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The Most Valuable Time To Build Relationships With Customers: Post-Sale

Shelly Kramer

When it comes to customers, are marketers better served focusing on acquisition or retention? And what’s the proper balance of each?

Any marketer worth his or her salt knows that the most valuable customers, and your biggest source of business growth, lies with your current customers. As such, the most valuable time to build relationships with your customers is post-sale. Think about it: A current customer has already said yes. They already trust you. They trusted you enough to buy, anyway. Focusing on those customers post-sale is without question, the most important part of developing an ongoing relationship with them, and it’s not at all hard to do. Let’s explore.

The case for customer retention

When it comes to customer retention, marketers are historically short-sighted, as are their counterparts on the sales team. While acquisition has traditionally dominated retention as it relates to marketing strategy focus, in fact the statistical evidence points firmly towards a solid retention strategy as delivering the best ROI. The fact that we’re still talking about this amazes me: I remember learning this in my earliest days in marketing—in fact, it’s pretty much Marketing 101. Yet we still see sales teams chasing new customers and marketing teams equally focused on acquisition as well.

Consider the stats laid out in this infographic from Retention Science:

Retention-Science-Infographic

As you can see, existing customers are the veritable foundation upon which you should build your business. They have the potential to create more sales and make a greater contribution to profits, all at a lower cost to the business than what you will spend attracting new prospects. What’s not to like about that? And why the heck aren’t more marketers concentrating on customer retention strategies? Here are three things that might explain why:

  • It’s easier (and more exciting) for both sales teams and marketers to focus on drumming up new business.
  • A customer retention strategy takes time to produce returns and marketing departments (and sales teams) are under constant pressure to produce short-term results.
  • The return on investment for customers over the long-term is harder to measure than new customer sales and, therefore, harder to justify.

The importance of understanding your customer lifetime value (CLV)

For those who understand the value of retention (or who want to), embracing a customer lifetime value (CLV) mindset is key. CLV is a model that takes a long-term view of customers, estimating the value of future cash flows, and not just historical sales. It’s a complex subject that I’m not going to get into here in detail, but if you want to explore this more fully, I highly recommend you read Avinash Kaushik’s Guide to Calculating Customer Lifetime Value. I love his blog, and his big brain, and once you read this guide, I predict you’ll be likewise enamored. More importantly, thinking about CLV as he breaks it down will help you as you create your own customer retention strategies.

The point is that while the majority of companies see value in CLV as a concept, only a minority report that they are able to put it into action. According to an Econsultancy study more than three-quarters of companies (76 percent) considered CLV to be important, but less than half (42 percent) actually said that they were able to measure it. Worse still, just 11 percent said that they “strongly agree” that they could measure CLV, meaning that a mere one in every ten companies would appear to have fully grasped the concept.

CLV chart Graphic source: econsultancy.com

Customer retention strategies: How to build post-sale relationships

So if I’ve managed to convince you about the importance of this, please know that an effective customer retention strategy does not mean sending random email blasts to your new customers focused solely on generating interest and more sales. You need a communication strategy with this customer base that delivers ongoing value post-sale and continues to build trust and credibility. You don’t need to constantly be selling them, but you do need to be touching them on a regular basis so that you don’t become just another commodity. There are myriad things you can do, including:

  • Provide memorable customer service. That means empowering your front line staff (online or off) with real time customer information, so that questions can be answered and issues resolved without delay. You want to be proactive, rather than reactive, and build good relationships by meeting—even exceeding, where possible—customer expectations.
  • Listen and learn. Encouraging feedback from customers, both positive and negative, is a great way to understand their likes and dislikes, as well as their needs and wants. Monitoring reviews and social commentary on your brand can provide invaluable insights into what customers are looking for.
  • Everybody likes attention. Feature your customers, and their stories in your eNewsletter and/or by way of short video interviews that can live on both your website and your YouTube channel.
  • Reward loyalty. Build strong loyalty programs that reward ongoing business. Customers may like patronizing your business, but they’ll like you even more if you reward them from time to time for being a great customer. This is easy to do, and can be very cost effective, yet go a long way toward establishing strong relationships.
  • Remember that referrals are a gift. A referral from a satisfied customer is the best kind of gift—don’t take that for granted. Don’t forget to establish referral programs that reward customers for sending you business.
  • Pay attention, pay it forward. Find and follow your customers in social media channels. Share their stories, support their marketing efforts, introduce them to your other customers. Relationships are a two-way street, so remembering that, and putting that into action can go a long way toward building customer relationships that are long and mutually beneficial. Social media makes that easy.

