E.g. via a seminar or workshop.
  • Is it to reward loyal clients? E.g. by giving them VIP access/information on a hot new product or service.
  • Or do you wish to reward loyal clients AND attract new customers? E.g. by allowing your VIP clients to invite a friend along to the event.

It’s important that you consider this reason all the way through your event planning, to ensure that the event will achieve your goals.

2. Will the event be free or is there a price for attendees?

If the event is there to reward loyal clients, it would be rather rude to charge them to come along… unless there is a good reason.

However, if the event is to attract new clients, you need to decide whether to make it free or not. You may think that it must be free, to attract new clients, but “free” has 2  problems:

  1. People don’t value free. You’re far more likely to get no-shows and last minute cancellations for free events.
  2. Free appeals to the bargain hunters; there’s a good chance you’ll get people there who’ll suck up every piece of information you pass their way… but they flat out refuse to pay for anything. This can mean low conversion rates and low sales.

Sure, if your event is just a sales pitch, then free is appropriate. However, my suggestion would be that you make the content helpful and to charge a fee for attendance. You’ll most likely attract a better calibre of attendee.

Extra tip: In some regions and cultures, such as here in Auckland, it can be really hard to get people to commit to attending an event way in advance. If that’s the case, consider offering a discounted Early Bird price, for people who book by a certain date.

(Of course, it’s not a ‘real’ discount; the Early Bird is your actual price, and the price thereafter is an increased price.)

Here in Auckland, it’s not unusual to see 75% of attendees choosing the Early Bird option, with the remaining 25% booking in a day or two before the event itself. (And events with Early Bird discounts generally sell more tickets than events without Early Bird discounts.)

If you live in a place where prospects are fickle, offering an Early Bird discount can save you a whole lot of stress. At least with your Early Bird sales, you know that a certain number of people will be attending. Imagine if you made all your sales just a day or two before the event? That would be very stressful, and it may even be tempting to cancel the event for the fear that no one will come!

3. Who will you invite?

There’s no point having an event if you’ve got no one to invite! Attendees may come from:

  • Your own client or prospect list.
  • Strategic alliance partners.
  • Clients and prospects of your strategic alliance partners.
  • People in your networking groups.

Spending some time and effort on this is vital. I’ve seen too many business owners get enthused about hosting an event, and then get stuck on the “who to invite” part. Get some things happening in this area, before you go any further into organising the actual event.

Consider too the mechanics of the invitation: will it be by email, or by snail mail (e.g. a special printed invite, or a letter)? The format of the invite needs to be appropriate to your objectives for the event.

4. Where will you host the event?

You’ll need a venue to host the event: somewhere budget-friendly but professional. As well as the price of the venue hire, you’ll need to consider:

  • Do they provide seating? What’s the capacity? And will the seats be arranged in your preferred layout?
  • Will you have sole use of the area?
  • Is the venue quiet enough, or are there noise issues to contend with? (It’s surprising how many function rooms have high levels of kitchen noise, or noise from other patrons.)
  • Do they provide any audio-visual equipment, or will you need to hire it?
  • Can they provide tea, coffee, water, etc. for your guests?
  • Is car parking available for your attendees?

5. When will the event be held – and for how long?

The issue of timing can be tricky: should you have your event in the morning? An afternoon? An evening? At a weekend? And should it be 2 or 3 hours, or a whole day?

I’d suggest the following plan of action:

  1. Look at what your competitors are doing. If they run successful events, they may have tested and measured different times, so observe and learn from this.
  2. Make an educated guess, and shortlist 2 or so different scenarios. Then ask your target profile people what they’d prefer, and why. Go with the general consensus of opinion.
  3. After the event, review and analyse how the timing worked out. If you think it wasn’t quite right, try something else the next time, and see how that compares.

All you can do is to take an educated guess, and then test and measure.

6. How will you manage the bookings?

You have two main options for managing the bookings:

  1. You could do it all manually, where people have to phone/email you, and you log them on a spreadsheet and get all their contact details. (And then do any follow ups manually as well.) This is very time-consuming.
  2. You could use an event booking system, where people register online (and pay online, if there’s a charge). You can then use the online booking system for email or SMS follow-ups. You can also set a maximum number of attendees to prevent over-booking. The system could even handle Early Bird discounts for you. It may even pre-prepare an attendee list or name badges. There may be a small charge for the booking system, but it will save you an immense amount of admin time.

I know which option I’d go for! 😉

7. Sell sell sell!

The easiest way to let people know about your event is to make a website page with all the information, and have a link to the online booking system.

The beauty of the web page is that you can link to it (e.g. from emails, blogs, social media profiles, etc.)… it’s an easy way to make the information accessible. Plus, if you have Google Analytics installed, you can do some measuring around referral sources, conversion rates, etc. This may be invaluable if you’re holding more events in the future.

In some cases, it may also be worth making a flyer (printed or in PDF format) that you can email to people, or hand out at networking meetings.

Whether you choose to go the online route, flyer route, or both, the most important thing is that you promote the WIIFM (“What’s In It For Me” factor). What will attendees get out of it? Why should they give up precious hours in their day to come to your event? You need to make the event as enticing as possible.

8. Promote promote promote!

You’ve now got the nuts and bolts in place, i.e. an online booking system, a web page, and maybe some flyers… but your job does not end there, oh no.

Now you need to promote the event – and promote it hard.

Go back to your list of invitees and go through it… and at least 2 or 3 times:

  1. Promote/invite people as soon as you’re ready.
  2. Send another reminder before the Early Bird discount finishes.
  3. Send another reminder just before the event (if there are still seats left).

Get your strategic alliance partners to do the same, if possible. And use other channels (e.g. networking meetings, social media, etc.) continuously.

Even if it’s an event for VIP clients, follow up with the people who haven’t replied.

Bonus tip: One client I worked with a while ago was totally stressing about (a) no-one showing up; and (b) being over-booked for a VIP client event. She didn’t know what was worse, and was very flustered.

So I got her to draw up 2 invitee lists: the A-list consisted of her very top tier clients, and they were invited first and foremost (and followed up with, to get a definite Yes or No). Once that list was exhausted, the B-list clients were invited, one at a time. This way the client was in total control of the numbers.

The result? Every seat in the room was taken. The evening was fun and a huge success. And my client was very happy… and her clients were talking about the event for months afterwards. Hurrah!

9. Plan and prepare materials for the day

There’s a huge amount of work involved in this section. The materials you’ll need will depend on the event itself. Chances are that a workshop or seminar will require a lot more preparation than fun client events that rewards your VIP customers.

Here are some of the most common things you’ll may need to prepare; just pick and choose whatever’s appropriate to you:

  • Signage: Print out some signs that you can stick up with BluTak so that your attendees will know exactly where to go. It’s annoying for people to arrive at an unknown building and not know where to go. Make it easy for your attendees to find the function room, especially if it’s tucked away.
  • Registration sheet: So that you can mark attendees as they arrive. That way you’ll know if everyone’s there who signed up… or if there are no-shows. If you have someone helping you on the day, get them to do this, while you make sure that everything else is set up and ready to go. (Because if you’re stuck at the front desk, you’ll be fretting about the computer and overhead projector not being set up yet.)
  • Name badges or stickers: Yes you may feel dumb wearing them or dishing them out… but by gosh it’ll help attendees mingle more easily!
  • Run sheet with timing: This is particularly important if there’s more than one speaker.
  • PowerPoint presentation: make sure it’s an interesting one, and not dull or information overload.
  • Email newsletter sign-up forms: so that you can follow up with prospects).
  • Feedback forms: these are vital for seminars and workshops. Make sure that you write these in a way that’ll let you get Testimonials that you can use in your marketing (with permission from the attendee).
  • Things to sell there and then: This could involve products, services, special packages, special offers… whatever you choose. Make it easy for people to buy. You may need to prepare order forms. And be prepared to accept payments there and then – so you may need to organise a credit card machine.
  • Take-home kits and goodie bags: These may contain marketing materials, a brochure, a copy of presentation slides, branded goods or fun gifts.
  • Presentation tools and stationery: This may include: laptop computer, power cable for the laptop computer, USB stick with your presentation on it (in your computer decides to malfunction, and someone else has a computer you can borrow – this may sound extreme but it’s happened to me!), projector, projector screen, a table for the computer and projector to stand on, remote clicker, iPod, speakers, microphone, electrical extension lead, electrical multibox (ideally one that’s surge protected – that’s another lesson I learned the hard way!), flip chart stand, flip chart pad, flip chart pens, pens for attendees, note pads for attendees, props, a clock to keep you on time, BluTak, camera, etc.
  • Food and drink: My motto is that “everything is better with food”… provided it’s good food. If I’m hungry, I get grumpy (as do most people). You don’t want grumpy attendees at your event. So keep them adequately fed and watered.

10. Can you leverage the event?

Oooh, ‘leverage’, what’s that?

Basically, this is about using the event in some other way later, and would mean recording the audio and/or video.

Some ideas include:

  • Provide a video recording of the event to your VIP clients who couldn’t make it. Either as a DVD or a link to where they can watch the website online.
  • Use a video or audio recording as a Bonus for your customers, e.g. on a special members-only section of your website.
  • Use a video recording as a sales tool on your website.
  • Record video testimonials at the event.

If you think that would help your business, make arrangements well in advance.

You’ll also need a form that each participant must sign on the day, confirming that they give their consent for this indefinitely and without limitation. (Be sure to check they’ve signed the form, as you go round collecting them.)

11. Remember the reminders

Don’t assume that everyone who’s booked will turn up… follow up with the attendees.

I’d suggest emailing all the attendees with confirmation details a day or two before the event, complete with parking information, so they know exactly where to go.

An SMS (text message) reminder on the day itself is a good idea too.

12. Keep to time at the event

This sounds so obvious, but it’s so important… if you don’t stick to time, and don’t cover all the material, it will be difficult for your event to meet its strategic objectives.

So manage your time well and stick to the run sheet. Don’t let the participants take control away (well, not for too long)… you’re in charge.

A friend of mine recommends putting an easy-to-read alarm clock on the table in front of you, so that you can always see it. This is a great idea, and your attendees won’t even notice that you’re keeping such a close eye on the time.

Also, an extra pair of hands on the day will be helpful. If you try and do everything yourself (presenting, AND setting up the room, AND handing round forms, AND recording video testimonials, AND setting up the refreshments, etc. etc.) you will struggle. Make sure you have at least one other person engaged to help you.

If the objective of the event is to make sales, by all means ensure that there is enough time for this! I’ve seen it too many times where people meander through their presentation, and then their sales pitch is rushed.

Do not over-run your time. You will severely annoy your attendees, and it’s disrespectful to them. So let’s not go there!

13. Follow up and follow up some more…

This is another area where business owners fall down time after time: either there are no follow-ups, or they’re not done well, or they’re left so late that the attendees have cooled off completely.

To get around that, have your follow ups prepared well before the event itself, so that you can implement them right away.

If it’s a fun VIP event, thank your clients for coming. It’s polite and classy to do so. Whether you do that by phone, email or snail mail is up to you… whatever is relevant.

For sales-oriented events, the follow-ups need to be more extensive. I’d suggest:

  1. Emailing some value-added information right away to all attendees; AND:
  2. Following up right away with the people who bought from you on the night. Thank them for their purchase, and tell them that you’re there to help them if they have any questions. You can do this by phone or email – or both. AND:
  3. Following up each attendee who didn’t buy on the night with a phone call. Have a really good sales script ready, so that you stand the best possible chance of converting them. If they’re reluctant to buy, ask some questions to find out why. If you’re not comfortable with doing this yourself (e.g. I get the heebie-jeebies at the thought of doing that), consider engaging a telesales professional to do that for you. If they’re any good, the learnings will be invaluable – and you may just get a sale out of it!

