Ed Willmott

Ed Willmott

edlava

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.


In the past, businesses made money from simple transactions; I have something you want, and you have the money to buy what I’m selling. The deal was done. But the business world has changed. Customers want something different, something new, something personal. What customers really want is a relationship.

Think about your favourite brand – Apple? Audi? Ted Baker? Zara? Now think about why you like it – the products? The service? The sales staff? Or something different… Something you can’t quite put your finger on… Sounds familiar?

The brands we love connect with us on an emotional level. We don’t just like their products, we like their brand personality, we empathise with their corporate values and we trust the decisions they make. We enter into relationships with our favourite brands and we stay loyal to them.

However, like any relationship, a business-consumer bond is fragile. If you get it right you can retain custom, generate return sales and build a loyal following. But if you get it wrong, you can isolate customers and turn them against you.

Here, I’ve put together my top tips to building bonds, managing relationships and keeping customers happy. By following these simple ideas and tailoring them to your business, you too can create long-lasting connections and move forward into the future of business transactions.

Meet expectations

First things first, deliver what you say you will and make sure you can provide the same service again and again.

Your customers and clients need to trust you and trust is built by meeting expectations. When you tell a customer you’ll call them back, do it. When you promise to rectify an issue, do it. Trust is key to building great customer relationships.

Make it personal

No two customers are the same, but every customer wants to be considered as special and valued.

As a starting point, make a note of who customers are, what they buy, what they like, even what they dislike. You can then cater to their interests and make your service personal to them. The Tesco Clubcard is a prime example of this, rewarding customers for their loyalty and tailoring benefits to purchasing habits.

Listen

It’s a relationship, not a dictatorship. Customers hate to feel that everything is one way.

Instead, show them that you care about what they have to say. Show them respect and make sure they feel like more than just a sale.

Whether this is by engaging with them on social media, asking them to take part in improvement surveys, or, like business guru Pierre Danon, phoning up a selection and simply talking to them, demonstrate your commitment to making it reciprocal.

Respond

If it aint broke don’t fix it. If it is broken, get it sorted. It’s one thing to listen, it’s another to respond and react to what’s being said.

Customers want the latest, the newest, the most advanced and the coolest. Don’t keep your head in the sand, listen to how market requirements are changing and make sure you move with the times.

Ask your customer what they want, listen to what they need and react to meet expectations quickly and effectively. The decision is simple: keep ahead or prepare to watch your relationships waver and your customers find alternatives.

In conclusion, building and maintaining good relationships will always be the foundation to keeping customers happy. And remember, a happy customer is a loyal customer.

But how does your business approach customer relationships? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Why not leave me a comment or Tweet me @edwillmott.

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.

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:

Social media

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.

Digital marketing

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.

Direct mail

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.

Rewards

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.

But what works for your business? How do you approach retention? I’d love to hear examples and feedback, so why not leave me a comment, tweet me @edwillmott, or email [email protected]

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.

Reaching the right people at the right time with a targeted message is key, and I believe a media campaign can be the perfect way to increase brand awareness, engage audiences and build great relationships.

Whether it’s announcing the latest company news, launching a brand new product or revealing an innovative programme, keeping front of mind and reaching out to customers is all down to great media coverage.

People often ask me the secret to publicity and PR – how to take a press release and encourage top news outlets to feature the content.

The answer is simple – the perfect PR phone pitch.

Long gone are the days of emailing a press release to hundreds of reporters in a vague effort to achieve a few small news stories. Instead, you need a surefire way to get your news noticed and your company remembered.

To give you a helping hand, I’ve put together my top tips to making the perfect PR pitch:

Cut the small talk

It’s no surprise that the typical reporter receives hundreds of PR phone calls every day. Unfortunately there’s a limit on how many times they can discuss the weather without collapsing into boredom – so keep your call concise and clear.

If you can, be sure to get the key facts across in the first 15 seconds – most importantly the who, what, where, when, why and how.

If a journalist is interested in your story, they’ll have made a decision almost straightaway. Follow this up with a well-written press release and you’re on the right track to great media coverage.

Keep it simple

Although you may be an expert on your company, product or service, don’t expect a journalist to share the same specialist knowledge.

Just as you would write a press release, keep your pitch simple. A long speech about the latest technology or technical specifications is more likely to confuse and deter, rather than engage and entice.

Stick to the basics and focus on the benefits so that you engage with reporters, increasing the chance of seeing your news printed.

Believe in your story

There’s nothing worse than talking to a salesperson who doesn’t have any passion for their product, and it’s the same with PR – if you don’t believe in your story, neither will an editor.

However, if you show interest, enthusiasm and can demonstrate how relevant your story or idea is for readers, you’re more likely to find yourself featured in the press.

Timing

With more and more publications moving to a weekly, quarterly or annual print basis, it’s becoming ever more important to pick the perfect time to pitch.

Research the publications you want to target and know their deadlines. If the outlet goes to print on a Thursday, pitching a front-page splash on Wednesday afternoon is unlikely to be worth your while.

Planning is key, so don’t leave it to the last minute.

Don’t fall at the last hurdle

Even if you have the perfect pitch, a sloppy email or press release can be the difference between a lead story and missing out on being featured.

Grammar, spelling and syntax are essential. Proof your release, take time to send a follow-up email and make sure the publication has everything needed for a story to go to print.

Why not let me know if these tips have been helpful – drop me a line, find me on Facebook or tweet me at @edwillmott.

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.

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