Despite sustained economic growth during the first and second quarters of 2013, businesses nationwide are still faced with challenging market conditions.
In fact, with few companies reporting notable share price rises, minimal consumer spending figures and high lending charges across the UK, it seems that we have significant distance to go before reaching dry ground.
With this in mind, more and more businesses are looking towards marketing initiatives to maintain income and stay afloat. In particular, focus is being driven towards a customer-relations approach.
Although a simple principle, keeping your customers front of mind is essential to long-term business success. Long gone are the days of asymmetric communication, identifying quick leads and hard selling. Instead, focus must shift towards listening to your customers, reacting to their changing requirements, building trust and developing relationships.
Listening, however, is something often overshadowed by sales targets, promotional strategies and finance plans. But with daily reports of business bankruptcy, liquidation and administration, can you really afford not to?
Retaining customers: There is no straightforward equation to ensure a high customer retention rate. This said, we do know that trust, confidence and self-association are all key to building emotional bonds. Although this sounds complex, building and retaining trust is relatively simple. In fact, it should come naturally from good business practice.
I’ve put together some of the most popular examples to get you started:
From Facebook and Twitter to YouTube, Pinterest and blogging, social media gives a direct communications channel to engage with stakeholders, interact directly, respond to queries and monitor feedback. Free to set up, simple to run and easy to manage, social media is one of the most effective relationship management tools.
With over 85% of the population online, 74% using email and nearly 35% owning a tablet device, digital marketing techniques, such as infographics and e-newsletters, can provide a great way to stay in contact and build relationships.
Personalised, targeted and cost-effective, e-newsletters are a great way to keep front of mind, tell customers about the latest news and views, as well as ask for feedback. Cloud-based software, such as Mailchimp and Bronto, can distribute information free of charge, as well as provide open and click-through reports, giving useful data capture information.
Developing relationships, building confidence and engaging customers relies on consistent impact and repetition. Although historically used to advertise, direct mail is a great engagement tool. You can let customers know about the latest products, provide discount offers, give them something for nothing and easily keep front of mind.
Low cost and powerful, direct mail is still the most widely used marketing tool and a great tactic to build relationships.
Something as simple as saying thank you can help to retain custom. From loyalty cards and vouchers to repeat purchase rewards, events and priority services, delivering a personal approach and ensuring each customer is considered a valued individual can develop strong bonds.
This can even be integrated with social media, digital marketing, direct mail and other marketing tools to ensure increase influence and ensure communications efficiency. Although just a few ideas of customer relations tactics, the tactics above give insight into the importance of listening, rewarding, responding and actioning.
Ed Willmott is a PR executive at Lava, an award-winning marketing communications agency in Lincoln. He is a B2B comms specialist, as well as a published academic. Ed has a first class PR degree from the University of Lincoln and previously worked as a freelance for the NHS, Nestle and the BBC.