Newsletter: 10 Great Ways to Keep in Touch with your Customers
Spring is a great time to clean, and to plan for healthy business growth in the year to come. We've assembled a ten-step checklist of proven techniques you can use to grow your business using traditional marketing and technology that are effective, affordable and scalable as your business grows.
- Getting Contacts. Create methods to acquire people's email address and birthday, and the permission to contact them. This can be a sign-up sheet at your place of business, a fill-in box on your product information or service contract or a business card drop at a local event.
- Creating an Email List. Enter all your contact information, past and present, into your computer system. All too often people gather customer information, sometimes for many years, but do nothing with it. If this task intimidates you, then assign it as a one week project to a tech savvy associate, temp or intern.
- Clean and Consolidate your Data. Consolidate your data into one program, and make all entries uniform. For example, enter names as separate first name and last name, and convert birthdays and anniversary dates to numeric "10/11/2013" format. If you have customer or prospect information on paper, in your sales software, or if you're just getting started building your list, it's important that your data be entered electronically into software that allows you to easily export it to use in a variety of formats. Simple spreadsheet software works the best (E.g. Microsoft Excel, Google Docs Spreadsheet). Whatever you choose, you should be able to export a Comma Separated Value ".CSV" file, which is the simplest and most compatible format that can be imported into other programs.
- Verify Email Addresses. Do an emailing to verify your list, and to weed out bad addresses (bounce backs) and unsubscribes. This is very important in maintaining the quality of your list. Whether your mailing is a newsletter, coupon or event announcement, your first email should have a purpose and be appropriate for everyone on your list. It's also a great opportunity to tell people that you'll be using email/eCards in the year to come to offer exclusive opportunities and helpful information.
- Come Up With a Schedule. Time your emails so you are 'top of mind' immediately prior to your product or service's busy season. Being top of mind means that you will be thought of when a prospect is preparing to make a purchase decision. For example, a tax accountant or landscaper might send out their email in March, a realtor in April and a miniature golf course in May.
If you want a way to remain 'top of mind' for years to come, consider including birthday or anniversary dates in your contact list. This will enable you to send electronic greeting cards every year. (Stay tuned to our future blogs and newsletters for more on automated birthday and anniversary eCards.)
- Offer a coupon or incentive. Coupons have a "boomerang benefit;" that is, they come back. When a coupon is redeemed, it provides important information on the effectiveness of your email or direct mail campaign. Customers who redeem coupons are also excellent candidates for providing repeat business, and should be annotated as such in your customer database. This is especially useful information if you are doing conventional postal mail marketing or have a cost-per-piece promotion and want to control your budget. (Note: CorpNote does not charge based on the number of messages or surveys you send out.)
Incentives can encourage people to make a purchasing decision pre-season, or when your business volume is historically low. You can offer a discounted price for people who pre-order product or services a month in advance, or give people a time-scaled coupon that has more value the quicker you use it. For example, "Place your order before April 15 and Save 20%; before May 1 save 15%; before May 15 save 10%."
- Follow Up on your Customers' Purchases. The more you communicate with your clients, the better you can address their needs in the years to come, and the more 'top of mind' you'll remain. Follow-up communications can be a simple Thank You, a coupon offer for their next purchase or an online survey to assess their customer experience.
- Encourage two-way communication. By nature people want to be listened to, and if your business message is "all talk" then you can be sure some of your prospects will walk. Online surveys allow you to be aware of and address the specific needs of your customers. They also provide the opportunity to repair any dissatisfaction, which otherwise might go unnoticed and unresolved.
- Blow your own horn. We all try to work hard at improving our business, and people will equate your investment in your business as adding value to your service. Let people know what's new in your product pipeline or how you are improving your service by sending out quick (but regular) company news updates.
- People love getting something for "Free." Yet most of us can't afford to give away our product. So why not offer advice based on your experience and field of expertise. "Helpful Tips" is a great subject that you can share with others. Your free expert advice can be a true value to your readers, and it promotes trust between you and your prospects. If they see the value in the insight you're offering them, then they in turn can return that trust by offering you their business.
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