14. Review and analyse

Now that all the hard work is out of the way, what did you learn from the experience?

Did the event meet your strategic objectives?

Would you consider running a similar event again? What changes would you make?

I’ve met many business owners who are so enthused about running client events, that they don’t sit back and take stock. I’d strongly recommend that you complete this full cycle before planning any more events.

For example, common issues are around the venue, pricing, promotion or timing. Or maybe the business owner forgot about the strategic objectives somewhere along the track. It’s best to take a step back and remedy these things.

After all, organising client events takes a good amount of time, money and energy… so make sure you get the best possible return from them.

Summary

When planning events, consider:

  1. What’s your strategy for the event?
  2. Will the event be free or is there a price for attendees?
  3. Who will you invite?
  4. Where will you host the event?
  5. When will the event be held – and for how long?
  6. How will you manage the bookings?
  7. Sell sell sell!
  8. Promote promote promote!
  9. Plan and prepare materials for the day
  10. Can you leverage the event?
  11. Remember the reminders
  12. Keep to time at the event
  13. Follow up and follow up some more…
  14. Review and analyse

Discover the 4 different ways in which you can grow customer relationships face-to-face…

How to use face-to-face interactions for customer retention.

How to use face-to-face interactions for customer retention.

There are so many awesome technologies for staying in touch these days. And I use just about all of them to keep in touch with my dad… he lives in England, on the other side of the world to me.

We email each other most days; send SMS (text messages) for news we want to share right away; we talk on the phone; sometimes we Skype; and we send cards in the mail.

Sure, it’s great to have all this… but there’s nothing like seeing each other in person. Being able to take trips together, laugh together, hug. There’s nothing like seeing each other face-to-face, and when it’s been a while since we’ve had that connection, we really start craving it.

The connection with your customers isn’t quite as strong as this family bond, but the same rules apply.

Customers value face-to-face contact as well

Though you may not hug your customers, they will value face-to-face interactions from time to time!

This may depend on your industry to some extent… but even if you have an ecommerce website, and minimal customer interaction, it doesn’t mean you should rule this out completely.

Personal interactions move the business relationship from being a transaction to being, well, a relationship…

Transactions are cold, clinical, impersonal. If you merely transact business, your product or service becomes a commodity, and customers are quickly lured away to cheaper competitors. (Read: How to get your Customers to Climb the Magic Beanstalk of Customer Loyalty.)

But if you take the business relationship to a more personal level, customers become emotionally invested in it. The deeper the connection, the less likely that customers will be lured to a competitor. It’s up to you to deepen that connection, and face-to-face interactions are the way to do it.

What kinds of face-to-face interactions for customer retention are there?

There are 4 broad types of face-to-face interactions for customer retention:

face-to-face-customer-interactions

Which type(s) of customer interaction should you choose?

The kinds of customer interactions you select depend on your business or industry. For example, group events generally work well for B2C (business-to-consumer) companies. Whether they work for B2B (business-to-business) organisations depends on the extent of the rivalry between the customers. I’ve worked in some industries, where customers are bitter rivals, and putting them in the same room together would be a seriously bad idea.

But in other industries, the competition between customers is friendlier – or non-existent even. So it’s up to you to decide what’s relevant for the business you’re in.

Another consideration is your budget

The amount that you spend on face-to-face interactions depends on the profitability of your customers. You need to keep that aligned with your expenses.

In practical terms, it can mean tiering your customers into different levels: it’s perfectly OK to take just your top 5% or 20% (or however many) of your customers out for lunch.

But what if you don’t want to have lunch with a customer?

If the thought of having lunch with a customer makes you cringe, then it may be best not to do it. Assess each case individually.

After all, not all customers are the same, and not everyone likes being taken out to lunch.

The whole purpose of this exercise is to interact in a way that’ll deepen the relationship, and for that to happen the other party has to enjoy the experience! So if you think that lunch together would be a big flop, then don’t do it.

Again, it’s up to you to make the call as to what’s suitable – and what simply won’t work.

If socialising is a no-no, then focus on work-related catch-ups. That’s fine. The important thing is that you do schedule them!

Schedule year-round customer interactions

Imagine if I didn’t phone or email my dad for 3 months. He’d be pretty upset, right? Good relationships need regular contact, and the same applies with your customers.

So make sure that you schedule regular catch-ups with your customers throughout the year. Diarise reminders. Do what you need to do to make them happen.

And again, it’s fine to tier customers into different levels: it’s not practical or helpful to visit every customer every week. After all, not all customers are created equal; they don’t all spend the same amount with you.

For example, in one company where I worked, the Business Development Managers in the sales team had different schedules for different customers. The A-Grade customers would get a visit every month, and phone calls in-between times at least once a week. (These customers needed a lot of servicing.) The B-Grade customers may receive a visit every quarter, and phone calls every two weeks. And the C-Grade customers would get one visit a year, and a monthly phone call… that’s all that was needed (or was relevant) to the smaller customers. What you do depends on your customers, and also the resources you have available to you.

What about industries where face-to-face interactions are tricky?

If seeing customers one-on-one isn’t possible, try to organise a seminar or workshop once or twice a year… if it’s appropriate to your business, of course.

Or if you really can’t manage that, at least fill in the gaps with other media: after all, you have snail mail, email, social media, Skype/instant messaging, the telephone and SMS (text messaging) available to you… make the most of it!

After all, while my dad understands that I can’t visit him as often as I’d like, I at least make up for that in other ways! And you should do the same with your customers. Whereas family bonds are hard to break, customer bonds are far more fragile and you need to treat them as such.

Summary

  • Face-to-face interactions deepen business relationships, which can help with your customer retention.
  •  There are 4 different types of face-to-face interactions you can have with your customers: they can be work-related, fun, one-on-one or group events.
  • The nature of the interactions will depend on your industry, budget and resources… as well as what your customer will enjoy.
  • Ideally, you should schedule face-to-face interactions all year round, though it can be worth tiering your customers so that the attention they receive is in line with their spend.
  • If you really can’t spend time face-to-face with your customers, make the most of all the other media you have available to you: snail mail, email, social media, Skype/instant messaging, the telephone and SMS (text messaging).

 

Why SMS (text messaging) for customer retention is a double-edged sword…

How to use text messaging for customer retention.

How to use text messaging for customer retention.

Since the first text message (or SMS: Short Message Service) was sent in 1992 in the UK, it’s become the most widely used data application in the world. In 2011 there were 3.6 billion active users, or 78% of all mobile phone subscribers. So yeah, text messaging is big!

(Facts ‘n’ figures are from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMS)

However, text messaging as a marketing tool is a double-edged sword…

The great thing about using text messaging as a marketing tool is that just about everyone has a cell phone. And most people have their phone nearby all the time. Thus texting is a very personalised, instant way to communicate with people… and that’s what makes it a double-edged sword.

You see, that personal connection needs trust. When you send someone a text message, it’s quite an intimate form of communication. So it’s absolutely vital that you, as a marketer, respect this intimacy.

For example, many consumers won’t tolerate receiving lots of generic promotional text messages. (Some may be happy to, but I’d say that most folks would find it annoying to get lots of promotions on their phone by SMS.) That means that if you send promotional text messages to your customers, you need to be really sensitive about their preferences. If you don’t act sensitively, you could very easily upset and alienate clients and lose their custom and referrals. Eek!

So does this mean you should never use SMS in your business?

No, not at all… you just need to be careful about it!

You see, there are some text messages that people find helpful; and other messages are annoying. (Like the promotional messages I’ve already mentioned.)

What kind of text messages do people find helpful?

The most helpful kind of text message is a reminder. For example, my beauty therapist and hairdresser send me reminders of my appointments, and I have to reply to the text message to confirm them. These reminders are really handy for me, and if I ever forget what my appointment time is, I don’t even have to open up my calendar, I can just look at my text messages.

This reminder/confirmation system is hugely advantageous for the business owners, too. Many appointment-type businesses have a problem with “no shows”, i.e. people simply not turning up to their appointment, and without letting the business know. That means that the empty appointment can’t be offered to another customer, which means downtime, which means no income in that time period (whilst still paying staff wages and overheads), which means a loss of profit. Using a text message reminder/confirmation system can drastically improve no show rates.

In that scenario, text messaging doesn’t just help with customer retention; it can make a real, measurable difference to profitability – instantly.

Personalised messages can work well too

There are a few different ways to send personalised messages. Here are some examples… and if you’ve got any of your own, I’d love to hear them, just add a Comment to this blog (below).

  • Birthday messages and promotions: If you capture clients’ birthdays, send them a congratulatory message on their special day. Businesses such as beauty therapists could even send them a special birthday offer, e.g. pop in this week and get a free manicure as a thank you for being a loyal customer. (If possible, tier the gifts so that they align with the customers’ spending levels, and better still, get them to try a new service – they may just love it and spend even more money with you in the future!)
  • Congratulations: Has your client just appeared in a newspaper, or been on the radio? Or won an Award or run a marathon? Send them a text message to say “nice job”! It’s instant; it’s personal; and it’s great for those times when you’re not sure whether to call them on the phone or not. And because text messaging is so personal, this will probably get noticed more than an email would.
  • Thanks: Maybe you’ve just had lunch with a client or strategic alliance partner. Or maybe a client came to your seminar or workshop. Send them a text message right away saying something like “Thanks for your time, it was great to catch up.” It’s thoughtful, polite and a good relationship builder. And it’s instant, too: you could say thanks in an email, but you don’t know when your contact will next be checking their emails. But they receive the text message right away.

How do you send the text messages?

Sending personal congratulatory or thank you messages is easy: you just whip out your phone, type and hit ‘send’.

But for anything more complex than that, e.g. birthday promotions, appointment reminders, and so on, it would be difficult to do manually. There are computer systems that can take care of that, and that are linked directly to your client database. (What kinds of systems? You’d need to do some research specific to your industry and to your country. A good place to start is by finding out what your competitors use.)

You also need systems to store clients’ communication preferences

Another reason why it’s a good idea to have a computer system take care of your text messaging is because you need to store your customers’ communication preferences. You see, text messaging (in most countries) is governed by anti-spam laws, similar to email marketing laws.

The smart business owner will have separate opt-in options for:

  • Email newsletters
  • SMS (text message) promotions
  • Reminders

You see, it’s highly likely that you have to offer some way of letting clients unsubscribe from SMS (text message) promotions. (Check the laws that apply to your own country.) So imagine if you just had one opt-in list which covers ALL your client communications: you’d lose that subscriber completely! Yet in reality, that subscriber may not want to receive text message promotions, but they’re happy to receive emails and reminders.

Therefore the more flexible your opt-in options, the better it will be for your business.

Another problem with SMS promotions is that they’re expensive

Text messaging is a relatively expensive way to reach your clients: here in New Zealand, it’s usually 20 cents per 160-character message. If you have a big database, the costs can quickly add up.

If you do try sending promotions by text message, be sure to:
(a) Carry out a cost/benefit analysis beforehand, so you can identify how many responses are needed to break even on the campaign.
(b) If possible, do some split testing with 2 different offers, and track the popularity of each offer.
(c) Carry out post-campaign analysis, to see which offer performed better, and whether the campaign was worthwhile or not.

Should you use “txt language” in your messages?

Gosh it can be hard to fit everything you want to say into 160 characters! (Yes, it’s another of those double-edged sword issues with SMS!) So should you use SMS language?

  • For example: Thank you for the meeting today, it was great to see you.
  • Becomes: Thx 4 t mtg 2day it was gr8 2 c u.

