What percent of your organization’s yearly sales comes from existing customers – 25%, 40%, 50%, 80%? Does your marketing budget have a line item specially dedicated to communicating with your customers?
Hugging your customers is good for business
If you put your mind to it, you can probably think of three indignities you’re putting your customers through right now. All because you still view and define them from a prospect point-of-view. To build a special relationship with customers, you have to actually view them as special. They have made a commitment to you and you must do the same for them. In other words, you have to view them differently than you view the rest of those prospects out there in sales land.
Conferring special status
From a communications standpoint, you can begin to establish a special relationship with your key customers by bundling together some tactics.
Don’t just talk. Listen to customers. Better yet, respond to them directly. Even better yet, evaluate their comments and act on them. Publish some of their opinions in your communications to customers (and prospects.)
Applied at the right time in the right place, they’re often all it takes to get a repeat sale. But remember, incentives aren’t just discounts or premiums. They also include special recognition where customers feel they are contributing to their professional community.
This can be information that’s not available to everyone in the market. And it’s not necessarily about your product or offering. It’s expert information that can help them do their job better or more efficiently. Be a curator.
Give them perks. Give them insider information (unless your a financial services firm.) Give them the first crack at new offerings. Give them advice, get their feedback and spread it around. Share it.
Delivering special status hugs
A good place to start is to organize your customers into different constituencies. Aggregate them by the key things that the group shares with each other. For example, you can form constituencies around customers who share common needs — like a certain type of solution, size of equipment, a niche segment of the market, a common problem, etc.
You and your huggees
Once these groups are organized, you and your organization play the role of the catalyst. You develop the forums and the logistics to bring them together around some kind of easy-to-use communications vehicle. These forums can form around thought-leadership publications, user groups, webinars, live seminars, virtual conferences and a variety of dialogue and social networking vehicles. The community and the communication vehicles around it form the platforms and the reach that these customers need to become advocates (and even salespeople) for your brand.
If you don’t believe this is a dynamic and powerful tool, just check out industry-related discussion groups on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.. Find out more about hugging customers in the Mobium eBook, Embrace. Embrace a customer today and reap the benefits tomorrow.
Image: Flickr by Cheetah100