15 ideas for fostering customer loyalty

 admin  15/Aug/17  no responses.

B2B companies with high customer engagement scores achieve 50% higher sales, 34% higher profitability and 55% higher wallet share. Acquiring new customers is between five to 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones. Increasing customer retention by just 5 percent boosts profits by 25 to 95 percent.

 

It’s clear – customer loyalty pays, big. Yet if you were honest, could you say that your growth strategy was equally balanced to focus on winning new customers and retaining old ones? If not then it’s time to consider what this could be costing you.

 

The following fifteen simple, fast and effective customer loyalty ideas will get you started on the road towards securing some of the rather impressive stats up there.

 

1. The number one rule of customer loyalty – treat them as people, not numbers

 

Be inventive when it comes to treating your customer base as humans. Could you do away with account numbers, in favour of using business names? Could you send birthday cards each year to the main buyer and/or Christmas cards over the festive period? Another simple idea along the same line includes hand-written thank you notes that are sent every now and then to show your appreciation.

 

2. Get to know your customers all over again

 

If your business provides services then get back to basics with some good old-fashioned one-to-one time. Taking time out every now and then to simply have lunch, to stop and listen to your customers and learn from those on the front lines of your target market can be enlightening – you can pick up new pain points, find out about emerging problems in their industry and uncover new ideas for fresh services (the official name for this is “customer development” but in reality it’s simply solid customer service).

 

3. Grow your social following with a personal touch and exclusive offers

 

There are two important pointers for creating loyalty via social media – first, you need a distinctively human voice otherwise you’ll just be another company amongst many, and second, you must provide a reason to tempt people to click Like or Follow.

 

So let your followers in behind the scenes of your office with interesting stories, team updates and photos, make announcements when you hit a certain follower number – thanking them for their presence and offer promotions that aren’t available anywhere else.

 

4. Shine a spotlight on your customers

 

Show an appreciation of your customers by providing them with promotion of their company – include them in a Tweet or feature them on your website. This attention cultivates a sense of pride and creates a mutually beneficial business relationship.

 

5. Create a customer loyalty scheme – and make it both memorable and valuable

 

The top two reasons why consumers stop participating in a loyalty program are: the program did not provide offers that were of interest (56%), and it was too hard to earn points for rewards (54%).

 

The research snippet above makes it clear that your loyalty programme needs two things – it needs to offer lucrative points per purchase for prizes that are deemed worthwhile come the time to cash in. Your scheme needn’t be complex, either – a simple cardboard card-based points system will do (although there are now plenty of loyalty apps out there that you may want to check out, such as FreshStamp, Loyalzoo and Stamp Me).

 

Leading on from the point on social media, you could also offer points to customers who ‘check in’ via Facebook.

 

Alternatively, if you’d really rather not enter the world of loyalty schemes (which are unavoidably time-consuming to a certain extent) why not simply offer an annual discount that comes around on your customers’ birthdays?

 

6. Use a CRM to record the little details

 

You may already use a Customer Relationship Management platform (such as Salesforce, Zoho or Capsule), however are you using it effectively to record the little details of conversations – where your customers are going on holiday, how their children have progressed in the latest college exams? Remembering information such as this really demonstrates you care (and it does so without you needing the memorisation powers of Rain Man!).

 

7. Send some sweet treats

 

Sometimes nothing says, ‘we value your custom!’ more than a delicious tin of cookies – a simple, affordable and tasty show of commercial appreciation.

 

8. Offer a monthly surprise upgrade

 

If you offer a spectrum of products or services that range in terms of their price points why not run a monthly surprise upgrade – this way you can announce a winner on social media and in the process, they’ll hopefully reply saying how great the next level of service or product is. This prize could also form part of your customer loyalty program – and could be a reward for the highest-ranking customer that month.

 

9. Put on an annual party

 

Throwing an annual party to thank your customers provides the perfect opportunity to speak with all of your contacts in person. This needn’t be a red carpet and canopies affair, either – simple (and cost effective) ideas include a picnic, barbeque or wine tasting event – perfect for fun and mingling while not being stuffy.

 

10. Bricks and mortar store? Hand out a few freebies every now and then

 

If you have a physical store location the offer of a freebie can be a simple way of welcoming your customers over your threshold and making them feel valued. This could be as straightforward as free coffee on tap, or it could be based on the stock that you carry.