My thoughts: Use words in full where you can. SMS language doesn’t project a professional image (leave it for messaging your buddies), plus it can be misunderstood far too easily.

For example, there are still lots of people who think that “LOL” stands for “Lots of love”. (In case you’re wondering, it actually stands for “Laugh out loud”.

So don’t risk any misunderstandings, and be clear in your communications by using proper language!

The future of text messaging

SMS has been around for a decade now, and let’s face it, we love being able to send and receive messages instantly, all over the world.

With smartphones being so popular, the technology we use for messaging may well evolve over time. For example, we may see more location-based features in the future. And the cost of messaging may become more affordable, with the ability to send longer messages and include graphics.

It’s certainly worth keeping an eye on what’s happening, because it’s a very exciting time to be a marketer!

Summary

  • SMS (text messaging) is a very personal, intimate communications medium and you need to treat it with respect.
  • Be helpful and be personal, rather than be too promotional.
  • Reminder/confirmation messages are generally found to be useful by recipients – plus they can work wonders for your “no show” rate.
  • Messages can either be sent manually, from your phone, or can be integrated with a specialised database.
  • Be sure to observe the laws in your country regarding SMS marketing.
  • Obtain opt-in consent (adhering to the laws in your country), and if possible split out the consent between different types of electronic communications (emails, SMS, reminders, etc.)
  • If you send promotional text messages, be sure to test and measure your campaigns carefully to ensure they’re worthwhile.
  • Avoid using shorthand “txt language” in your messages: it looks unprofessional, and can lead to misunderstandings.
  • Cell phone technology is evolving rapidly, so keep an eye out for future trends and opportunities.

 

Snail mail: Why it pays to go retro with your customer retention campaigns

Discover the different ways in which you can use snail mail for your customer retention campaigns.

Discover the different ways in which you can use snail mail for your customer retention campaigns.

Sending things in the mail seems so quaint and old-fashioned now.. so retro! In the age of instant electronic communications, going to the effort of assembling a piece of paper, an envelope and a postage stamp – and then a mail box to post it – just seems like soooo much effort sometimes.

Little wonder that every so often news headlines appear, telling us of post office closures. This has been a news topic in many countries (New Zealand, United Kingdom, US, Switzerland, and more) for a number of years now.

So why send things in the mail? Is it just to keep the post offices open?

The reason why it’s worth mailing things to your customers is because you get noticed. It’s because very few people to bother assembling paper, envelope and postage.

Or if you do get something in the mail, it’s probably an invoice, or a notification from your power supplier of a price increase. Or junk mail. Most of the stuff we get in the mail these days is either boring or negative.

How different things were when I was a kid!

When I was a kid, emptying the mail box at home was my favourite job.

Why? Well, every now and again I’d receive fun stuff! Maybe a postcard from a relative, or a letter from my French pen friend.

To me, the mail box was an item full of anticipation, excitement and fun.

My childish fascination with snail mail lives on…

I love sharing the fun of getting something nice in the mail. It’s so rare to get something positive and uplifting in the mail these days – especially in a business capacity. So when you do, it really gets noticed.

And not just that, but it’s also incredibly easy and cheap to do.

Can you think of a cheaper and easier way to add the “wow” factor?

Sure, emails are cheap (and as we’ve already covered, I really rate email marketing as a customer retention tool). But it just doesn’t have the same “wow” factor as a nice goodie in the mail. Ditto the telephone… also a cool tool for customer retention, but often a conversation is forgotten as soon as the phone’s hung up.

But with snail mail, you have the opportunity to put something real and enduring (and fun and positive) into the recipient’s hands.

What kind of things can you send via snail mail to help with your customer retention?

The only limit as to what you can send is your imagination! Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Printed newsletters

Email newsletters are cheaper to send, but for some industries (especially if your customer base is older), physically sending the articles works really well.

The key is to make it easy to manage, and to keep the costs reasonable. The coolest solution I’ve seen is a postcard that’s a newsletter. Yep, it’s a custom-printed postcard with a short article or tip, and it does the job. You could have pre-paid postage printed on it, and get your printer to do a mail merge. That way your admin time is minimal, as there’s no envelope stuffing or labelling to do. Neat, effective and easy!

2. Postcards

Speaking of postcards, these are very versatile. You could send special offers, reminders, seasonal greetings… whatever you like.

My tip here would be to invest in some fab graphic design, to give your postcard the “wow” factor so it stands out. You want it to look compelling – and not like junk mail!

3. Thank you cards

Everyone likes to feel appreciated, so a thank you card is a nice gesture. Yes, it’s old-fashioned, but, as the saying goes, “manners maketh man” (or woman). Sending a thank you card is a classy touch that will elevate you far above your competitors.

This is a topic that I love, so I’ve written a separate article all about how to get the most from sending business thank you cards.

4. Seasonal cards

Seasonal holidays are a great excuse to send something nice to your customers and strategic alliance partners.

Christmas is the obvious holiday of choice… but you don’t have to do that, especially if you don’t observe religious holidays.

A graphic design colleague of mine sends Thanksgiving Cards – and that really gets noticed, because Thanksgiving isn’t observed in New Zealand!

You can find any excuse for a holiday; it could even be something related to your industry… there are plenty of silly, bizarre and whacky occasions to choose from, so you can choose whatever slots neatly into your marketing calendar. For example:

  • 23 February: International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day
  • 1 April: International Fun At Work Day
  • 14 April: International Moment of Laughter Day
  • 18 April: International Jugglers’ Day (also applies to multi-tasking office workers)
  • 30 April: Hairstyle Appreciation Day
  • 12 May: International Nurses’ Day
  • 26 June: Beauticians’ Day
  • 19 September: International Talk Like A Pirate Day

That’s just for starters, you’ll find plenty more weird and wonderful holidays here: http://holidayinsights.com/moreholidays/index.htm

5. Gifts

Yeahhhh… presents! Who doesn’t like presents?!

Sending a prezzie of some kind adds an extra feel-good factor… and it can be easy and cost-effective. Especially if you choose something that can fit into a standard envelope. It could be a custom-printed corporate gift, such as a pen, notepad, pack of mints or sweets.

I’ve known other people to send packets of flower or vegetable seeds, magnets… or my personal favourite, chocolate! (Swiss, of course!)

You could also send gifts on dates that are important to your customers. For example, if a VIP client has just gotten married or had a baby, it’s often appropriate to send them a gift. Or a female VIP client will always be delighted by receiving a bouquet of flowers on their birthday.

Again, your only limit is your imagination as to what you can easily implement within your budget.

Just ensure that your gift is of value to your recipient (no point sending something that isn’t going to be appreciated), and is of an appropriate level of quality to match your business.

6. Reminders

Oh, this seems so dull a topic compared to gifts, but reminders sent in the mail are an important customer retention technique for many businesses. Especially the kinds of business where customers need to see you at set intervals, but they’re infrequent. I’m thinking of things like car servicing and dental check-ups, or booster vaccinations for pets.

Sure, sometimes it makes sense to send these reminders via email or SMS (text message), but depending on your business type and customer profile, snail mail can sometimes be more effective. You’ll need to test and measure the solution that’s best for your business.

Remember to send snail mail to your strategic alliance partners!

It’s just as important to thank your strategic alliance partners as it is your customers… if not more so. Strategic alliance partners can be your marketing goldmine, so make sure that they feel valued, appreciated and communicated with. (Don’t let your competitors lure them away, just because you haven’t stayed in touch!)

Summary

  • Because so few people send goodies in the mail, you’ll stand out and get noticed when you use this as part of your customer retention campaigns.
  • Snail mail is a cost-effective way to give your customers the “wow” factor.
  • Things to you can send via mail to help with your customer retention include:
    • Printed newsletters
    • Postcards
    • Thank you cards
    • Seasonal cards
    • Gifts
    • Reminders
  • Remember to include strategic alliance partners on your mailing list, as well as your customers.

 

Business thank you cards: How to grow your business with two little words

Business thank you cards are an easy and effective way to show your appreciation.

Business thank you cards are an easy and effective way to show your appreciation.

Have you ever tried training a dog to obey some basic commands?

“Sit”, “stay”, “drop”… that kind of thing.

Well, the key to obedience training is to give the dog a reward when it performs a task well. That treat could be food, or a toy, or a pat… whatever motivates the dog. That way, the dog learns what’s good behaviour, and being people-pleasers, they’ll repeat the good behaviour. (Well, most of the time… let’s just say that my west highland terrier can be a little stubborn!)

On the other hand, losing your temper with a dog won’t get you very far at all. They won’t really want to obey you… perhaps through fear, but hopefully I only have people who are nice to animals reading this blog.

I digress… the point is that rewards encourage good, positive behaviour. And we as humans aren’t really that much different.

Yes, both the proverbial sticks and carrots can motivate humans. I for one respond far, far better to carrots and will avoid the stick-strewn path at all costs. But a nice reward? Yes, please!

A “thank you” is a very simple reward to give

The simplest way to show your appreciation of a job done well is to say just two little words: “thank you”.

Saying “thank you” is easy, effortless, and it doesn’t cost you a bean.

However, in my view, these two little words aren’t used anywhere near often in enough in business.

Why bother saying thank you in business?

Why say “thank you” in business when you’ve paid hard-earned money for a product or service? You’re entitled to receive what you’ve paid for, after all!

The reason why it’s worth saying “thank you” is because that product or service has been delivered by a person. A person with feelings, emotions, worries, concerns, dreams, frustrations… in short, a person like you or like me. (And not some kind of work robot.)

The person delivering you the product or service may have had to make personal sacrifices to deliver it on time. Perhaps they’ve been up all night with a sick child. Perhaps they’re supporting a frail relative. Perhaps their boss is a mean ol’ slavedriver. Perhaps their car broke down earlier in the day.

OK, so there may not have been any such sacrifice, but a sincere “thank you” is always appreciated. What’s more, saying a heart-felt “thank you” also encourages future good service delivery from that person. Yes, it’s a bit like rewarding a dog… they’ll be nice to you if you’re nice to them.

The key is to be sincere when saying “thank you”

An insincere thank you is demotivating. For example, I used to have a boss who’d handwrite his instructions for me, and at the end he always wrote “thx”. I always thought that this was rude and slapdash – he can’t really be thankful, if he can’t even be bothered to write “thanks” in full!

Yes, I realise I’m reading waaaaay too much into the “thx”, but the point remains that a “thank you” should be sincere if you want it to have the desired motivational effect. And in my view, there’s no way that’s more sincere than sending a “thank you” card…

Thank you cards? Isn’t that a bit old-fashioned?

Yes, it may be old-fashioned to send business thank you cards but, as the saying goes, “manners maketh man” (or woman). Sending a thank you card is a classy touch that will elevate you far above your competitors.

Here are some extracts from one of my favourite business authors, Paddi Lund, which help to explain why I’m so passionate about thank you cards:

“Politeness is the oil of the wheels of society.

Most people believe that they should be polite to strangers. They know that if they are not, the strangers will not like them and not be polite in return. When strangers are not polite people feel offended and unloved: feelings that make for unhappiness and no one wants to be unhappy.

If it is important to be polite to strangers so that the social interaction we have with them makes for happiness, then surely it must be even more important to be polite to people who are intimates and have much more power to make our life unhappy.

All social graces are learned. If our parents did not educate us in the niceties of social eating, everyone would feel nauseated when at the table in our company.

Social behaviour is something we are taught. It is not instinctive. We learn how to walk gracefully, not to eject gas from our bodies noisily in company and to blow our noses without contaminating those around us. Almost every behaviour we have has been learned and practised. Why not a few more?

