People obsess about new business but it's your existing customers that provide the most value. Here's how to find out what they want and give it to them.
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In this digitised age, it’s easier than ever for brands to make a positive impression on customers. It’s no longer enough to try to entice them through a single marketing channel, such as email marketing or direct mail; if these form a part of a marketing strategy at all, their usage needs to be based on a data driven analysis of the way the target audience operates.
Marketing typically focusses on the gaining of new clients, retention of existing customers tends to be a secondary focus for growing businesses.
But retention is as, if not more, important than generating new business: not only are these existing customers the ones who keep your lights on, they will, if you treat them properly, act as brand ambassadors for your company, driving friends and family in need of similar services directly to you.
But how do you turn existing customers into active brand promotors? It’s not a simple proposition, and any promise of an overnight cure-all should (rightly) be viewed with suspicion. That said, if you use the information at your disposal correctly, you could see great results in a relatively short space of time.
Harness your data
The first thing to consider is exactly how you’re going to harvest your customer data. Brands typically start from a position where, excited by the promise of ‘big data’ analytics, they will hoover up all of the information they possibly can – regardless of relevance or whether or not it has a place in their overarching sales and marketing strategy.
Data is obviously important, but having so much of it that you’re effectively overwhelmed won’t do you any good. What you’re after is a Single Customer View (SCV): put simply, a way of understanding exactly how customers interact with your brand based on their ongoing behaviour, preferences and past interactions.
To achieve this, a marketing professional needs data, but you also need to organise it effectively: information from a decade past won’t often be much good to you, but information from the past year or so could be.
The thing to ask yourself, essentially, is this: “Does having this data provide a clearer picture into my customers’ behaviour and desires?” If it’s a no, consider it useless: consistent, aggregated data is what you’re ultimately after.
Map your customer journey
In order to develop a SCV and a more personal relationship with your customers, you need to understand how they interact with your company and its brand.
In order to do this, it’s imperative that you think about ‘customer journey’. We use a four-step model: 1) Attraction, 2) Identification, 3) Engagement, and 4) Retention. Take a pub as an example: this might involve attracting a customer with a free drink offer, identifying the spending habits of any returnees using data from EPOS systems and loyalty schemes, – alongside sources of feedback such as email surveys – to get a better idea of what they like so you can personalise future offers, and, finally, harnessing all this information to retain them as customers.
It's important to know how your customers get to where they're going
Alternatively, if you’re running an online eyewear store, this will entail attracting them with better offers than high street retailers such as Boots or Specsavers can provide, gathering data about their prescriptions and preferred frame styles over time, presenting them with email discounts related to their favourite frames, and thereby retaining them – your competitors will struggle to beat your potent cocktail of customer knowledge and targeted offers and as an SME you’re agility will prove fruitful here.
We could use any number of examples, but the core principle – of data informing and refining your marketing tactics – remains fundamentally the same.
Paint a picture of the people buying your goods or services
This is, of course, a rather generalist approach, and a true SCV requires understanding of the wants and needs of individual customers. No two customers embark on exactly the same journey with a brand. For example, if one customer unsubscribes from your emails – but occasionally responds positively to text offers, you can redirect your efforts towards that channel.
You also want to take care to avoid neglecting in-person sales and marketing techniques if your business model allows for them: older members of your target audience might not use mobile devices or the internet much, but may well like what they see if it’s presented by a salesperson.
They’ve all got their preferences: it’s up to you to determine what they are, and how you can cater to them and foster true 1-2-1 engagement.
The benefits of a SCV and data-driven strategy are obvious. People across the world use businesses run by SMEs and entrepreneurs because of the personal touches afforded to them. This is what’s often lost as businesses grow. What data and technology offers is the ability to maintain and automate this individual approach to customer outreach – and drive revenues at the same time.