 

11. Send cards for unusual, lesser known holidays

 

Your customers may already expect Christmas cards from the more motivated of companies, but what about cards for special events on the days that may be more relevant to them? How about National ‘I Love Horses Days’ on July 15th, ‘Day of the Horse’ on December 13th or ‘Help a Horse Day’ on 26th April? These could coincide with a promotion or a donation given to a horse charity of a specially selected customer of your choice (or the highest-ranking customer of your loyalty scheme for that month).

 

12. Get your customers involved in improving their own experience

 

Ask and ye’ shall receive – and these words were never truer than when asking customers for their suggestions as to how their experience can be made better. It’s a great idea to track these requests, so that if and when you act on a suggestion you can contact the customer again, thank them once more for their input and tell them you’ve implemented their suggestion – there’s simply no better way to demonstrate how you’re listening to your customer base.

 

13. Provide your staff with freedom to express themselves

 

No one likes dealing with customer services reps who they feel to be impersonal – so relax the rules a little and allow for phone calls and emails that are personal and friendly, not script written and templated.

 

14. Send gift cards to randomly thank your valued customers

 

Another way to harness the customer data you have is to send gift cards to match your customers’ tastes (that new book she’s been raving about? WH Smith will do nicely, a dedicated coffee lover? A simple £5 Starbucks card will be perfect).

 

15. Celebrate your customers’ milestones with them

 

Whether your customer’s business is soon to be moving and expanding, or a member of their team has just had a baby, celebrating alongside them and sending a present, card or flowers can really demonstrate that you care.

 

Customer loyalty is akin to commercial gold dust – rare and inherently valuable, however it needn’t have the price tag to match.

 

Let’s talk about your customers and how we can make them love your business, your people and your products or services, at an effective price point for an attractive return on your investment. Get in touch for an informal chat about just what’s possible – contact the PressPoint Countryside & Equestrian team – call our experts on +44 (0)1953 851513 or email: equestrian@presspoint.co.uk.

 

 

Service and sales – powerful partners for profit

 admin  15/Jun/17  no responses.

Stellar customer service – it’s good business practice, and yet many companies drastically underestimate its value in terms of pence, pounds and profit. Many businesses often see customer service as a necessary cost, an outgoing or another liability on the balance sheet – rather than the asset it should be regarded as. Here we explain why you should shake up this line of thinking, and how you can ensure that your customer service is working as it should – generating revenue and growing your business, day in, day out.

 

If you thought that selling is about sales, think again. Have you always thought that growing your sales comes back to the selling of your product or service? Forget it. Selling begins and ends with customer service. This notion very much reflects the well-known business adage that people don’t buy from businesses, but from people. And if you’re not yet convinced, try the following stats on for size:

– “Happy customers tell nine people about their experiences with a company on average” – Groove HQ

– “5-20% is the probability of selling to a new prospect, while the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%” – Marketing Metrics

– “70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated” – McKinsey

 

Five steps for impressive customer service (and a steady flow of sales)

 

Incredible, profit boosting customer service needn’t demand a complex, costly process – nor is it only achievable for the well-known brands of the equestrian world. Here are five simplistic steps to ensure that every interaction your customers have with your business, is one worthy of telling their friends about.

 

1. Plan, plan, plan

 

“81% of companies with strong capabilities and competencies for delivering customer experience excellence are outperforming their competition” – Peppers & Rogers Group.

 

Amazing customer service doesn’t happen by itself, instead it must be planned for. Take the opportunity to sit down with your team to talk about what would be an amazing customer buying experience. Brainstorm ideas as to what, as a company, you want your customers to think, feel and say about your business. You should finish the session by drawing up at least ten original, innovative ideas for improving customer service (check out our inspiration for ensuring your customers feel valued later in this feature if you’re struggling for ideas).

 

For those readers out there who are sole entrepreneurs, this pointer can be just as effective when alone – try voicing ideas out loud and asking friends and family what they think of your potential ideas.

 

2. Get to grips with your customers’ negative experiences

 

“It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience” -Understanding Customers by Ruby Newell-Legner.

 

Tackling poor customer service, or at least your customers’ perception of poor service, is every bit as vital as putting in place steps to create a solid standard of service for the future. You need to understand the common problems and frustrations that customers frequently encounter when dealing with your business.

 

In order to do this, you must undertake research both internally and externally. Within your business, it will be those who process orders and who speak with customers on a daily basis, who perhaps have the best idea as to the complaints and problems your customers face.