Politeness affirms the dignity of the people with whom we communicate.”

Source: ‘Building the Happiness-Centred Business’, Dr. Paddi Lund

In short: I think it’s rude not to say thank you in some form (be it verbally or written), and putting it in writing is a thoughtful, classy way to do it.

I used to hate writing thank you cards as a kid, but now I’m a few years older I realise how nice it is to be appreciated!

After all, when was the last time you received business thank you cards from your suppliers? I bet that you don’t receive many business thank you cards… so when you do receive one (and it’s a nice, sincere, thoughtful one), it gets noticed. Sending thank you cards is an effective way to differentiate your business and elevate it above your competitors.

Best of all, you have many opportunities to send business thank you cards.

What could you send business thank you cards for?

There are numerous opportunities to use thank you cards in business, and I’d encourage you to embrace as many of them as possible.

Some ideas are:

  • Thank you for choosing me to work with you (pre-project)
  • Thank you for the work (ad-hoc projects)
  • Thank you for the ongoing work
  • Thank you for a great referral
  • Thank you for the meeting/lunch/catch-up/other nice thing
  • Thank you for you testimonial.

Crunch your numbers

As with any other marketing tactic, you should crunch your numbers first to make sure that sending business thank you cards is viable. For example, there’s no point sending business thank you cards if your average dollar sale is very low… the cost/benefit analysis simply won’t stack up.

But if you’re in a reasonably high value/high margin business, it’s worth a look.

When it comes to sourcing and sending the cards, I have some more tips for you…

Some design tips for your business thank you cards…

For the thank you card to make an impact, it needs to look great. Use high-quality store-bought cards if you need to. Or better still, get some customised cards designed and printed, with your company details on the reverse.

Pay good attention to the design on the front, and ask if it’s something you’d want to display in your home or office.

I’ve seen some terrible thank you cards: two particular ones stick in my mind:

  • The first one had just the business’ logo on the front (very large) with the words “thank you” underneath. It was quite ugly.
  • The second card had just the business owner’s photo on the front. While I like the business owner, I didn’t really want to look at a photograph of him every day.

Let’s just say I appreciated the gesture from these business owners, but these particular cards were filed in my bin rather than pinned up on my noticeboard…

I’d suggest you get a good graphic designer to make something reasonably stylish for you.

If, like me, you need your cards to be multi-purpose, then keep the wording on the front a simple “thank you”. (And the inside blank, so you can write whatever you need to say.)

If you can afford to have multiple thank you cards for different purposes, that’s cool. You might consider:

  • Thank you for your business (or: Thank you for your valued business)
  • Thank you for your referral
  • Thank you for shopping with us
  • … and you can get a message printed inside, too.

Be sure to handwrite at least some of the thank you card

For the thank you card to have maximum impact, it is vital that you handwrite the inside… or at least some of it, e.g. the recipient’s name and your signature.

(If the entire card is pre-printed, it is lacking in sincerity… remember, the whole point of the thank you is relationship building, and that needs the personal touch in this instance.)

Personally I handwrite the entire message… yes, my handwriting is scrawly and ugly, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the personal touch and the effort that’s gone into it that counts.

Save time with business thank you card scripts

Do you find yourself writing similarly worded thank you cards time and time again?

Make a note of your most common scripts, and refer to them. It’ll save lots of head scratching “what shall I write” moments.

Why you need to be careful when selecting envelopes for thank you cards

Envelope choice isn’t something that most business owners stop to think about, but you can influence the recipient’s perception of the card before they even open it.

Do not use the same kind of envelope that you send your invoices or statements in: the recipient will recognise these, and their emotional bank balance will go into the negative end of the scale before they’ve even seen what’s inside. This is not the impact you want!

Instead, choose an envelope that’s a different colour, or maybe even a different size.

For example, I send my official business correspondence (i.e. the boring stuff) in plain white envelopes that are DLE sized (to fit A4 paper folded into three). But my business thank you card envelopes are C6 size (to fit a card that folds to A6 size), and they’re usually cream coloured or maybe silver. And the address is handwritten.

The standout envelope means that there’s a bit of anticipation building before the recipient even opens the card.

Consider putting some goodies inside the thank you card

An additional way to build anticipation before the recipient opens the card is to put some goodies inside. That will make the envelope bulky, so it’ll be even more obvious that this envelope contains something nice and fun – and that it’s not an invoice!

Make sure that the goodies you enclose add to your brand’s message and match the quality of your product or service.

For example, my thank you cards generally contain high quality Swiss chocolates. That’s a nod to my Swiss heritage, but it also reinforces the quality of what I do.

Thus each card sends me a few dollars to send… and I can think of no other way to deliver such a “wow” factor for such a small amount of money and effort.

My approach to business thank you cards is one of the key reasons why I enjoy a high rate of repeat business, as well as oodles of quality referrals. In keeping with The Leaky Bathtub Marketing Principle, I work hard to ensure that my customers feel valued, so they keep coming back for more.

In fact, I frequently receive a “thank you for the thank you card” email or phone message from the recipient, simply because they’re so impressed… and really, it’s such a small gesture!

Sending business thank you cards promptly and consistently is important

If you decide that sending business thank you cards could work for you, there are two final factors to consider: promptness and consistency.

  • Promptness: You should send the thank you card as soon as possible after the event in order for it to be perceived as being sincere (and not an afterthought). Note that if you’re sending thank you cards to your customers thanking them for their business, the most appropriate time to say thank you is immediately after the customer has made their payment. The thank you is more sincere that way.
  • Consistency: You need a system in place to ensure that you send out the cards consistently, month after month. If you send cards some months, but not others, your customers will wonder why. They may think that if you’re not sending business thank you cards any more (a) you no longer value them, or (b) your standards have slipped and your product or service is no longer up to scratch.

I must admit that it is the promptness and consistency factors that I struggle with the most in my business… when it gets busy, it’s a juggling act. Balls get dropped, but that’s no excuse. This particular aspect of my customer retention programme is important, and I need to make time for it, no matter how busy I am.

After all, I always make time to walk my (not-very-obedient) dog, so it’s easy to combine a trip to the mailbox with a dog walk.

My New Year resolution for next year? To be more prompt and more consistent with sending business thank you cards… maybe I could train my dog to remind me?! 😉

Summary

  • Saying “thank you” is a simple way to show your appreciation and encourage/reward good behaviour in business.
  • People like to feel appreciated.
  • Thank-yous must be sincere in order for them to have the desired effect.
  • Sending thank you cards is a classy way to say thank you.
  • There are numerous opportunities to say “thank you” in business.
  • Crunch your numbers to make sure that this marketing tactic is viable for your business.
  • It’s worth paying attention to the design of your business thank you cards.
  • Handwrite at least some of the thank you card message.
  • If you send a lot of thank you cards, write out scripts for the most common message types that you can refer back to.
  • Choose nice envelopes for your thank you cards, so it doesn’t look like an invoice!
  • For an even bigger “wow” factor, put some goodies inside the thank you card.
  • Send the thank you cards promptly and consistently.
  • Sending thank you cards can help with your customer retention rates and referral rates.

 

The 3 different types of email marketing: what they are, and how to use them together

How to use the 3 different types of email marketing to grow your magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

How to use the 3 different types of email marketing to grow your magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

In the last article you saw why email marketing is so important in customer retention… but what is “email marketing”?

There’s often some confusion around this, so I’ve identified three specific kinds of emails that make up “email marketing”.

But before we get into the technical details, here’s a more human way to approach the different types of email marketing. Let’s look at email marketing in terms of personality types.

The three different email marketing personality types

Imagine that you had three co-workers:

  • Simon always wanted to sell you stuff: health supplements, holiday time shares, imitation designer accessories… just about anything! It gets really annoying, and you try to avoid bumping into him after a while.
  • Nigel is really smart and knows all the latest news and info… but he’s just soooo serious, you can’t have a laugh with him. You’re happy to hang out at work, but he isn’t someone you’d necessarily want to have a beer with too often.
  • Rebecca is like a walking reminder system. She always knows which meeting room to go to; what time; when the work’s due… it’s helpful, but again, she’s not really someone you want to spend time with outside of work.

Do you see how these three people are a bit, um, annoying in isolation?

Yet this is how many businesses approach their email marketing

Many businesses will just use one of these approaches (or personalities) in their email marketing: it’s all newsletters. Or it’s all sales offers. Or it’s all follow-up reminders.

Look at the newsletters you get in your own In Box: I’m right, yes?

But being a one-dimensional email marketer will affect your sales

Continually using the one, same tactic for your email marketing holds you back from achieving maximum sales. And that’s because you’re always talking to your prospect or customers in the same way.

Imagine if you mixed things up a little…

So imagine that you had a new co-worker: perfect Peter!

Peter’s a smart guy and he knows lots of news and topical information, just like Nigel. But he’s also a guy who likes to go out and have fun. He knows when the fishing gear or golf clubs you want are on sale… but he’s not pushy about it, like Simon is.

And yes, Peter is even a little bit like Rebecca, in that he’ll remind you if a sale is finishing soon, to make sure you don’t miss out on the stuff you like.

Peter really is the perfect, all-round buddy – at work, and outside of work.

Your goal is to make your email marketing well-balanced, like Peter

Imagine how much more engaging your email marketing would be if it communicated with your clients in these different ways. Your business would be seen as being interesting, helpful, relevant, on-the-button, personable and trustworthy.

And the benefit for you? Well, you’d be making more sales if you had such a well-balanced email marketing programme!

After all, if you command this level of respect from your readers, they’ll be more likely to open your emails. And they’ll also be more likely to click on your sales links.

Best of all, creating a well-balanced email marketing programme is relatively easy, and can greatly maximise the return on your investment.

How do you create a well-balanced email marketing programme?

For your email marketing programme to be well-balanced, you need to use all three types of email marketing available to you.

Let’s take a look at the three types of email marketing tactics at your disposal, and their pros and cons:

1. Sales offers

Announcing promotions and special offers are an important way to make sales… but if this is all that you’re sending your subscribers, they’ll soon tire of the constant bombardment of sales messages.

Non-stop sales messages are boring. They don’t add any value to your relationship with the reader. They get old very quickly.

Therefore, if all you’re doing is sending out sales offers, in time your email open rate will plummet, and your unsubscribe rate will soar. Not good!

2. Newsletters

On the other hand of the email marketing spectrum you have newsletters. Email newsletters inform and educate the reader, and add value to your relationship with them.

Newsletters are great for keeping at front-of-mind with your clients and generating repeat business and referrals – though that can be hard to measure.

The reason why newsletters are hard to measure is because the sales message is subtle, so it’s not a case of hitting “send” and your phone starts ringing like crazy. Instead, newsletters build long-term value and relationships in your business.

In fact, I’ve seen some newsletters that are so subtle I didn’t even know for sure what the sender is selling! (So don’t make that mistake either!)

With newsletters, I’d suggest keeping the content 80% value-added and 20% sales messages. The focus needs to be firmly on the value-added component, or it’s not a true newsletter. Do include a bit of a sales message, but keep it subtle, and near the end of your email.

In short: newsletters are very important, but they need some back-up to get the sales cranking.

3. Autoresponders

Autoresponders are a series of automated follow-up emails that are sent out at pre-determined intervals. They’re a common tactic in internet marketing, where you sign up to get a free eBook or something, and then you get autoresponder messages every few days thereafter.

Autoresponders in isolation can work phenomenally well. They’re a very soft follow-up message, which builds bridges with your reader, rather than being too pushy.

