Anyone who’s spent part of their lives living and working in a small town will tell you it’s often something of a microcosm of the country at large. Small-town politics, for example, despite being centered around arguably more mundane matters than those on the national stage, tend to carry for local residents the relative gravity of the sausage-making wrought on C-SPAN.
But it’s only been recently that the methodology of doing business in a small town has had such relevancy to companies with larger markets. As technology has allowed us to reach more customers on the national level, it’s also brought those customers closer to us — and not acknowledging precisely how close is one of the biggest mistakes a company can make. With the advent of social media and customer-controlled websites that talk about companies for better or worse, the customer-business interaction you’d typically get in small towns is suddenly everywhere.
The result has been something of a renaissance for the particularly old-fangled notion of customer service, specifically great customer service. And the reason is simply that no marketing force a company could ever hope to exert is more powerful than the collective will of its customers — and if they’ve been treated better than they expected, they’ll communicate that far more effectively than any ad buy in any medium. We’ve discovered here that a more-than-satisfied client base is our biggest single source of new customers; we deliver better service than they’d ever hoped, and in turn they spread the good word.
Blowing away expectations to create new customers might seem like an innovative idea, but again, if you’ve lived in a small town, it’s old hat. One small town I lived in years ago had two liquor stores; one allowed people to bring their dogs in with them, and the other didn’t. Considering the dog-to-people ratio tipped in the pooches’ favor in this town, word got around. When it got back to the first owner that her customers appreciated the courtesy, she started keeping a tin of doggy treats behind the register, and forked one over to every pup. It was more than people expected, and it made the customers feel valued; they would always choose her store over the one just a few blocks over, and they told their friends so every chance they got.
Another example: there were also a handful of restaurants in this town, all doing a fine job of feeding folks good food. But at one of these restaurants, every night the chef would come out and visit with every single table in the place — periodically, and for (apparently) no reason, bringing out samples of desserts he was working on as a “sneak peek” sort of thing. It was more than people expected, and it made the customers feel valued. His restaurant was regularly full, and people recommended it to one another.
Seeing the pattern?
There’s a lot of talk about creating “raving fan” customers by under-promising and over-delivering; the problem with this approach is that most businesses don’t have the ability to manage their customers’ expectations so thoroughly. In order to over-deliver, first a business must figure out what their customers are expecting to happen — and only then can they exceed those expectations and effectively build happy customers that evangelize about their product or service.
Fortunately for anyone who’s looking to this model, the expectation at the moment is that most businesses have just terrible customer service. That’s because they’ve been able to get away with it and still keep customers; years of “press one if you’re calling about a product” produced only the mildest backlash. Indeed, it was only recently those customers have been able to talk to one another on a national level the way they would in a small town.
And to succeed with all that talking going on, you need to think like a small-town business — you need to stand head and shoulders above the competition. Surprise and impress your customers with your level of service and they’ll sing your praises until the end of time.
As an email marketer, have you ever taken the time to realize, in a world bombarded with a myriad of competing marketing messages, exactly how powerful it is that someone gives you their permission to contact them? Knowing this, wouldn’t you invest more resources into formulating proven strategies to build a reliable subscriber database and keep them coming back for more? If you think I’m getting a little ahead of myself, that’s probably because I am. Let’s take a couple of steps back and really soak it all in.
Growing your business online all starts with understanding your email list subscribers.
An email subscriber is an individual who opts in to receive any form of communication from an outside organization in exchange for valuable content or an incentivized offer. These are the individuals who have invested their time in getting to know you and choose to sign up on your website to receive further information and/or special offers.
As a living, breathing aspect of your email marketing campaign, it’s essential to feed and nurture your email list subscriber database with what it needs to grow and flourish. That being said, a lack of effort toward maintaining the health of your database can put the brakes on an otherwise promising campaign.
For most, surrendering your email address is like surrendering your social security card – a risk you will take if and only if you are confident in the fact that your privacy is assured in the hands of a reputable organization who will not sell or share your email address if the life of their business depended on it. People will opt in when they are intrigued by the content that you publish and when the timing is right, NOT when your sign-up box is “in your face” and overly intrusive. Similarly, consumers will sign up when they are confident that they will receive something of value in exchange for their email address or receive some “incentive” available that really sweetens the deal. Perhaps a free e-book with well-written and captivating subject matter or a free 30-day trial of your service offering will lure them in. However, when there are too many barriers to entry or too many requirements involved in the sign-up process, you have successfully compromised your lead. Consider simplifying your sign up form by gathering only the necessities from your subscribers and making other fields of information optional.