 

Externally, when it comes to your customers, you’ll likely need to provide some incentive for your client base to share their views with you, especially when it comes to complaints that they may have (after all, 96% of customers who have a complaint, don’t voice it of their own accord – Ruby Newell-Legner).

 

Thankfully this could be as affordable and as simple as running a prize draw to win a hamper of your products, or a free month’s worth of services, just for sharing a few opinions with you – simply design the offer to balance customer temptation with affordability.

 

“Reports of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience” – White House Office of Consumer Affairs.

 

3. Cut out distractions

 

Customer service often falls down due to two core reasons – first, inattentiveness and second, complacency. Often, these are brought about by distractions – the day to day business operations that become so pressing that the customer (who should be the centre of your world) gets forgotten or neglected. In order to overcome these common pitfalls, you must streamline your processes and identify common problems that are impacting upon your business productivity.

 

You can also help your team in re-focussing on the customer each month by arranging frequent brainstorming meetings to assist with step 4.

 

4. Track, analyse, tweak and improve

 

You need to put in place a structure to track the performance of your customer service efforts. After all, even with all the impressive, original ideas in the world, and despite any improvements made to your day to day operations, how will you know whether your efforts are reflected in the average customer’s experience with your company?

 

A simplistic measurement for tracking could be referrals – new customers who’ve found their way to you due to the words of a happy customer. Further ideas could include the counting of customer emails that include a positive comment, totting up how many complaints you receive or monitoring talk on social media – and whether it’s illustrating growing customer happiness.

 

5. Turn customer complaints into an opportunity to shine

 

“For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent” – White House Office of Consumer Affairs.

 

Don’t think of an unhappy customer as a dent to your reputation or an obstacle that cannot be overcome. The savviest of companies see complaints as an opportunity to impress. This begins with acknowledging the issue at hand and wholeheartedly showing your customer that you feel their frustration; thank them for raising the problem, and promise to come back to them within 24 hours. When resolving their issue, explain that a process has been put in place so the problem doesn’t occur to anyone else in the future – and send them a thank you, in the form of a discount, treat or freebie.

Four interesting ideas for making your customers feel valued

 

“On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase” – White House Office of Consumer Affairs.

 

1. Take a note of each customer’s birthday (only the date and month, not the year) to send them a card on the big day

 

For your most valued customers you may want to up the stakes a little with a bottle of wine, some chocolates or some sort of voucher. This really makes business personal – a clear demonstration that you appreciate your customer.

 

2. Send Christmas cards and include a hand written note in each

 

In the business era of email and automated letters, a hand written note can surprise and delight. As part of your annual Christmas card rounds, why not include handwritten letters to demonstrate your gratitude for their on-going business? Make it specific and make it personal to the receiver – and don’t let your efforts down by choosing the cheapest Christmas cards either! If applicable, you may also show your support by selecting charity cards.

3. Create a loyalty scheme

 

Loyalty schemes are perhaps the clearest example of how great customer service translates to sales – a simple way to reward your customer for their loyalty. Such a scheme needn’t be complex – it could be as straightforward as a Coffee shop style card and stamp, or it could be online based – with your team accessing a single spreadsheet to tot up sales towards a pre-defined number to retrieve a reward.

 

4. Randomly cover the cost of an order

 

Everyone loves a freebie, and this is no truer than when it’s unexpected. A lovely way to surprise your customer is to cover the cost of an order every now and then – this could be one randomly selected customer per month (the frequency will depend upon your exact business and the average cost of an order). Just make sure you capitalise on this treat by mentioning it on social media and putting out an update each time you gift a free order (you’ll need the permission of the ‘winning’ customer however to include their name and the full details as to the gift – and if they’re happy to, a photo would be extra impactful).

 

Amazing customer service and healthy sales go hand in hand – perhaps the most natural partners for blossoming profits and bolstered customer bases. Yet it’s not all plain sailing – delivering incredible customer service that people talk about demands effort, consideration and continual analysis as to what’s working, what’s not and how you can improve on your efforts.

 

If you want a professional hand in creating a repeatable process for great customer service, we’re here to help. Call our team on: +44 (0)1953 851513 or email us on: equestrian@presspoint.co.uk and we’ll be back in touch by return.

 

 

A View from PressPoint – So the sales begin

 Vanessa B  05/Dec/16  no responses.

A View From Presspoint - So The Sales Begin

The traditional January or Summer Sales were a way of clearing old stock before restocking shelves and warehouses with the new season’s products.