However, essentially autoresponders are still sales follow-ups, and if you’re not adding more substance to your communications (e.g. with newsletters), readers will tire of them. In the internet marketing world that may be considered an OK tactic, but if you’re in service business, or sell physical products, you’d be well advised to have a longer-term outlook. That is, to focus on building a long-term value-added relationship with your customers and prospects.

What if your email campaigns don’t fit any of these 3 definitions?

If your email content doesn’t fit these three descriptions, and they’re some kind of hybrid, that’s a problem.

And the reason that it’s a problem is that it can be confusing to readers. Moreover; they’re confusing for you as the email doesn’t have a clearly-defined purpose.

For example, I’ve seen so-called “newsletters” transform into sales emails when the business owner goes through a quiet patch. They’re desperate for sales, so the emails become all about the sales, and less about adding value.

These hybrid emails may work in the short-term, but in the long-term the open rates start dropping, and the unsubscribes increase. Not at the same rate as for purely sales-based emails, but it still happens… and that’s totally avoidable. I’d recommend that you pigeonhole the content into the three categories I’ve outlined.

So, for example, if you go through a quiet patch, keep your newsletters strictly as newsletters. Keep focused on adding value. But you can send additional emails with sales offers (and then follow-up on those sales offers with some soft autoresponder-style follow-ups). That’ll maintain your integrity as a value-added supplier, whilst still generating sales from your email list.

Let’s look at how these three email types fit together in a little more detail…

How do you use all 3 types of email marketing together?

The exact mechanics of your email marketing campaign will depend on your business, your industry, your resources, and how often you have promotions.

For example, some companies send newsletters weekly; others monthly, or quarterly or whatever suits. So the exact mechanics and timings will differ. But here’s how I’d approach things:

(a) Plan your newsletters first and foremost

Your newsletters are the most important element of your email marketing campaign, so prioritise these first and foremost. The other types of email marketing can then fit around your newsletters.

As to how often you send newsletters, go with what’s achievable. (Quarterly is an absolute minimum… otherwise people won’t remember who you are, and you may as well not bother!)

So get the newsletters into your schedule, and stick to that schedule.

(b) Plan your sales emails around your newsletters

When you’re consistently adding value via your email newsletters, it’s perfectly OK to send sales emails to your subscribers. (In fact, you should send sales emails! After all, you’re in business to make sales!)

Again, how often you send these emails will depend on your business, and what you’re promoting.

Example: Imagine that you send monthly newsletters already, and now you have a major new product to promote. Send the sales email 1 to 2 weeks after the monthly newsletter, to stagger the messages.

(c) And now for the automatic reminders…

Studies have shown that it takes numerous follow-ups to make a sale. That’s where your autoresponders come in.

Even with the best will in the world, clients who are genuinely interested in your offer will forget to buy it, because they have so many other demands on their time. (I’m sure you’ve forgotten to buy a business widget, because something else came up that was urgent.)

A trickle of autoresponders will gently nudge people back to your sales message. You don’t want to repeat the sales message – that’ll make you look like Simon in the story earlier on.

No, you want to gently nudge your client to buy. And a well-written autoresponder will do that – and without being pushy or offensive. Just drip-feed these emails every 3 days or so for 3 weeks (during which time your reader will receive another value-added newsletter).

Won’t people mind the follow ups? Will they unsubscribe?

Yes, there is a good chance that some people will unsubscribe. But rather than getting too worried about it, you should thank these people for keeping your email list clean.

If you’ve got good email content, you really shouldn’t worry about the people who unsubscribe. They’ve either identified themselves as not being in your target market, or they’re cheapskates who will never ever buy anything from you anyway.

So don’t worry about the cheapskates: you’re not here for them, you’re here for those clients who will (and do) buy from you.

Now your email marketing will be Peter-perfect!

With newsletters, sales messages and autoresponders all working together in perfect unison, your email marketing will be humming!

Sure, you will need to test and measure and make some tweaks and tucks, but a well-rounded email marketing programme will be a good friend to you – and to your clients.

Remember: people like to buy, if the process is enjoyable and what you offer adds value to their lives. And with the approach I’ve outlined in this article, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. You’ll be as helpful a person to them as your buddy Peter is to you. Awww! 😉

Summary:

The ideal email marketing programme is made up of all 3 types of email marketing:

  1. Newsletters: A long-term tactic that adds-value and builds trust and credibility, and thus your relationship with the reader. Put the newsletters into your marketing programme ahead of any other kind of email marketing.
  2. Sales offers: A short-term tactic to generate revenue, but it’s best used sparingly or it’ll annoy your readers. Fit your sales offers around your newsletter schedule.
  3. Autoresponders: A short-term tactic that’s essentially a soft follow-up to your sales offers. They’re written in a personal way that build trust with the reader, so they’re not as brazen or as annoying as sales offers. Fit your autoresponders around your sales offers.

This balanced approach to email marketing will help to grow your sales in both the short-term and the long-term.

 


PS. Would you like to know more about Autoresponders?

Autoresponder copywriting booklet

Get this FREE easy-to-read info booklet to discover more about email follow-ups.

If you’d like to know more about how create them and use them, check out my copywriting services website, Words by Cornelia.

You can get a FREE easy-to-read info booklet “How to sell more to your prospects – with minimal effort (and without being pushy)″.

The info booklet shows you:

  • How to follow up in a way that your prospects will find helpful and useful.
  • How to automate your follow ups (for the sake of your sanity!)
  • It even includes some sample follow up scripts to help you get started.

Get your FREE info booklet now!

 

Why email marketing should do the donkey work in your customer retention campaigns

How to use email marketing to grow your magic beanstalk of customer loyaltyHanging the laundry out…

Phoning your parents…

Paying a bill on time…

… These are all little chores that we usually manage to do on time, but from time to time they slip our minds, right?

The same thing happens in our businesses when it comes to customer retention

In our heart of hearts, we all know that it makes sense to keep in touch with our existing clients.

But in the everyday busy-ness, it just gets forgotten sometimes. It takes a definite and concerted effort to keep in touch consistently and regularly, and to grow the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

That’s why email marketing is so important in customer retention

In my view, email marketing should be the solid core of your customer retention: other customer retention activities (such as phone calls, social media, etc.) can then fit around the email marketing.

The reason why email marketing is so well-placed to the donkey work for 5 reasons:

1. Emails get seen by your customers

When you do an email campaign, the message gets delivered to their In Box, until they action it in some way. (Which makes email far more effective than social media, because there’s a good chance your customer will never see the updates you make there.)

Even if your email gets deleted without being read, your customer will still have been reminded of your business just by seeing your message there.

(Hint: If your open rates are low, you need to write more appealing subject lines – and also make sure that your content is relevant to the readers’ needs.)

2. Email marketing is low cost

Even if you pay for copywriting and email marketing software, there’s no cheaper cost-per-customer way to communicate en masse in a short amount of time.

Imagine how much more expensive it would be to send snail mail to everyone! (I’m not saying you shouldn’t use snail mail – in fact, snail mail can work very well – but for most businesses it’s just too costly to mail their entire customer database each month.)

3. Email marketing is time efficient

Emails let you communicate with your customer base very quickly. Imagine how long it would take to phone each client to tell them your update, or if you had to set up meetings with all clients. Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t phone or meet your clients, but emails are certainly very time efficient.

4. You can personalise your content

Using a “Firstname” salutation in email marketing is easy. And if you have an email marketing system that’s integrated with a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, you can do some really neat personalisation based on customer preferences, purchase history, and so on.

For example, imagine that your customer bought a Purple Widget from you. You can then follow up with updates relevant to the Purple Widget, e.g. matching accessories you sell, or a fun article on celebrities who own Purple Widgets.

5. Email marketing can be automated

This it the most important factor of all: email marketing can be automated.

You can set up your campaigns in advance (e.g. during a quiet time), and schedule your messages to go out automatically.

Note that “automated” does NOT have to mean “impersonal”. In fact, it’s important that your email marketing is as personal as possible, so client birthday or anniversary emails are a really good idea.

But by automating the emails as much as possible, no matter how busy you get (e.g. hanging out the laundry, phoning your parents, etc.), your customers are still getting communicated with regularly and consistently.

And that’s exactly what you want your email marketing to do for you: to take the load off your shoulders… you’re busy enough!

Does email marketing still work? Isn’t email marketing dead?

Email marketing absolutely works. If it’s not working for you, it’s because your strategy or implementation is out of whack… check out the step-by-step email marketing recovery plan.

Summary

  • Email marketing should be at the core of customer retention strategies because it:
  1. Gets seen by your customers
  2. Is low cost
  3. Is time efficient
  4. Can be personalised to readers’ preferences
  5. Can be automated
  • Supplement email marketing with other customer retention tactics (e.g. phone calls, face-to-face, social media, snail mail, etc.), but let email marketing do the core donkey work for you.

 


PS. There are three very different kinds of email marketing, and each type has a clear role and purpose.

In the next article in this series on customer retention and customer loyalty, we’ll look at what these three types of email marketing are, and how to use them together.

Why the humble telephone is your stealth jet for customer retention

Discover why the humble telephone is your "stealth jet" when it comes to customer retention.

Discover why the humble telephone is your “stealth jet” when it comes to customer retention.

Have you seen photos of those strange-looking stealth jets? You know the ones I mean… they look like one parent was a triangle and the other parent was a square.

These stealth jets travel at super fast speeds (550mph – that’s 890km/h) and they interfere with radar technology to avoid detection to complete their missions…. Whoooosh!

Telephones are much like stealth jets in customer retention

Eh? How can the telephone (developed in the mid 1870s) be like a stealth jet?

It’s because as a marketing tool, the telephone is a little ‘under the radar’. You can communicate directly with your customer – and in a way that new suppliers may not be able to do. They may have to get past their assistant or other gatekeeper first. And, of course, telephone conversations are instant: usually quicker than email, and certainly quicker than a fax, snail mail or face-to-face meeting.

Best of all, phone calls can make an enduring impression – and help you make those sought-after repeat sales.

There are lots of ways you can use the phone to keep in touch with your customers

How to use the telephone for customer retentionYou could make a call to your clients in a number of ways that’ll help them climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty and grow your customer retention rates:

  • Touch base to see if there’s anything you can help them with.
  • Ask them if they have any questions on a recent job you did for them. (Or if they received their shipment OK.) This is what I call a ‘courtesy call’.
  • Pass on some hot industry news that no-one else is privy to.
  • Arrange a meeting with them.
  • Ask for a sale – or a sales meeting.
  • Ask them for feedback or a testimonial.

Let’s look at two of those calls in more detail, and I’ll also share some scripts you can use on these customer retention calls. (I find that many people like the idea of making these kinds of calls, but don’t know what to say on the phone. I know that I get tongue-tied on the phone, so having something written out in front of you can be a good idea.)

1. Courtesy calls: how they work

This is when you call a client who’s recently bought from you (a day or two ago), and you phone to see how they’re getting on. These kinds of calls are so rarely done, that they really make a positive, enduring impression.

For example, several years ago I had a totally new hairstyle. And the receptionist from the hair salon phoned up to see if I was managing my new hairstyle okay. (Yes, this took place many years ago, and I still remember the phone call!)

The same approach can be taken by any business owner: whether you’re selling products or services, a courtesy call will always be appreciated. That way, if there are any issues, you have the opportunity to put them right before issues escalate. You’ll be seen as helpful, proactive and customer-focused. Will that help you get repeat sales? Very likely.

The important thing here is that the person making the call must have the skills or knowledge to deal with any issues that may arise. Unfortunately with the hairdresser example, I did have a question, and the receptionist wasn’t able to answer my question – and my stylist wasn’t on hand to help. So that ruined the effect of the courtesy call: having knowledgeable, helpful people with the authority to deal with matters is vital!