How to not be a commodity: Educate them about your other offerings

Once you’ve got the relationship-building part under control and in process, know that you do need to continue to touch and educate your customers about the other things you do and sell and how you might serve them. As an example, we once had a customer who sold aluminum bleachers to schools and community centers. When I asked about what happened after the sale, our client said that the last contact with a customer was a “your product has shipped” email notification, and that was that.

What they weren’t taking into consideration is that their clients largely found them online, and once the sale was over, they risked being forgotten by customers who might not remember where they purchased. Those same customers, however, might also need things like gym flooring, soccer goals, basketball goals and nets, or pool equipment. But they weren’t staying in touch in any way at all with those customers after their initial purchase, nor were they making any effort to let those customers know other ways they could be of service, thus making those other sales largely impossible. We changed that, and guess what? They sold more stuff as a result.

Whatever tools and tactics you use to develop a retention strategy, it should be built around one clear goal: Building a post-sale relationship with every single customer is the key to business growth and profitability. Court new customers for sure, but don’t ever lose sight of how valuable your existing customer base is. And make sure your marketing efforts are designed to keep those existing customers top-of-mind.

What loyalty and retention strategies do you employ for your business or for your clients? What do you have to add to the list above? I’d love to hear what’s working for you and any lessons you’ve learned along the way.

 

This article was originally seen on The MarketingScope.

The post The Most Valuable Time to Build Relationships With Customers: Post-Sale appeared first on Millennial CEO.

Photo Credit: Polycart via Compfight cc

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What Are The New Rules For Engaging An Online Community?

Scott Steinberg

Marketing and public relations’ role within professional organizations has shifted drastically with the advent of the online community. Now there’s a greater emphasis placed on storytelling. Traditionally, organizations would simply broadcast news or channel it through the media – observe the reaction, then respond on a flexible timetable. Today, branding isn’t simply about beaming out a message. It’s about building trust with end users, telling a compelling story, and creating two-way social streams of dialogue.

While the media matrix and consumption patterns have irrevocably shifted, the value of powerful communication strategies has only become more vital. In an online community and multitasking world, companies must first find ways to connect with increasingly fragmented audiences and build empathy and awareness. They must create channels for customers and influencers to help organizations engage with brands and products in exciting new ways.

Customer impressions carry increasing weight, with brand impressions now traveling greater distances in less time. Users increasingly look to their personal networks for expertise and validation as opposed to traditional media channels.

Traditional marketing and public relations principles now play an increased role. Practitioners can excel in the modern world – provided they adapt to changing markets and best practices.

The book Netiquette Essentials: New Rules for Minding Your Manners in a Digital World offers several tips as you nurture positive conversation in an online community.

Establish a social media policy

Make it clear to employees what is okay to share online, how and when to do so, and the most appropriate manner in which to conduct outreach efforts. With every employee serving as a brand ambassador, training should begin the first day on the job to reinforce the importance of these organizational values. Detail formal rules of engagement with the online community and explain what’s expected from hires.

Develop an internal program to teach social media literacy and aptitude, provide continued education efforts, and reward employees for successfully practicing these skills. You may wish to consider regular skills refreshes, training sessions, certifications, and gamification-based programs to reinforce these maxims.

Be specific about what’s expected in terms of tone, attitude, end results, and output from your social media pros, and regularly monitor and assess how well they align with and meet these goals. Providing running feedback and commentary to help them grow and improve is vital to bolster performance in these areas. To this extent, you may wish to have team leaders provide sample tweets, posts, or updates to provide a sense of how to better shape these communications efforts.

For sake of clarity and assurance of appropriate conduct, post formal guidelines for communication within your own blogs, communities, and online venues, public-facing or otherwise. Having guidelines in place sets expectations upfront and helps you address any issues that may arise, such as having to ban argumentative users or remove inappropriate posts.

Set clear guidelines for interacting with the online community

Social media’s immediacy allows you to interact with customers without filters. However, policy and protocols set in place beforehand ensure professional and productive interactions. Understanding that some room must be given to operate between formal guidelines, make it clear to employees the appropriate rules of conduct when speaking directly to end users or customers, whether exchanges are B2B or B2C in nature.

Provide ongoing development and training to your team regarding these policies, especially for employees who manage social media efforts, outreach, and campaigns. Pass on learning and knowledge gained from direct frontline interactions with customers and promote positive transfer and enhance best practices.

