Message & Media: Make the Connection
Now more than ever, it’s imperative to keep in touch with your customers. Set up a marketing communications plan for sending targeted messages to targeted audiences. Start by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes.
In today’s business environment, when customers stop hearing from you, there’s a good chance they will assume you’ve gone out of business. So don’t disappear. Use this as your opportunity to stand out by sending messages that do the following:
• Empower comparison shoppers. Be a resource that provides value-conscious customers with a comparison checklist of features and value-added benefits of leading products in a category, yours included. Don’t be afraid to talk about what makes your product a solid choice while also providing positive, objective information about the others.
• Inspire customers to buy smarter. Give customers reasons to stock up and save. As a direct marketer, you know what customers buy and how much. Ask them to buy more, and give them a “smart shopper” quantity discount.
• Show genuine gratitude. At a time when every buying decision is a considered purchase, let customers know how much you appreciate their business with handwritten notes, traditional thank-you cards, e-cards or phone calls. I recently received a handwritten postcard from the optical shop where I purchased new glasses, signed by both people who helped me. A small investment of time can make your business a standout.
• Acknowledge customer loyalty. You can do this with secret sales, preferred customer offers and creative gestures of appreciation (downloadable coupons, invitations to customer appreciation events, low-cost thank-yous with high perceived value). Encourage loyalty with candor; let your customers know you value them and that you’re looking out for them in your corner of the marketplace.
• Instill confidence in your company, products and service. Now is the time to reinforce credibility and financial stability. Squelch rumors wherever they pop up, online or off. Position your company as a leader.
• Share good news. Whether it’s about your company, people or products, let customers know good things are happening. With all the negativity in the news, people are eager to know when good things happen.
• Provide customer reviews. It’s one thing for you to talk about product benefits, and another for customers to comment on the pros and cons of your products and service. Share online customer reviews in offline media messages, as well.
• Ask how you can help. There has never been a better time to engage customers in a discussion about how you can help meet their changing needs. It may have to do with products, service or something else. Let customers know you value their opinions and want to fulfill their needs. Use online surveys, package inserts, phone interviews and social media to elicit response.
• Say oops without getting egg on your face. Mistakes happen, but don’t wait to say you’re sorry. I recently ordered a pair of shoes online. When I didn’t receive my order and didn’t hear anything from the e-tailer, I called to learn it was out of my size. The e-tailer had forgotten to tell me. The last e-mail communication I received was an order cancellation. That was my first order with this e-commerce site, and it will be my last. It was a missed opportunity to say, “We’re sorry.”
• Alert customers to added value of quirky product applications. Get ideas from customer reviews and your own product innovations. Sharing real-life tips in your e-newsletter or package inserts extends product value and positions you as an innovator.
• Reassure first-time triers. First-time buyers aren’t customers at all. They are triers. And their first experience with your company is critical. What is the message you’re sending to your first-time triers? If you are fortunate enough to attract new customers in today’s shopping slowdown, don’t take them for granted.
• Update and inform to make customers feel like they are part of the family. Send e-newsletters with useful content and buying opportunities. Link it to your content-rich Web site that positions you as an expert and leading resource. Your Web site doesn’t have to be flashy to be effective. It primarily needs to provide relevant content that’s easy to navigate.
• Announce what’s new to reinforce that your company is alive, well and moving forward. Announce new products, new services for customers, new hires, new eco-friendly practices, new involvement in your community. Use online and offline media to get the word out.
• Position pricing to add value. I learned this tip from direct marketing legend/strategist/copywriter Bob Stone. Here’s Bob’s textbook example. Which generates more response—(1) Half Price, (2) Buy One-Get One Free, or (3) 50 Percent Off? It’s the same offer stated three different ways, but No. 2 is more powerful. More people respond to it. Why? The word free adds value and grabs more attention.
• Segment for relevance. Target with timely messages. Link your messages to individual buying behaviors (and needs) to make stronger connections. For example, if a customer just bought seeds from you, she is planting a garden. What else does she need right now that you sell? A car owner who just bought new tires is probably planning to keep and maintain his vehicle. While he won’t need another set of tires in the near future, what do you sell that he does need to keep his car running longer and more efficiently? Become his personal advocate for helping him get more miles from his investment.
Even in the toughest of times, you can’t afford to disappear. It’s all about remaining on your customer’s radar by staying in touch.