Have we been operating under the false notion that Bigger is Better? Do we focus more of our energy toward recruiting new subscribers than we do keeping them? How do you maximize your subscriber life cycle in an effort to not only gain new sign-ups, but also sustain ongoing, long-term relationships with them?
If you thought your long lost dating days were over, think again. Many of the tactics involved in attaining website or newsletter sign-ups align with those involved in attracting a long-time mate.
In the case that you’ve lost your game, let me give you a quick rundown – some “do’s” and “don’ts” if you will. Whether you choose to apply these to your dating life or to increasing your loyal subscriber base, that’s up to you.
Either way, keep this in mind:
DO seduce them with alluring stories about you. DON’T bore them to tears with useless information.
DO make them feel special. DON’T make them feel like they’re a dime a dozen.
DO be upfront and honest about your intentions. DON’T put up a deceiving front that gives them a false impression.
DO express your interest in establishing a relationship beyond the initial introduction. DON’T hit it and quit it.
DO make an effort to surprise them every once in a while. DON’T ever get too comfortable.
Therefore, I challenge you to put the vibe out. Take the time to really tap into the psychological drives of your consumers. Don’t be afraid to change it up and be a bit confrontational or edgy from time to time in your marketing strategy to show the versatility of your business. However, don’t give it all up on the first “date,” but rather leave a little to the imagination. You must learn to strike the right balance between full transparency and being a little mysterious at the same time.
Once you have a firm handle on how to approach your relationships with your online leads, don’t make the mistake of over sending. If your subscribers falsely assume they signed up for bi-weekly newsletters and suddenly get flooded with daily inbox messages, you can pretty much guarantee that this will lead to a high unsubscribe rate, and you can kiss future business goodbye. Likewise, don’t appear to be too “salesy” in your promotional content and remember to Avoid the Hard Sell at all costs. Deliver information that is relevant to your business and aligns with the interests of your target audience.
When you scrub the surface down to the basic foundation of email marketing, it’s all about availability, accessibility, and regularity of quality content. If you establish yourself as an industry expert and become viewed as a trustworthy source in the eyes of your subscribers, the power of word-of-mouth will take effect, and a flood of new leads will follow suit.
Still don’t believe the worth of investing heavily in your email subscribers? Read how to Calculate the Value of Your Customer Database. You will come to realize that your loyal subscribers are the greatest advocates of your brand.
You don’t have to be a large, multi-billion dollar corporation to leverage the power of email marketing or word-of mouth. It’s a matter of creating stellar content and the rest is history.
The search for new customers is an expensive business. So why not invest your resources into building a lasting and profitable business relationship with your existing customers? The answer lies in delivering an unparalleled level of customer service.
According to a National Federation of Independent Business Study, having good customer service ranked higher in assessing business success than either having a price advantage over your competitors or having a unique and valuable product or service. If you simply sell a quality product at a reasonable price, you are just like 95% of all other businesses out there doing what you do. People don’t buy products or services. They buy solutions to their problems. By adding exceptional customer service to the mix, you now offer a competitive advantage that acts to instill a sense of trust between business and consumer.
In business, you may have come across the phrase, “The customer is king,” or “The customer is always right.” Given the experiences you may have had in the past dealing with those who have unrealistic expectations or requests, outrageous claims, or downright dumb questions, it often becomes a nuisance to cater to the wants and needs of each and every customer. Whether you like it or not, your customers pay your bills.
It’s interesting to note that, based on a Harvard study, an unhappy customer will likely become a repeat customer 80% of the time if you are able to rectify the issues that they have encountered with your product or service. People are far more willing to spend their time and money where they are appreciated and valued.
Developing a customer service strategy for dealing with customers is really a no-brainer. The way that your customer service department manages the queries or complaints of current or prospective consumers has a direct impact on their perception of your business and its growth potential. There are limitless ways that you can deliver a positive customer service experience, but I will go ahead and just jot down a few to get you started.
The necessity of maintaining long term relationships with your customer database is discussed further in a blog entitled, It’s Time to Start Dating Your Customers.
Adopting a consumer centric approach will allow you attract more business while spending less on marketing. Allowing your customers to do the selling for you through referrals will further your word-of-mouth marketing strategy, the “holy grail” of positive brand recognition.
Individuals are far more apt to trust recommendations from people they know rather than from the advertisements of promotions that they see. Implement a service-first culture and mentality throughout your organization so that everyone is aware of the commitment they must make to your customers to ensure that they are valued and respected in all circumstances.
A good salesperson can sell anything to anyone once. Good customer service can bring them back, time and time again.