How SoMe Can Boost Retention, Sales and Referrals for Mailers
The three Rs. Do you know what they are? Retention, Related Sales and Referrals.
According to a recent release by the Harvard Business Review Press "Focusing On Your Customer," these are the three solid but often-ignored principles for running any size business, especially a smaller one. A fourth "R", Relationship, could also be cited as critical to remembering the other three.
The longer a customer does business with a company, the costs of marketing to that customer decline and the profits from the customer increase. Furthermore, the costs of servicing this longer-term customer decline over time, because he is familiar with a business' procedures and products and conform easily to the business model.
The key to that first "R" (Retention) is to keep customers over a period of time, by building relationships with them. The relationship must be built on trust and overcome fear, cynicism and the natural barriers we all create against being taken advantage of. This is not an easy task, and can only be accomplished by facing these fears and addressing them head-on in your marketing strategy.
That second R is "Related Sales." In almost every instance, customer feedback and opinion determine what new products or services will bring a profit and tie in with the type of customer drawn to the business. To be sure, the longer one retains a customer, the more effective the marketer becomes at fine-tuning products and services that please that customer and the more critical it becomes to ask questions and listen to that customer. When a customer already has a degree of faith in a brand or company, a well-targeted and well-timed offer is very hard for a competitor to overcome.
Finally, the third "R" (Referrals) begins to surface and becomes the best kind of marketing a business can hope to obtain. It costs the least (not entirely free, but nothing is) and brings the greatest return on your marketing investments.
Of course, the emerging marketing channel of social media can significantly aid those three Rs — alongside a strong direct mail program. Today, more small and medium-sized businesses are discovering that a good mix of social media (a Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn customer group, etc.) provide a ready-made context for continuing a conversation with a customer over time, listening to the customer and testing new ideas with the customer.
Furthermore, this vital channel creates an interchange between customers that includes the business itself. Rather than getting talked "about," you can be also talked "with." When customers listen to other customers, the sum total becomes greater than the individual parts, and even newer and bigger insights are drawn from the soup that brews therein.
But does SoMe invite some uncertainty into the mix, too? Many observers today consider social media to be the final answer to all small and medium-sized business marketing plans. Indeed, there are more and more examples of small businesses with a good and solid product and niche that are cultivating their ultra-local neighborhood marketplaces by nothing other than free social media Facebook pages and Twitter "tweets" to their current customer base.
Marian Salzmann of Euro RSCG Worldwide Public Relations in Atlanta points out the dichotomy of social media making it a smaller world and meshing cultures and languages from around the world, but still thriving even faster in ultra-local neighborhood markets where the momentum of a small business can catch on even faster with local customers. She, however, warns of the threat of "SoMe bullies." These "bullies," empowered by social media tools, can mount an attack against a small business's (perceived) mistakes and unfortunate business decisions.
SoMe bullies can magnify an error or oversight on your part and quickly spray paint a stain on your brand's image and panache. Let's face it, we all make mistakes, and we all work with employees and team members who also have "bad days." The problem is that SoMe bullies can create a lasting injury, making such a "day" last a thousand years!
As a result, it's important to recognize the inherent power — and danger — of SoMe. Unlike the other tools in the marketing toolkit, companies can't manage SoMe. They can steer the conversation, but certainly can't control it.
So here are 7 questions to guide you and your company. They should be asked upfront in your planning session. Involving your employees and staff in this session is extremely important as they will be the ones supporting and implementing it when it is rolled out and executed on behalf of your brand and your business locally.
- What can I offer my customers that will interest them and give them a reason to trust my business further?
- How can Facebook and Twitter further those ends?
- How can I use SoMe to learn from, and listen to, my best customers?
- What events and activities can I drive from my SoMe that will match my brand, my employees and my customers in a healthy and good way locally?
- In what ways can I personally reach out to my customers that go further than a "group thing" such as SoMe? How can I do this in a most respectful, surprising and delightful manner? How can such a tactic add to my viral power among these best customers?
- How can I take all my advertising opportunities, local event sponsorships, and even the charitable causes of my employees (interests, passions, etc.) and tie them into SoMe?
- Equally, how can I tie them into impactful print and personal one-to-one direct mail?
Proceed bravely, for the harder you work, the luckier you get. The Roman poet Virgil (70 B.C. - 19 B.C.) is credited with the quote, "Fortune favors the brave." In other words, your business is not a series of "little tests" and "non-passioned scientific probes" (that many marketers like to hide behind), but rather a series of regular assaults on your challenges and obstacles — that demonstrate a confidence in your goals and a willingness to take risks to achieve them.
Employing SoMe the right way, to run alongside a personalized direct mail program, is the road to take you where you want to go.