Scripts for courtesy calls

Making this kind of customer retention-focused call is a breeze! Here’s courtesy call script you can use as a starting point:

“Hi, it’s Wilma from ABC Company. This is just a quick call to find out how you’re enjoying XYZ Product/Service you bought from us recently?”

Hint: if the call goes well, ask the client if they’d be happy to give you a testimonial. Offer to write the comments up in email for them to approve, so it’s nice and easy for them. If the client’s happy with your product or service, they’ll say “yes” 99% of the time.

What about if you get voicemail? It can be tempting to hang up, but seeing as you’ve already dialled the number, finish what you started. You could leave a message along the lines of:

“Hi Fred, it’s Wilma from ABC Company. We like to add value and stay in touch with our clients. This is a quick courtesy call to make sure you’re still enjoying XYZ Product/Service you bought from us. If I can be of any further help, please call me on 123-456789. Thanks again for being a client, and please do call me, Wilma, if you need any further help.”

2. Sales calls: how they work – without being sleazy

Whereas courtesy calls are a soft approach, sales phone calls are more to the point.

However, that doesn’t mean they have to be blatant or sleazy. You can still take a customer service angle with the call, so that you position the call as a benefit to the customer, rather than as obviously angling for business.

A client with a dog grooming business does this very well. Just to give you a bit of background on dog grooming: the types of dogs that need hair cuts need it re-done every month or two. Dog hair grows rapidly and can form painful mats if it’s not kept trimmed.

So this client will look through their list of clients from four weeks ago, and will give them a call along the lines of:

“Hi Betty, it’s Wilma from ABC Dog Grooming. It’s been a while since we’ve had little Fluffy in for her groom. Would you like to make another appointment for her?”

More than 80% of clients say “yes” there and then – and then thank the business for making the call. The clients tend to say that they had been meaning to make a booking, but got too busy.

The clients that don’t book while on the phone often don’t have their diaries in front of them, and most of them call back later, also happy that their memory has been jogged. What a great way for the dog grooming business to keep their work schedule full – and at minimal cost! They can do this just by making consistent phone calls… and the clients are grateful for them.

Hint: the script above works well for the dog grooming business. You may need to test and measure different scripts to see what works best for you. For example, instead of asking “would you” (a closed question, that invites only a “yes” or “no” answer), you could change this to “when would you” (an open question). You’ll need to see what’s best for your specific scenario.

We all have things on our To Do list we never get round to

This approach works great for the dog grooming business, but it can work equally well for car mechanics, dentists, beauticians… all those things we need to do (or intend to do) on a regular basis, but don’t get round to.

Those examples are all B2C (business to consumer), but it can work just as well for B2B (business to business). You just need to put your thinking cap on.

What’s more, these calls work equally well for products as for services. When you sell a product, you have a reasonably good idea how long it will last the customer before they need to re-purchase. So give them a call before they run out!

A client of mine who is a wine merchant does very well with this. He gets in touch every so often asking if I need more wine. I’ve said “yes” nearly every time – just because he was asking. He made it easy for me to buy from him, especially because he delivers the wine to my home as part of his service.

So don’t think of these sales calls as sleazy: they’re an essential part of your service to your client.

Imagine if you didn’t make these calls to your clients

If you don’t phone your clients consistently, that’s dangerous. You’re leaving the door wide open for your competitors to swoop in. All they need to do is call your client at the right time, and you could potentially lose that customer. Remember, customers value service and things being easy to buy. So if your competitor does these things better than you, you’re in a danger zone.

But if you do make the calls, they are more likely to buy from you, thus boosting your customer retention rates. And if you’re providing this great service, it’ll help your clients to climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty too.

The same applies to your strategic alliance partners

It’s equally important to call your strategic alliance partners on a regular basis, or again, a competitor might pounce at the opportunity to work with them. This is even more of a danger zone, as you’re not just jeopardising one sale, but a whole series of referrals.

How to avoid the danger zone

How do we get out of that danger zone? You whisk out your stealth jet (a.k.a. telephone) and get that instant connection with your customer… and regularly!

It’s all too easy to get bogged down with work and admin and the million-and-one other things we have to do each day, and push the phone calls to the bottom of the list. You need to get proactive and schedule time each day (or each week) to make those calls.

In fact, you should block out this time in your diary as if it were a face-to-face appointment with a client. After all, it is a one-on-one client meeting, and just because it’s not a physical, in-person meeting, doesn’t mean it’s any less important.

Remember: keep your stealth jet on standby; you’ll need it regularly!

Summary:

  • Phoning your customers regularly is essential because:
    • You get to connect with them instantly.
    • It’s a one-on-one communication medium, so you get their full attention.
  • Courtesy calls are easy to make, and an excellent customer service tool. They let you fix problems before they escalate, and can also let you gather testimonials.
  • Sales calls can be positioned as customer service calls, and this is probably the most effective way of getting repeat business bar none.
  • If you don’t call your clients regularly, you’re leaving the door open for your competitors to swoop in steal your customer.
  • Schedule regular calls with your key clients on a daily or weekly basis. Block this time out in your diary.
  • Also schedule regular calls with your strategic alliance partners – and again, block out this time in your calendar.

 

PS. Telephones these days can do so much more than just voice communications: SMS (text) messaging and smart phone apps are other options. But that’s beyond the scope of this particular article. I will cover those technologies in the new eBook I’m working on, Part 2 of The Leaky Bathtub. That’s due to be launched early 2013… watch this space!
 

Why social media is both great and terrible for customer retention campaigns

Social media for customer retentionHello, my name’s Cornelia and I’ve been a Facebook user since 2007.

Yes, it’s true, I’m a long-time Facebook user. I’ve had Facebook business Pages since 2008. And you can also find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. In fact, at the time of writing, I’ve got 4 Twitter profiles and 4 Facebook Pages, each for a different brand of my business (because each brand has a different target market).

That doesn’t mean that I love social media as a business tool

So you might be surprised that I have reservations about social media as a business tool. You might (wrongly) assume that I’ve jumped on the hype bandwagon.

Here’s the thing… I’ve used social media to test and measure things. And I’ve learned some important lessons that I’m going to share here with you.

1. Social media only works as a business tool if your customers and prospects are using it too

Before you decide that you’re going to use Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or whatever, make sure that your audience is actually using it too! I’ve seen too many business owners jump in, and engage in a nice conversation… with themselves.

Or other times they’ve started using (for example) Twitter… but their audience doesn’t use Twitter, they’re over at LinkedIn.

Talking to yourself gets pretty boring after a while, so do some research first!

2. Not everyone will see your updates

No matter which social media site you’re using, not all of your followers will see your updates.

For one thing, social media requires users to actually log in and check for updates. So if your audience is busy, they won’t see your posts.

What’s more, social media news feeds move fast. Depending on how active your contact is, anything more than an hour or two old won’t get seen.

And on top of this, your Facebook Page will only be seen by 10-20% of your fans… unless you pay Facebook to promote your updates.

3. You need to be comfortable using social media

It is soooooo obvious when a business owner isn’t comfortable with social media. The updates are generally sporadic, uninteresting, stilted and not engaging. (And remember, the whole point of this social media malarkey is to engage and interact.)

You either need to learn to get comfortable with it, or get someone who loves it (and understands your business inside out) to write the updates for you.

4. Check your profile regularly

Here’s another reason why you should love social media if you’re going to use it as a business tool: you need to check your profile regularly.

If a follower makes a comment on your page, or asks you a question, it’s a really bad look for your business if you don’t reply promptly. That can do more damage to your business reputation than it can do good. So if you can’t check your profile regularly (and respond as needed), it may be best to leave social media alone.

After all, it is called ‘social’ media… not ‘unsocial’ media. 😉

5. Commit to making regular updates

To keep readers engaged, you need to make updates regularly.

So what is ‘regularly’? In my years of using Facebook Pages and Twitter, I’ve found that I need to make one update daily to keep people engaged. Any less than that, and things start stagnating. (i.e. no new followers/likes, not many website click-throughs.)

You may also need to experiment with different days of the week. For example, for The Leaky Bathtub, I usually post Monday to Friday on Facebook. I experimented with posting at weekends too, but those weekend posts didn’t get seen, as my followers were busy doing other things.

But on Twitter, the most important time for me to post as Minnie The Westie (my cartoon dog) is at weekends, either early morning or in the evening. My audience is either in the UK or US, and they tend to check their accounts at the weekend more than during the week.

6. Posting quality content is vital

Regularly posting quality content is important to keep your readers engaged, yet this is something that many small business owners really struggle with.

Again, it comes down to having a love for social media. You can learn a lot by seeing what others are posting, and what kind of responses they get.

It’s also a balancing act between promotional posts and other (fun) stuff; you need to strike a balance. Aim to make no more than 5% to 10% of your posts promotional. And keep your content varied.

For example, on Facebook that means a mix of links to articles; posting photos (that you have copyright of); links to videos; and so on.

7. If you’re a service business, you need to understand the limitations of social media

If you’re in a service business that offers one-on-one help, you need to be aware that people are buying you, not your business. That means that trust is really important… and it’s almost impossible to build that trust through social media alone.

Your website can help to build trust. But if you’re in a service business, word of mouth referrals are your key new business tool. So don’t expect social media to bring you an army of new customers: that’s very unlikely. Treat social media as a customer retention tool (if your customers are using social media, etc.).

It’s even hard to grow your Facebook ‘likers’ when you’re a service business. Think about it: have you ‘liked’ any service businesses that you haven’t personally used or met? Chances are, that when you’re a service business, most of your ‘likes’ will be from friends, colleagues, clients, and strategic alliance partners. And that’s OK: quality is more important than quantity.

It’s a bit different when you’re selling a product; there’s less perceived risk. People can return a product if they don’t like it. Product sales aren’t usually so personal.

Example: I’ve sold a good amount of Minnie The Westie cartoon dog books because of my social media work; but I’ve never (so far!) received a copywriting or marketing consulting client through my social media work. But that’s okay. The copywriting and consulting has a longer, more involved sales process. And it’s got a higher price tag than a $20 cartoon book.

So just keep things in perspective, and remember that quality is more important than quantity. 🙂

8. To attract new customers via social media, you will need to invest a lot more time and/or money

Just because I haven’t made copywriting or consulting sales through social media doesn’t mean that it’s not possible. It just means that my one-post-a-day approach isn’t enough.

You can make sales through social media. But it requires a far greater investment of time and/or money. For example, you may need to pay to promote your updates. Or pay for Facebook ads.

That’s a whole different ball game. And personally, it’s one I’ve chosen not to play (so far). Why? My target market clients aren’t great users of social media. Yes, my strategic alliance partners are on social media, but not my target customers. And there’s no point paying for advertisements to my strategic alliance partners when I can engage with them in other ways that are more personal and make a greater impact.

9. You need to test and measure how you’re doing

If you do use social media, check your Google Analytics to see how much traffic the different sites are sending you, and how engaged those users are. Metrics such as ‘time on site’, ‘bounce rate’ and ‘pages per visit’ are important here.

For me, I’ve found that Facebook users tend to be more engaged than Twitter users. (Even for Minnie The Westie, where I’m far more active on Twitter than Facebook.) Yet I’ve made sales to both Facebook and Twitter users.

As for Pinterest? In my view, it’s not worth the bother. The click-through rates are low, and Pinterest users are browsers, not buyers.

So how can you use social media as a customer retention tool?

Despite all my social media myth-busting, you can use it as an effective customer retention tool. I just think it’s important to be realistic about social media, because so many of the so-called ‘gurus’ are toting it as the latest and greatest thing ever. Sure, it has its uses (and, of course, it’s free!) but when you’re a small business owner with limited resources, you need to keep things real.

