Unloved and overlooked: Getting your customer marketing back on track

According to the folk at Harvard Business Review, it costs up to seven times as much to find a new customer, than to get more business from an existing one.

It’s no surprise then, where once b2b organisations were going all out to acquire new customers, there’s a growing realisation that existing customers could well offer a wealth of opportunity.

But let’s clear something up. For all the lip service that gets paid to ‘keeping customers loyal’ and ‘valuing their business’, many companies have still to put their money where their mouth is and genuinely invest in dedicated customer communications programmes. And to be honest, a customer mag or e-newsletter banging on about your company’s latest greatest products and services, coupled with some overpriced Arsenal FC tickets, do not a loyalty strategy make.

A well-managed and executed marketing communications programme can play a key role in helping to maintain loyalty and retention:

1. Making your customers feel valued – reinforcing the fact they’ve made the right decision in choosing your organisation.

2. Sharing your expertise and insights to help customers more effectively meet their business needs – positioning you as a trusted and strategic partner. 

3. Building relationships with other key decision-makers and influencers in the account – by leveraging your position (and reputation) as an existing supplier.

4. Creating sustained dialogue with customers to keep your brand front-of-mind – and allowing them to provide constant feedback – to shape your future product/service development

5. Effectively targeting and tailoring new offers to maximise cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

6. Educating and enabling your sales force to help them engage with your customers earlier and throughout the sales cycle.

7. Promoting customer advocacy – sharing customer success stories and encouraging word-of-mouth recommendations.

Know your customers? What, really?

The first, most basic rule of segmentation is to differentiate between your customers and prospects in your marketing communications. A client once told us a horror story about previously mailing a ‘valued’ customer with a heavily discounted laptop offer, just a couple of weeks after they’d purchased a large volume of the very same laptop at the original higher price. To say the customer was unhappy was somewhat of an understatement – especially as their boss also received the same mailer.

Unfortunately while many companies (but not all) differentiate between their customers and prospects, that’s about as far as they actually go. So every customer receives the same e-newsletter regardless of their potential lifetime value, past purchase history or areas of interest. Never forget, while all customers are equal, some customers are more equal than others.

Use, don’t abuse, your data – remember these simple rules:

Keep it accurate: Make sure your customer data is as up to date as possible – there are no excuses for inaccuracies. Spelling a customer’s name wrong is a definite no-no.

Different contacts have different drivers: Try to build a clearer picture of the decision-making unit – identify different audience needs and target your communications activity accordingly. Will the finance director really want to hear the same message as a group of system architects?

Understand what they’ve bought from you and when: The one thing you’ve got over and above your competitors should be an understanding of what your customers have purchased in the past. Use this information to identify where the organisation is in your product/services lifecycle and segment accordingly.

Every interaction with your organisation provides an opportunity to capture more intelligence: Whether they’re clicking on an article within an email or attending an event, every interaction provides you with more insight into your customers’ interests and potential issues that can inform future messaging.

Understand your customers’ media preferences: This is critical – and there’s no substitute for asking them. How would they prefer to receive communications from you? What publications do they read? What sites do they visit? What social media do they use in a professional capacity? It will help you determine the most appropriate media mix, significantly reducing wastage and saving you money.

Mine this rich vein of data, segment and be merry. It’ll help you build a loyalty programme that can be used to make your customers feel like they genuinely matter, encouraging advocacy – and guess what – helping to attract other like minded, profitable souls who want to be equally loved.

Please note: this is an excerpt from a chapter Earnest contributed to a Loyalty Marketing Best Practice Guide, published by B2B Marketing. The guide in its entirety is available for download at: http://www.b2bm.biz/research_reports/loyalty_marketing_BPG/

By earnestagency 1 June 2010
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