However, it seems retailers are now using any and every opportunity to offer their customers discounted products, in the hope of boosting sales temporarily and moving mass volumes of stock.

In the equestrian market, more and more retailers are feeling the pressure imposed by trends in the wider retail world, leading to many following Black Friday, Cyber Monday as well as January Sales. While it is ultimately the retailer’s choice whether or not to participate, there is almost an expectation from customers that discounts will be available. This may even damage sales in the run up to one of these retails events. Who is going to be purchasing anything on the day before Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

Sales, or the absence of them, are a great test of customer loyalty. While it is harder to shop around equestrian shops physically (many of which are few and far between in parts of the country), the ease provided by online shopping outlets means customers can easily find the same product at a number of different price points. This leads to people discounting their brand in order to be able to compete with one another, and ultimately devaluing their brand.

Sales only works if you get the volume. Cutting your profit margins and putting more work into achieving a higher number of discounted sales (rather then a small number at full price) is quite frankly, unsustainable for most smaller businesses. While you may want to wow customers with huge savings and prices that can’t be beaten, this must be done appropriately for each individual business. Consider what was paid, how many products are predicted to sell and how large a price drop you can sensibly offer. These considerations come hand in hand with more pressing matters – what will happen in the long run if you don’t manage the predicted sales and will the business be able to recuperate any losses incurred.

While it may seem ‘the thing to do’, do all these discounting opportunities throughout the year actually benefit a business? Rather than steady and sustained profit making, is it not just causing margins to fluctuate?

This brings us onto the topic of discounts. When used effectively, discounts can boost the footfall of buyers tremendously, but on the other hand, they can actually destroy price integrity. Offer a product in a Sale and people think they’ve found a bargain, however offer the same product with a general discount, the buyer may question the quality and believe it to be old stock or inferior in some way.

Discounts may ultimately damage your customer loyalty too. Having paid a set price for an item, then to find it discounted for no apparent reason, the customer may infer that they had been overpaying previously – not an effective way to maintain client relationships.

Customers might mock the likes of DFS, for always having a sale on. However, it is those self-same customers, who will vote with their feet when the chance comes along to buy a product cheaper, or will leap at the chance to inform you that it’s 99p cheaper at someone else’s store.

In the end, the answer to some of these modern shopping phenomenon’s might just be good old fashioned customer service. And yes you can offer excellent on-line customer service – take a look at that retail paragon John Lewis. If you offer fantastic customer service, you might just find that customers don’t begrudge that extra few pounds come next Christmas.

Who’d be a retailer? Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Your sales funnel: the key to creating consistent business

 Vanessa B  11/Oct/16  no responses.

Your sales funnel: the key to creating consistent business

A sales funnel is a strategic process that, in essence, creates customers. It’s a literal step-by-step process that transitions potential customers or clients, into purchasers and repeat purchasers.

The ‘sales journey’ is broken down into stages – with tools such as emails, blogs, videos and eBooks aiding your potential client in moving along in their decision making process.

There is a compelling argument for rural businesses (which form a huge part of the equestrian industry), having a set strategy in place to harness digital marketing in this way. Namely that they need to make the most of online marketing, as they lack the footfall and on-street exposure that inner town/city and urban businesses benefit from. What’s more, for those in the business-to-business realm, it’s also worth considering that your competitors may already have this form of strategy in place.

If you don’t have a sales funnel already set up, then it’s certainly an element of your marketing that you should consider. Here we take a look at how a sales funnel can achieve the goal that every business aims for – a non-stop flow of consistent business.

What is a sales funnel?

A sales funnel is a journey where businesses will move through three groups:

Leads > Prospects > Customers

Let’s expand on these terms (which may at first appear to be merely marketing jargon).

Leads

Leads are the businesses in your target market who are yet to know anything about your brand, product or service.

You need to make leads AWARE that you exist.

Prospects

Prospects are those businesses in your target market who, after some marketing steps (such as you publishing a blog post or sending an email to a buyer), have discovered your company.

Your need to make your prospects INTERESTED in your offering.

Customers

Customers are the straight forward group – those businesses who then make a purchase. However, even at this stage, whilst they may have decided to purchase, they may still be considering what package, product or service they want from you.

You need to help your customers make the right DECISION

Moving your target consumer through the sales funnel

AwarenessWhen a prospect gains awareness of your brand, they have realised that they have a problem that needs solving. The first point of contact may be a blog post, paid advert or social media post.