If you take heed of the tips above, social media can be a great way to get your clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

Why? Because if you use social media well, it can not only keep your raving fans engaged (and give them material to rave about), but it can even help create more raving fans… provided you dazzle them with your awesome updates.

Here’s how you can use social medial for your customer retention campaigns:

1. Offer value-added tips

Do you have website or blog articles that your clients will find useful? Then link to them from your social media profiles!

(Just like I’ll be linking to this article from my Facebook Page, Twitter account and LinkedIn profile.)

Tip: if you have a specific customer that will find your article useful, but isn’t on social media, then send them the link in a personal email. That’s another way you can stay in touch, and they’ll appreciate the fact that you thought of them.

2. Use social media as a customer service tool

Social media isn’t about you or your brand; it’s about your customers. It’s a tool for two-way communication… and every so often you might encounter a customer with a complaint or problem.

So how should you handle customer complaints made via social media?

For one thing, you need to check your social media profiles regularly, to keep on top of things. Replying promptly is important: the sooner you can nip any issues in the bud and rectify them, the better. It’s important to view any complaints as an opportunity to put things right. Always be professional and courteous – even if the customer isn’t acting this way… remember, you have an audience watching.

If a customer does get angry or abusive, communicate via email or direct messages (via the social media platform). There’s no need to wash that dirty laundry in public!

Customer complaints are an opportunity to gain customer loyalty

Yes, it’s true: customer complaints can actually help clients climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty!

Statistics show that 7 out 10 people who’ve had a complaint resolved fairly will continue to do business with that company. Using social media as a customer service tool is a great PR tool to create positive publicity, provided you do it well.

(No, I’m not saying that you should get people to complain on purpose; but if they do, see it as an opportunity rather than a complete negative.)

Note: don’t think that by avoiding social media you can avoid negative publicity. People will still talk about you; the difference is that if you’re part of the conversation you have a greater chance of influencing the outcome in a positive way.

3. Share customer news, success stories and articles

Use your social media profile to share your customers’ successes! They will appreciate the fact that you’re helping to promote them.

You can do this whether you client is on social media or not. If they are on social media, then sharing their updates is quite easy (with the share or Retweet function), and they’ll see that they’ve done this.

If they’re not on social media, write your own update, and link to their website (if that’s appropriate). And tell the customer that you’ve promoted their business. After all, if you’re going to do something nice for your customer, you might as well tell them about it, so that they can appreciate you!

4. Make important announcements

Got something new, different or interesting to announce? Post it on your social media profile! Blow your own trumpet every now and again! (Just don’t do it too often, as that’s very off-putting.)

However, don’t rely on social media alone. Not everyone will see your announcement on social media, and if you don’t make any other attempts to communicate it (a) your announcement will fall flat, and (b) that’s very lazy.

If you’ve got a new product, or some other special announcement, you need to tell your customer base (and your strategic alliance partners) in a more personal way. Consider email or mail – or, better still, both.

5. Drive traffic to your own website and build your own opt-in list

Work at putting quality information on your own website, and encourage your followers to click through to your site. Most importantly of all, get them to sign up to your own email opt-in list while they’re there.

Why bother doing that when they’re already following you on social media?

It’s very dangerous to build your business on someone else’s property. And if you’re relying on social media to connect you with your clients and prospects, you’re building your business on very dangerous territory, my friend.

You don’t own Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. They could disappear overnight… and where would you be then?

Or they might change their rules. (Just look at how often Facebook makes changes, and each time they do there’s a lot of grumbling from users, and people closing their accounts.) You have no control over this. And you absolutely must have control of your client and prospect list. So getting these opt-ins is vital to the continued health and success of your business.

Whilst social media is an okay tool for customer retention, email marketing is a great tool for customer retention. I’ll cover the ins and outs of email marketing later in this series. 🙂

Summary

  • Before you dip into the world of social media as a business tool, there are certain things you need to be aware of:
    1. Social media only works as a business tool if your customers and prospects are using it too
    2. Not everyone will see your updates
    3. You need to be comfortable using social media
    4. Check your profile regularly
    5. Commit to making regular updates
    6. Posting quality content is vital
    7. If you’re a service business, you need to understand the limitations of social media
    8. To attract new customers via social media, you will need to invest a lot more time and/or money
    9. You need to test and measure how you’re doing
  • You can use social media as a customer retention tool in the following ways:
    1. Offer value-added tips
    2. Use social media as a customer service tool
    3. Share customer news, success stories and articles
    4. Make important announcements
    5. Drive traffic to your own website and build your own opt-in list
  • It is dangerous to rely too much on social media, as you have no control over it. Focus on growing your own opt-in list so that you have maximum control.

 

Customer retention doesn’t happen by itself: How to get your customers to climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty

In the ideal world we’d like our customers to come back to us again and again… after all, customers are the lifeblood of any business. No customers = no business!

But don’t customers come back anyway?

No! 68% of customers defect through perceived indifference:

Customer retention campaigns are vital, so that you don't lose 68% of clients through 'perceived indifference'.

Customer retention campaigns are vital, so that you don’t lose 68% of clients through ‘perceived indifference’.

We have to put time, effort and resources into ensuring our customers come back, and that’s why customer retention campaigns are so important.

Is it really worth putting in this effort into repeat business?

Yes, absolutely! It’s 6 or 7 times more expensive to find a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer. So if you need to be careful about your marketing expenditure (and which small business doesn’t!), then it makes sense to focus on your customer retention campaigns. Not only can it mean more repeat business, but also more referrals.

Why customer retention campaigns can boost your word of mouth referrals

If you’re regularly contacting your best customers in a helpful, proactive way, chances are they’ll be impressed by your care and attention. They’ll feel valued and appreciated… and that means that they’re likely to tell all their friends about your business too. This can transform many customers into being Advocates or Raving Fans, who’ll do your marketing for you.

In short, you’re helping your clients climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty. (This is a concept covered in my book ‘The Leaky Bathtub‘.)

The key to customer retention is to get clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

The key to customer retention is to get clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

Notice the topics of customer retention and customer loyalty are very much related. Why? Because it takes a happy, satisfied customer to become an advocate or raving fan.

Let’s take quick look at the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty

Most of these levels are fairly self-explanatory. The one thing that does tend to surprise business owners is the ‘Shopper’. That is, that someone who’s bought from you once is not a customer – they are just trying you out.

If you have a lot of shoppers, you have a problem, and marketing alone won’t fix this. You need to ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your product/service of an adequate standard?
  • Is your product/service priced at a level to match its quality?
  • How good and consistent is your customer service?
  • Are you regularly maintaining contact with your clients? Not just to sell them more, but in a way that adds value and makes them feel appreciated?

Assuming that you’re happy with your answers to those questions, you can now focus on how to get your clients to climb that magic beanstalk of loyalty.

Clients won’t climb this magic beanstalk of loyalty by themselves

Although you might get some raving fans without trying, most clients need a little more encouragement to climb this magic beanstalk of customer loyalty. They need a reason to climb it, and it’s your job to give them those reasons.

Not all clients have a head for heights

Even if you do all the right things, not all clients will climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty. It’s impossible to convince everyone to be a raving fan. For some people, it’s simply not part of their personality to gush and enthuse about other businesses.

Or for others, maybe the fact that they use your product or service is their little secret that’s very personal to them. It doesn’t mean they don’t love what you do, it’s just that they want to keep it to themselves.

And that’s okay: they’ll appreciate that you’re keeping in touch with them anyway, and will help to ensure that they’ll remain a loyal customer. They may climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty as far as ‘Member’ level, and that’s fine too.

Besides, so what if a certain percentage of clients don’t climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty all the way to the top? That’s okay too, because many others will – provided you give them a reason to climb.

How to get your clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty

The good news is that you have lots of tools and media to encourage your clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty. And many of these are low cost, too.

Here are the different media you have available to you to help you with your customer retention (and to get clients to climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty):

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Mail
  • Phone
  • Face-to-face

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be writing about each of these five media, so you can see how to use these tools, their pluses, and their negative aspects.

What you need to know about these different customer retention media

These media vary in terms of effectiveness, and you need to be aware of this. I’ve seen far too many business owners use just one tool (or maybe two tools), and think that’s enough.

For your message to really get through, you need to be using as many of these media as you can, and as effectively as you can. People are incredibly busy these days, and if you use just one medium, your business will appear flat and one-dimensional. The more media you use, the more multi-dimensional and sparkling your business will appear!

You need to nurture your magic beanstalk of loyalty all year round

For your customer retention campaigns to work, you need to implement them all year round. After all, you can’t water magic beans just once or twice a year and expect them to grow: you need to water them regularly. Same with your marketing campaigns; you need to tend to them regularly.

That’s why it’s vital that you make a marketing plan for the year, which includes regular customer retention campaigns. And then diarise these campaigns to make sure they actually happen.

Here’s an example as to what a solopreneur might do to encourage customer retention:

  • Social media: updates five times a week
  • Email: monthly email newsletters
  • Mail: send Christmas cards plus a mid-year mailing
  • Phone: call two or more clients each week
  • Face-to-face: arrange a catch-up with your top clients every quarter or every six months.

We’ll cover each of these media in more detail over the coming weeks, but that gives you an overview of how you can use multiple media without getting overwhelmed.

Summary

  • To get repeat business, you need to actively work on your customer retention campaigns, so that clients feel valued.
  • It’s 6 or 7 times more expensive to find a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer.
  • Customer retention is strongly linked to customer loyalty.
  • There are various different levels of customer loyalty; your job is to give clients a reason to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.
  • There are 5 key media to help you with your customer retention/loyalty:
    1. Social media
    2. Email
    3. Mail
    4. Phone
    5. Face-to-face
  • You need to have a year-round plan to make sure you’re continually at front-of mind with your clients.

 

Email marketing breakdown? Here’s your recovery plan

Has your email marketing broken down? Chances are it's fixable... here's your recovery plan.

Has your email marketing broken down? Chances are it's fixable: here's your recovery plan to help you rev up your email marketing.

If you own a car, chances are that at some stage it’s broken down. Whether it’s a flat tyre or something more serious, most of us have been there.

But just because your car’s broken down, does that mean that you decide that cars in general are broken? And you vow to never use a car again?

Unlikely!

You’re far more likely to get your mechanic to fix the car. (Or if all else fails, you might get a new car.)

Yet when email marketing breaks down, people are quick to say that “email marketing is dead”.

Is email marketing dead?

No, email marketing isn’t dead: it’s simply evolved over time. Just like there’s more traffic on the roads; and we no longer use crank handles to start a car engine, technology changes and evolves. And that’s what’s happened to email marketing.

Yes, you might be finding it harder to grow your opt-in list. Yes, your open rates might be down. And yes, your unsubscribe rates might be up. But that doesn’t mean that all email marketing is broken; it just means it’s time you tweaked it. Just like a car needs fixing and servicing, so does email marketing.

Still not convinced that email marketing works?

If you need convincing that email marketing works, here’s how my own email marketing is looking at the time of writing. In the past year my email opt-in list has grown by 36%; open rates have increased by 34%; and my click-through rate has increased by 414% (yes, you read that correctly). And in terms of earning dollars, my email list provides me with a regular flow of repeat consulting and copywriting work, referral business and eBook sales.

How did I achieve these results? By following the tips I’m about to share with you. Nothing more and nothing less!

I should also mention that colleagues of mine who are black belts in email marketing are getting even better results than I am: they have larger lists, and through this they are able to make sales on a daily basis. What they’re achieving is inspiring, and shows us what’s possible – and they’re getting these results without spending very much money on their marketing.