Marketing campaigns and branding efforts should adhere to consistent guidelines. This ensures the right messages are sent and that your company is portrayed with the image and professionalism you desire. Outside of formal guidelines, practice basic rules of politeness, professionalism, and business etiquette online just as you would when engaging with customers face-to-face.

Identify which influencers to reach out to, and brief employees on the best methods for doing so. Through social media, you will likely also interact not just with individual customers, but also entire communities. As in real life, virtual group dynamics can differ greatly from one-on-one interactions.

Express your brand’s online personality

Be less formal, but adhere to your company’s rules and guidelines about your brand, message, and tone of voice, thus creating value for your online community. When people visit social media sites, they expect exchanges to be more personal, immediate, and engaging.

Be cognizant of post quality, taking care to eliminate grammatical and spelling errors. Note that kindness, courtesy, positivity, and empathy should be reflected in every post. Casual and fun doesn’t equate to flippant, glib, or self-centered. Think about how you or your brand may be perceived, and present yourself as affably and respectfully as possible.

Humor is appropriate to use, depending on context. Consider using only the same sort of humor that is appropriate for use in an office or business casual setting. Unless it is part of your brand’s marketing strategy, proceed with caution when using risqué or controversial statements.

Every employee is a brand ambassador in today’s socially driven world. Learn How to Weave Social Media Into the Fabric of the Business.

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How To Master Social Media Marketing In 2017

Michael Brenner

Social media is a constantly evolving medium, from which sites are trending within your industry to the latest Facebook features and Instagram influencers – let alone the development of completely new social media platforms every time you turn on your laptop. How can modern marketers expect to keep up?

The secret is to embrace the change. After all, it is the rapid advancements and constant stream of innovations that have provided digital marketers with so much to work with in the first place. So, no, your social media marketing campaigns this year are not going to look the same as the ones you used in 2016—at least, not if you want to generate more leads and stand a chance against your competitors.

If you want to make an impact with your social media efforts, it is time to give your strategy a refresh. Here is what you need to know to master your social media marketing and to stay ahead of the trends in 2017.

Customize your use of major and niche social media sites

Facebook is still number one, and that isn’t going to change in 2017. In fact, Facebook itself is a world in itself to keep up to date with – in this year alone, it is predicted that Facebook Live will be monetized and that the Call to Action buttons for local business pages will be updated.

Currently the top five social media sites in terms of reach and impact are:

  1. Facebook
  2. Instagram
  3. Twitter
  4. Pinterest
  5. Tumblr

While these networks are important, there is also value in niche networks for many businesses. For example, DeviantArt is geared towards illustrators, designers, and other artists, as well as art enthusiasts – and has a huge network of 26,000,000. While this site might be useless for, say, an insurance brokerage, it would be incredibly powerful for a photography school. Other examples include eToro for finance professionals, Wayn for travel and tourism, 43 Things for health and wellness brands—and the list goes on as more networks are created and gain active users.

This year, instead of trying to have your brand on every major site and spreading your resources too thin, create a strategy that makes sense for your industry – and your business.

Start with the biggest. With 1.79 billion monthly active users, Facebook is a wise choice.

Next, choose one or two other major networks. Visual industries like clothing and apparel, food, and travel are well-suited to sites like Pinterest and Instagram, while service-oriented industries may gain more leads from LinkedIn and Twitter.

Finally, consider a niche social media network. Many have several million active users and may offer a unique way for you to reach out to leads and to build brand awareness.

Make your video more sophisticated

pixabay

Throughout 2016, the use of video on social media grew, but its impact exploded. A recent survey by Wyzowl found that 84% of consumers said they have been convinced to make a purchase choice after viewing a brand’s video – and 91% claimed to have watched a video to learn about a product or service they were interested in. Now consider that only 63% of businesses taking advantage of video right now.

Videos that engage with viewers tend to be very effective. While customer testimonials and demonstration videos will always have their place, add challenges, puzzles, games, and surveys to your video content, along with informational videos, to keep people interested and talking on social media. Buzzfeed’s Tasty does an excellent job of this.

For some businesses, live streaming can make a strong impact. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all being used by social media savvy brands to engage with consumers in real-time with interviews, Q&A sessions, and brand events.

If you haven’t already branched into video, 2017 is the year. If you are already using promotional videos on your social media channels, then this is the year to make them better. The use of video for social media marketing is no longer new. This year, it’s about coming up with creative, fresh ideas that will capture your audience and inspire leads.

