Today’s heady mix of online, social and mobile platforms means that you’re vying not only with a myriad of competitors for your customers’ attention, but having to do so across a plethora of channels, (and often, devices), each with their own nuances, benefits, and challenges. Taking on the world across each and every one is a daunting task, especially for a small business already under the strain from the day-to-day running of the business. However, without bringing new customers through the door, the long-term future will never be quite so rosy.
There’s only so long a business can keep its head above water through the retention of existing clients before the natural (de)selection process of customers going elsewhere, (even if you’ve done nothing wrong), becomes a major headache for the lifeblood of your hard-earned enterprise. Equally, focusing entirely on bringing in new business at the detriment of existing customers is a false economy and new business will rarely, (if ever), fully balance out the loss of those already on the books. Plus, it’s just exhausting.
So what should you do? There’s always new things to be learnt from how platforms are evolving, and tying these in with direct marketing strategies so they can be agile, and thus adjusted according to performance and behavioural developments, is critical. Here are some key focus areas to consider, which we hope can bring structure to your processes. These aren’t the only solution, and you must never think you know everything – but these should help you get started, and begin a positive feedback loop which means you’re always learning, and always developing.
There’s no point having the best product or service in the market if no-one knows you’re there, or that it exists. You need to be brave and bold and make sure you’re getting out and being discovered by customers. Listen in across channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to the key themes which align to your brand and product, and you’ll see that the conversations are already happening – it’s just they’re going on without you. Remember, you don’t need to be a conversation starter to be involved, you just need to be an active participant.
Put yourself in the shoes of your potential customer, and behave as they would when searching for your product. Are you in the right place in Search results? Are you proactive on Twitter? Are you posting engaging content on Facebook and Instagram? If you can’t find yourself when pretending to be a new customer, how is the real-life newbie going to do so?
By capturing people’s attention on social channels, you can ask them to log on to your platform – especially if you have a checkout and registration process – by submitting social credentials. This will then ensure you can address them by their first name, and tailor areas of the site and content accordingly. You’d be surprised by the difference this makes. After all, your name is the most important word in the world to you, and your customers’ name will be the most important to them too. Use it regularly, and the mindset of the consumer changes – it’s like they’re being spoken to and so they’re more likely to listen.
Once the customer has left your platform, you need to ensure you’re back in touch regularly, relevantly, and respectfully. If they’ve bought from you, you will have an idea of their purchase intent and possibly their demographic (you’ll have location by postal details, for example). Use this to your advantage to send them follow-up opportunities via email which might pique their interest. Equally, if they bought a seasonal product, send ideas of other, similarly seasonal products; if what they buy has a defined shelf-life, send them email reminders of the need to either freshen up or up-sell accordingly, with a special offer as an enticement to do so through you.
Don’t spam your contacts, though. We’ve all been in a shop where the assistant is a bit too close to us, hassling us around the shop and asking demanding questions about the products on offer – don’t become the online equivalent by sending too many follow-up emails or chasing on social platforms. Behave socially on social channels – you’ll be amazed how many brands don’t.
Measure, analyse, repeat
This is your holy grail. There’s little point in investing so much time, effort, and resource into any of the above if you’re not going to try and glean some insight from it. Crunch the information you have from your mailing lists, and analyse exactly what the data tells you about repeat business, re-engagement either from previous or, indeed, abandoned customers. Look at calendar spikes to see where your traffic is coming throughout the year, and look at which emails, posts, and tweets are getting the best traction during the day, and at weekends.
Once you’ve crunched the results, you need to act upon the insight. Insight is irrelevant without an iterative approach to application. Analyse what data you have, to deliver an understanding into your customers’ behaviour and their likes and dislikes, and in doing so, repeat the good stuff, and reject the stuff which isn’t working.
You’re not going to get it right the first time – just accept it – but make sure you learn from it throughout. It’s better to retain a solid degree of your existing customers and attract new ones in order to succeed, but you’ll never get this balance struck if you’re flying blind most of the time. The insight is there, awaiting discovery, you just need to make sure you ask the right questions, then act smartly on the subsequent answers, by getting discovered in the right places all over again. And then we’re back to the top again…
Tink Taylor is founder of dotmailer.