Email marketing is possibly the most cost-effective customer retention method

Customer retention is a vital marketing strategy; and email marketing lets you communicate with your Customers, Members, Advocates and Raving Fans cost-effectively and time-efficiently.

Can you think of any other communication method that lets you communicate directly with all your fans for just a few cents? At this point you might be thinking ‘social media’ – but this doesn’t let you communicate directly: there’s a very good chance your updates may not be seen. With email, they’ll see your message in your InBox… and even if they don’t open your email, at least you’re still front of mind.

So yes, email marketing still reigns. If you’re not getting the results that you used to get, it indicates that it’s time to give it a re-tune and tweak.

Here’s your 11-point email marketing recovery plan:

1. Review your costs

Are you finding email marketing expensive? If so, you need to look at the costs. In particular:

  • Email newsletter software: if you find your current system expensive, shop around. Many of my clients are raving about MailChimp‘s free plan; it’s very good. (Personally I use AWeber, and that works well for me.)
  • Labour costs: many business owners dislike writing newsletter content and setting it up. You have two main choices: either learn to do it yourself; or outsource it. One thing you don’t want to skimp on though is the content: we’ll come onto that later. Whoever does this needs to know what they’re doing, as it’s the content that will make or break your email marketing. So if you decide to write your own content, make sure you brush up on your copywriting skills.

2. Attract new subscribers continually

Just like cars need fuel, subscribers are the lifeblood of your email marketing and you need to work at continually attracting new (quality) subscribers. Make it easy for people to sign up to your list, for example by having a sign-up form on your website. And be sure to tell subscribers exactly what they’re signing up for: reassure them that their personal data will be kept private, and let them know how often you’ll contact them. Setting expectations upfront is a good thing.

These days it’s certainly become harder to entice new subscribers, and for this reason it can be a good idea to offer a high quality enticement. This could be a free eBook, Report or White Paper that subscribers receive in return for signing up. This gift should be geared to a common need your subscribers have; be of good quality; and not overly long (because you actually want them to read it!).

If you use social media, make sure that you’re regularly enticing your followers to sign up to your email list. It’s far more important that you grow your email list than your Facebook fans or Twitter followers.

Why? You want to own your customer data; you should not rely on a third party (such as Facebook). You have no control over Facebook. Imagine if the site closed down overnight for some reason: all your fans would be gone along with it. That’s why it’s so important that you focus on growing your email marketing list first and foremost: you shouldn’t build your business on someone else’s land, so to speak.

3. Email subject lines must be amazing!

Subscribers will choose whether to open your email or not based on your subject line. And to write an enticing subject line means you need to have good headline writing skills. Click here to see what makes a good headline.

If your headline isn’t strong enough, the rest of the content is immaterial. So writing a good headline is essential.

Many email newsletter systems let you send “split test broadcasts” (or “A/B testing”), which will let you test and measure different headlines to see which gets the best open rate and the best click-through rate. Give that a try, so you can see what your subscribers respond to.

Hint: if you did this a while ago (say a year or two ago), do it again. The world has changed since then, and so have people’s needs and motivations.

4. Develop a strategy for your email marketing content

This is where many people trip up, as they’re not clear on what they should be doing. There are 3 different kinds of email marketing, and you need to be clear on what they are, and the difference between them.

  1. Email newsletters: Most of the content (around 80%) should be focused on adding value to your reader, e.g. an article that they will find interesting or beneficial in some way. A maximum of 20% of the email should be sales-based. (And be sure to feature the value-added article first, and only then the offer.)
  2. Sales emails: Pure sales emails are an important tool in your email marketing toolkit, but use them sparingly as readers tire very quickly of being bombarded by sales messages.
  3. Autoresponders: These are a series of automated emails that arrive in short, sharp succession after sign-up. After all, you are most at front-of-mind when people have just joined your list. Autoresponders are generally short; have a personal tone; and are about adding value. Here’s some information on Autoresponders from AWeber.

All of these require a different approach. And the content for each of these will be very different… and ideally you will be engaging all 3 techniques. After all, if you were to drive your car just in one gear, your journey would be slow and frustrating, so you use all the gears available to you. Same with your email marketing: to get it cranking, you need to use all the techniques at your disposal.

You will need to suss out a way to mix the different email marketing methods: the email newsletters, sales emails and autoresponders should be working harmoniously together.

If that sounds hard, I’m afraid you should grit your teeth and do it, it is OK! It is worse to keep doing what you’re doing (and not get results) or to omit email marketing from your marketing campaigns altogether. After all, a mechanic often has to do diagnostics to find out what’s wrong with a car, so this is you doing the same thing for your business.

To give you a starting point, here is an email marketing calendar suggested by AWeber.

5. Create the content that fits your strategy

Now that you have a strategy to work to for each email, the goal of your writing work becomes a lot clearer. And be sure to treat your list like the VIPs that they are and give them quality information.

Quality content means including graphics and captions, as well as good writing. And be sure to provide links to your website where your readers can find more information.

Hint #1: Less is more. Rather than cram in lots of content and lots of articles, let one high-quality article be the feature of your email marketing. One clear theme will be more memorable than a multitude of messages.

Hint #2: This is the bit where most people get stuck; they’re not sure what their readers find most interesting/beneficial, and what they don’t like. There’s only one sure fire way to find out for certain. And that is covered in the next step:

6. Ask your readers for feedback

Email marketing can be a weird feeling: you spend hours toiling over it; hit send; and often you get zero feedback. If it weren’t for your statistics, you’d be wondering if the emails ever got sent!

If that’s how things are feeling to you, you need to get some feedback from your readers. And not just any old readers, but your biggest advocates, i.e. the kind of A-Grade customers you’d like to have more of.

If you know them well enough, ask them personally: be sure to ask open-ended questions to get their feedback, i.e. questions beginning with: how, why, what, when, etc.

Another option is to do a quick online survey to see what readers think. Just make sure you keep it simple (just 3 quick questions), and offer a prize draw incentive for those who take part. After all, their feedback is vital for your business, and as no-one really enjoys filling in forms, it’s wise to acknowledge that they’re sticking their neck out helping you by offering a reward.

There are free online survey tools you can use: SurveyMonkey is a popular option, and there are plenty of other services too. (Just do a web search for “free online survey”.)

7. Are there any treats in your email newsletters?

… or in other words, do you treat your readers like dogs?

Dogs love treats. And once you start giving them treats, they’ll want more and more. In fact, they’ll start expecting the treats – and boy will you get big, sad looks if you come up empty-handed!

Same thing in your email newsletters. Is there a little extra something you can easily slot into your emails? This Copyblogger article will give you some ideas and tips on creating this kind of email content.

By doing this in each newsletter issue (and yes, just newsletters, not sales emails or Autoresponders), your readers will start looking out for them.

8. Ensure your template is appropriate

All this wonderful content you’ve created needs to go into a branded email newsletter template. This should look smart and professional. But most importantly of all, your template needs to be smart phone compatible. Why? An increasing number of people read emails on their cell phones, so if your template is a few years old or not specially designed for cell phones, people might be unsubscribing and deleting your emails simply because they can’t read it.

Test and check your template; if it’s not cell phone compatible, you need a new template urgently.

9. Write a sequel (or two)

Have you noticed how many popular books (and movies) have sequels? For example, there are seven books in the Harry Potter series. ‘The Hunger Games’ is a trilogy. So is ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. Many authors and publishing houses have realised that readers want more and more and more. Each book leaves you wanting to read the next book.

Use the same approach in your email newsletters: rather than making each one a stand-alone blockbuster, write a mini-series. And then tell the reader that that’s what you’re doing, because then they’ll look out for the next email newsletter, as they’re already anticipating it. This does wonders for your open rates!

I’ve been using this approach myself, (a) by sometimes writing a mini-series in my email newsletters, and (b) including a short blurb with a teaser in a section entitled In the next issue. My open rates have never been looking healthier. Sure, it means you have to plan your content in advance (read: being organised and planning ahead), but it is very well worth it.

10. Re-evaluate the frequency

Are you sending your emails too often – or not often enough? Generally speaking, the more frequently you can send email newsletters (with quality content that adds value), the better.

If your email newsletters have broken down, rather than send the newsletters less often, you should tend to the items on this recovery plan and then send your newsletters more often!

Why? Life is incredibly fast paced and is speeding up. You need to keep up, rather than slow down, if you want your business to thrive. You can slow down when you’re retired. 😉

11. Be consistent

The biggest email killer by far is not being consistent in your frequency. Getting the newsletter out on time, every time is essential… no excuses. If you do not do this, believe me, it gets noticed. Your customers and prospects will start questioning your professionalism: they’ll wonder if you’re so slack in all aspects of your business. Whilst that sounds harsh, remember that people will judge you based on what they see (or don’t see), and will make assumptions about your business based on that.

So how do you get your newsletter out on time each time? My tips are to:

  • Draw up a production schedule for the next year. Identify (a) the send-out dates and (b) the materials deadline dates. Give yourself some time to put the newsletter together.
  • Write these dates and deadlines in your diary… and stick to them!
  • Use quiet times to your advantage and pre-prepare content in advance. Email newsletter systems will let you queue things waaaay in advance. So if you know you’re going to be on holiday, get that newsletter set up a week or two (or more) before you leave.

Summary

Email marketing continues to be the most cost-effective way to build relationships with your customers and to generate sales. If your email marketing isn’t delivering results, it’s not the medium that’s at fault, rather the implementation of it. So get under the hood and tinker and fine-tune till it’s humming again! (It may even perform better than it did before it broke down!)

If you follow this recovery plan, your email marketing could be zooming along more quickly than ever!

If you follow this recovery plan, your email marketing could be zooming along more quickly than ever!

 

How to generate more repeat business with a reminder system

Do you enjoy the convenience of receiving reminders from your mechanic when your car is due for a service? Or the vet reminding you that your dog needs its vaccinations? Or when the florist emails you to remind you of your spouse’s birthday?

These reminders are beneficial for both consumers and for businesses.

Why a reminder system is good for business

A reminder system is great for any business, as it means more repeat sales. Repeat business is desirable because it’s eight times cheaper than seeking new business. Getting existing clients back is a no-brainer if you want to maximise your profits!

But how do you implement a reminder system?

Implementing a reminder system might sound like a good idea – but where do you begin?

The best systems are computerised, rather than relying on human memory. The latter is just too unreliable – you need to systemise it. And the first step in systemising is to outline your after-sales process.

What’s an after-sales process?

Many business owners make the mistake of ending their sales process at the sale, but it’s what happens afterwards that impacts on whether that customer is going to come back to your or not. So make sure you do some of the following when a sale is completed:

  • Courtesy call to ensure your client is happy.
  • Feedback form (and acting on feedback given).
  • Thank you card: hand-written and sent in the post.
  • Newsletter sign-up: be sure to ask all customers to sign up for your newsletter.
  • Referral card: make it easy for your customers to refer their friends and colleagues.
  • Reminders: a-ha, yes, the all-important reminders! These could be phone calls, SMS messages, or emails – whatever’s appropriate to your business.

So how do you implement the reminders?

Unfortunately there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for this: you’ll need to do some research around software solutions that are suitable for your business. But it’s well worth doing, because of the extra sales and profit you’re likely to make.

The software solutions may be a generic CRM system (“Customer Relationship Management”), or there may be something out there that’s specific to your industry. Researching your competitors to see what they do can be a good starting point!

Of course, you may choose to go with a manual pen-and-paper system… the main thing is that you do implement some kind of systematic reminder process.

After all, not only is it good for your business, but most of your customers will be grateful for the reminder too!