Focus on the influencers

A business could run eleven different social media accounts, with Twitter updates every two hours, Facebook postings twice a day, vibrant Pinterest boards, and an active presence on LinkedIn. But they still would not make the same impact that a couple of mentions by one major social media influencer would create. The big influencers have legions of followers who often look to their voice as a sort of industry guiding force.

While in the past, consistent regular posting was the way to go, make sure you aren’t overextending your marketing efforts with too many platforms – and too many posts. You may not just be draining your resources, but these resources may be better spent with a more concentrated focal point, like an industry influencer.

Furious Pete (TV, food, and fitness) has more than 5 million YouTube followers. Kristina Bazan (fashion) has more than 2.4 million Instagram followers. Jake Paul (millennials) has more than 17 million social media followers. A social media mention from an influencer, or better yet, a video post that mentions your product or service is going to reach a profoundly broad and engaged audience.

Many major companies are now partnering – and paying – the big influencers to promote their product. If you want to master social media, pay attention to who the influencers are in your market.

They don’t have to be the biggest names around, but with a few hundred thousand followers you can make an impact if you can get these people to share, like, tweet, or feature your content in some way. Use resources like BuzzSumo and find the top blogs in your industry to get a better idea of who the influencers are that you may want to connect with.

Examine your social media ads – a lot

Ads continue to be a popular social media marketing tool as they offer marketers a cost-effective way not just to build brand awareness, but also to test their products and messaging and to get important feedback for building future campaigns.

Facebook ads still offer the best ROI by far – 95.8%, compared to 63.5% on Twitter and 2.1% on Snapchat. However, these numbers can shift quickly, especially as the newer networks like Snapchat and Instagram blossom in 2017.

Managing director of Traktek Partners Cyril Lemaire warns that Twitter will see a double-digit decline in active users this year. While this may or may not come to pass, it is important to be agile and to switch gears midstream if your ads aren’t working.

Make sure you are consistently measuring the results of your advertising campaigns, and track changes over time. This will help your team make smart decisions when it comes to social media advertising.

Take a fresh approach to your social media marketing efforts in order to take advantage of the opportunities that are available right now. No longer does it make sense to just chug away with your accounts and follow general trends. Your marketing efforts should be both more sophisticated and much more creative. The brands that can master these qualities will leap ahead in 2017.

For more insight on social media strategies, see How To Weave Social Media Into The Fabric Of The Business.

Image: pixabay

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About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of  The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider GroupHe has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and   a top  CMO influencer by Forbes.

How Emotionally Aware Computing Can Bring Happiness to Your Organization

Christopher Koch


Do you feel me?

Just as once-novel voice recognition technology is now a ubiquitous part of human–machine relationships, so too could mood recognition technology (aka “affective computing”) soon pervade digital interactions.

Through the application of machine learning, Big Data inputs, image recognition, sensors, and in some cases robotics, artificially intelligent systems hunt for affective clues: widened eyes, quickened speech, and crossed arms, as well as heart rate or skin changes.




Emotions are big business

The global affective computing market is estimated to grow from just over US$9.3 billion a year in 2015 to more than $42.5 billion by 2020.

Source: “Affective Computing Market 2015 – Technology, Software, Hardware, Vertical, & Regional Forecasts to 2020 for the $42 Billion Industry” (Research and Markets, 2015)

Customer experience is the sweet spot

Forrester found that emotion was the number-one factor in determining customer loyalty in 17 out of the 18 industries it surveyed – far more important than the ease or effectiveness of customers’ interactions with a company.


Source: “You Can’t Afford to Overlook Your Customers’ Emotional Experience” (Forrester, 2015)


Humana gets an emotional clue

Source: “Artificial Intelligence Helps Humana Avoid Call Center Meltdowns” (The Wall Street Journal, October 27, 2016)

Insurer Humana uses artificial intelligence software that can detect conversational cues to guide call-center workers through difficult customer calls. The system recognizes that a steady rise in the pitch of a customer’s voice or instances of agent and customer talking over one another are causes for concern.

The system has led to hard results: Humana says it has seen an 28% improvement in customer satisfaction, a 63% improvement in agent engagement, and a 6% improvement in first-contact resolution.


Spread happiness across the organization

Source: “Happiness and Productivity” (University of Warwick, February 10, 2014)

Employers could monitor employee moods to make organizational adjustments that increase productivity, effectiveness, and satisfaction. Happy employees are around 12% more productive.




