Acquisition, retention, referral
These are three of the big challenges for businesses. How do you get people interested enough in your product or service that they buy? Once they do buy, how do you keep them engaged and interested? Now that you’ve impressed them with your quality, how can you encourage them to talk about it and bring you new customers?
Catch their attention
Don't scare 'em; just get their attention
Even before you try to get someone’s attention you have to know where they are. Do the people you want to reach naturally congregate anywhere either online of off? What do they all share in common? You might know that over 100 people in the U.S. view YouTube, but does that matter for you? It certainly makes it worth checking to find out. You might think that no one will go to YouTube to learn anything about carpet cleaning, but there are over 6000 videos posted—many with over 5,000 views.
If you know where to find your potential customers (readers, buyers, contributors, benefactors), how do you earn their attention? Teachers know the answer to this. You do the unexpected. You use humor. You get the students (or your customers) involved. Find something they are already interested in and build on that.You make yourself and your product relevant and timely. You make things personal and emotional. You engage every sense you can. (See Sonic Branding for adding sound to your brand attributes.)
You can apply these lessons to writing headlines, producing videos, hosting events, or to any engaging marketing effort. For example, a carpet cleaning company might use a headline like “Carousing with your carpet cleaner,” post a video of a burlesque dancer performing with a vacuum, and follow up by asking for submissions of home videos of people imitating that performance in their own homes. Then you can follow up with message about how your product is the best for after-party cleanup chores. (I know I’d vacuum a lot more if I could pretend it was fun and sexy.)
If you want a real world example, see Burberry’s latest trenchcoat campaign.
Be where you customers are now and where they might be in the future. You don’t foresee anyone searching on Flickr your product? Perhaps you don’t need to be there. But you do need to own your own brand name there. Don’t let someone else grab it. (I also suggest posting a few images there anyway for use by journalists and bloggers who want an image to print or post. )
Don’t forget the basics either. You’re networking face-to-face in your industry, right? You have a great signature line for your email. And, of course, you’ve invested in SEO so people can find you. You haven’t hidden your contact information: phone, email, Twitter, etc.
Create or join the flock
Be part of the community; be a reliable resource
You’ve created that first inexpensive, fun, rewarding or flattering experience with your brand. Now how do you keep folks interested?
First let’s consider if this even a marketing issue. Couldn’t it be left up to customer service and sales staff? They certainly have their leadership role, but marketing is still important.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who lives with someone who doesn’t stop researching his purchase after it’s been made. I married a guy who wants continued reassurance that he made the best choice. He wants plenty of reasons why he can keep bragging to his friends. He wants his purchases to support his sense of himself as smart, cutting edge, and elite. Your customers want that, too.
Offering an upgrade discount, adding another testimonial or white paper to your website, hosting a group or a forum for people who buy your product, or just sending a thank-you are all examples of how marketing can stay involved in the customer relationship. The sales staff will know what keeps your customers interested, what problems they might still need to solve, and what might offend them. They might even have a few great stories that could be shared with other customers. Together you evaluate the entire sales funnel and how each group can contribute to and evaluate it.
Of course, both your marketing and sales staff is listening to your customers. But that becomes a lot easier if you can drop by their hang outs and talk with them regularly and directly. Your customers want to know that you are taking their needs and wants into consideration when making decisions, so they often welcome a short poll or simple question to answer and discuss. Each time you add value to a conversation started by your customers, or put them in touch with each other, you are adding value to that community and that community will notice. You can make them feel special by providing a special offer just for them. People respond really well to stories and to getting something special.
Maybe there isn’t a community of users yet so you can try to create one. You just have to locate fertile territory. For example, a casual search on Twitter provided me with a lead for one of my clients—a lead who had already expressed a desire to buy but just didn’t know how. She couldn’t find a community who could tell her where to find suppliers or give her any advice. This probably means that we won’t be able to build a community around my client’s company, but will have to build one that will educate people about her product instead. Even though that might mean creating a community open to her competitors, hers will be the company identified with creating and supporting this new community. Her company can aspire to the role of hostess whom everyone looks to to lead the conversation and make introductions. (You might not remember everyone at a party, but you’ll certainly remember your host.)
Encourage a missionary fervor
Regular engagement of your customers can encourage them and give them the language and tools to keep on talking—about you and about your product or services. If you add more content to your website, blog, or fan page that builds on what you’ve learned from listening, you’ve made a start. The next step is to simple make it easy for them to share that content by adding social bookmarking tools or asking readers to email a friend.
You can also provide your customers with ways to self identify as fans of yours. A Facebook fan page is one way, but t-shirts also still work for some markets. You probably won’t get anyone to tattoo your brand on their arm, but you can give them graphics, icons, tools, videos and great content they will want to share.
Take advantage of discussions you already know are happening and host a comfortable space to continue and enlarge that discussion. For example Hershey created the Cookie Exchange network. Discussions are not exclusively about Hershey but you can bet that the participants feel more warmly toward its brand and keep it top of mind while they’re there. Hershey gave their customers a great reason to reach out to their friends and welcome them to the party. You, too can make more of whatever it is that your customers enjoy, respect, or use.
Hershey is providing an experience along with their product. They have proven that they are still interested even after they’ve made their sale. If you show you care, you’ll be encouraging people to talk. We all love it when people pay attention to us and make us feel special.
Don’t be afraid to join in discussions that you didn’t start, but that you can spice up. You don’t have to be the life of the party if that’s not your style. You simply have to be interested and interesting. You have to provide value to your customers’ communities. You might want to start just by answering questions at LinkedIn’s Questions and Answers section, or Yahoo’s Answers or wherever you’ve found your customers hang out.
Just keep surprising your customers with good service, respect, your interest, your understanding and with the unexpected.