Walking on emotional eggshells

Whether customers and employees will be comfortable having their emotions logged and broadcast by companies is an open question. Customers may find some uses of affective computing creepy or, worse, predatory. Be sure to get their permission.


Other limiting factors

The availability of the data required to infer a person’s emotional state is still limited. Further, it can be difficult to capture all the physical cues that may be relevant to an interaction, such as facial expression, tone of voice, or posture.



Get a head start


Discover the data

Companies should determine what inferences about mental states they want the system to make and how accurately those inferences can be made using the inputs available.


Work with IT

Involve IT and engineering groups to figure out the challenges of integrating with existing systems for collecting, assimilating, and analyzing large volumes of emotional data.


Consider the complexity

Some emotions may be more difficult to discern or respond to. Context is also key. An emotionally aware machine would need to respond differently to frustration in a user in an educational setting than to frustration in a user in a vehicle.

 


 

download arrowTo learn more about how affective computing can help your organization, read the feature story Empathy: The Killer App for Artificial Intelligence.


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About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is the Editorial Director of the SAP Center for Business Insight. He is an experienced publishing professional, researcher, editor, and writer in business, technology, and B2B marketing. Share your thoughts with Chris on Twitter @Ckochster.

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In An Agile Environment, Revenue Models Are Flexible Too

Todd Wasserman

In 2012, Dollar Shave Club burst on the scene with a cheeky viral video that won praise for its creativity and marketing acumen. Less heralded at the time was the startup’s pricing model, which swapped traditional retail for subscriptions.

For as low as $1 a month (for five two-bladed cartridges), consumers got a package in the mail that saved them a trip to the pharmacy or grocery store. Dollar Shave Club received the ultimate vindication for the idea in 2016 when Unilever purchased the company for $1 billion.

As that example shows, new technology creates the possibility for new pricing models that can disrupt existing industries. The same phenomenon has occurred in software, in which the cloud and Web-based interfaces have ushered in Software as a Service (SaaS), which charges users on a monthly basis, like a utility, instead of the typical purchase-and-later-upgrade model.

Pricing, in other words, is a variable that can be used to disrupt industries. Other options include usage-based pricing and freemium.

Products as services, services as products

There are basically two ways that businesses can use pricing to disrupt the status quo: Turn products into services and turn services into products. Dollar Shave Club and SaaS are two examples of turning products into services.

Others include Amazon’s Dash, a bare-bones Internet of Things device that lets consumers reorder items ranging from Campbell’s Soup to Play-Doh. Another example is Rent the Runway, which rents high-end fashion items for a weekend rather than selling the items. Trunk Club offers a twist on this by sending items picked out by a stylist to users every month. Users pay for what they want and send back the rest.

The other option is productizing a service. Restaurant franchising is based on this model. While the restaurant offers food service to consumers, for entrepreneurs the franchise offers guidance and brand equity that can be condensed into a product format. For instance, a global HR firm called Littler has productized its offerings with Littler CaseSmart-Charges, which is designed for in-house attorneys and features software, project management tools, and access to flextime attorneys.

As that example shows, technology offers opportunities to try new revenue models. Another example is APIs, which have become a large source of revenue for companies. The monetization of APIs is often viewed as a side business that encompasses a wholly different pricing model that’s often engineered to create huge user bases with volume discounts.

Not a new idea

Though technology has opened up new vistas for businesses seeking alternate pricing models, Rajkumar Venkatesan, a marketing professor at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, points out that this isn’t necessarily a new idea. For instance, King Gillette made his fortune in the early part of the 20th Century by realizing that a cheap shaving device would pave the way for a recurring revenue stream via replacement razor blades.

“The new variation was the Keurig,” said Venkatesan, referring to the coffee machine that relies on replaceable cartridges. “It has started becoming more prevalent in the last 10 years, but the fundamental model has been there.” For businesses, this can be an attractive model not only for the recurring revenue but also for the ability to cross-sell new goods to existing customers, Venkatesan said.

Another benefit to a subscription model is that it can also supply first-party data that companies can use to better understand and market to their customers. Some believe that Dollar Shave Club’s close relationship with its young male user base was one reason for Unilever’s purchase, for instance. In such a cut-throat market, such relationships can fetch a high price.

To learn more about how you can monetize disruption, watch this video overview of the new SAP Hybris Revenue Cloud.

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