InterestInterest is shown when the prospect begins to seek out a solution to his/her issue. Frequently this could be through a problem (rather than product or service) focused search.

For example, an equestrian retailer with a desire to boost their profit margins, may type in “equestrian retail how to boost profit”; however, they wouldn’t type in “equestrian wholesaler” or “horse rug manufacturer”. This is where content creation is critical. Your content strategy should be based solely around providing advice that helps your target market address their problem. Through your content you should subtly suggest that your product or service solves their problem. If you successfully create content of value (e.g. that understands your audience) then this suggestion will be taken care of.

Taking the same example from above, an equestrian wholesaler may create a blog post on the products with the largest margin – and go on to explain how to boost sales of said product. Meanwhile, a horse rug manufacturer may focus solely on educating businesses as to how they can make more sales, or more margin, through promotions of their product.

DecisionWhen a buyer reaches the decision stage the individual is ready to commit to your solution. Through the various points of contact (such as email, blogs etc.) they will have reached a stage where they trust your business. However they’re still exploring – considering various packages, options, products and mulling over available information to inform this purchase. Common tools to convert at this stage include sales pages, direct calls and brochures (although again, this all depends on your business).

If we continue with the examples we’ve already spoken of, then wholesalers or manufacturers may well send brochures to help the buyer in deciding which products are right for them; if the product in question is complex, then video content (such as an explainer video) may help the buyer in better understanding their needs, and how a product may fit within their range.

Beyond the three stages…

When a business makes a purchase the funnel has achieved its aim. However beyond this stage, for some, there are further stages that create a loop. This doesn’t apply to all forms of companies, however given that you’re in the business-to-business realm, it’s likely that your target market does have repeat needs for your product or service. If they do, then further marketing may ensure that continual communication secures ongoing business (which can be achieved through email marketing, blogging, direct mail and phone calls).

 

The sales funnel – Essential tools for each stage

Social networks (Awareness)

Social networks are intertwined with every aspect of personal and business life – you simply can’t afford to ignore them. First, begin by understanding your target market’s social media habits – find out where they’re spending their time, and focus your efforts on those platforms. Look for networking groups for the equestrian community and pages that focus on industry news. Get involved in conversations and contribute your knowledge.

Consider whether there are niche social platforms built for your exact area of business. For those who work in the niche equestrian creative realm.

Comment on other pages and profiles with valuable insight (note here that the operative word is valuable – don’t simply spam your link wherever you’re able).

You may also want to explore social media paid adverts – to serve up your content in front of people who’ve already shown interest in similar companies.

Cold calling and direct mail (Awareness)

Whilst we have focused so far solely on digital means of discovering leads, that’s not to say that traditional methods don’t hold value – indeed, for some businesses they may well be the most effective of all (particularly where the target markets don’t live their lives online).

Cold calling when undertaken by professionals can be incredibly effective. Despite what you may have heard, this medium results in companies securing 50% of sales when they’re the first business to contact the buyer in question.

Equally, if you’re dead set on a less aggressive tact, then direct mail may well be the way forward. This too, has garnered somewhat of an unsavoury reputation – when in fact the stats behind this form of marketing are illuminating.

“Direct mail outperforms all digital channels by nearly 700% in terms of response rates” (DMA)

Networking events (Awareness)

Putting a human face to a brand name and meeting people in person can pay literal dividends. Interactions at networking events can also help your discover new ways in which you can solve the problems that your customers face. This form of building a customer base is often essential if you’re a business-to-business company. These events may also have speaking opportunities – which are a great way of demonstrating your knowledge.

Blogs (Awareness and interest)

Blogging is so powerful for capturing the interest of leads and educating them onwards to becoming a customer. When creating content for your blog, consider using the 80/20 rule – 80% content that’s useful and user focused, 20% content that’s promotional and product or service focused.

Downloadable content/course (Interest)

Known as lead magnets, free content is ideal for harvesting those emails that could then be harnessed for one-to-one communications. Couple an informative eBook or video course that helps your target business in understanding their problem, and you’ll also be building trust and a brand image that shouts ‘go-to expert/supplier or manufacturer’.

Webinars (Decision and action)

Webinars provide a great way of opening up communication – when people view webinars (at least when done correctly) they feel connected to a business. What’s more, having invested some of their precious time, they’re already half committed to a purchase.

Video (All stages)

Video explainers are engaging, bite-size consumable and social media friendly. If you can create video content that addresses your target market’s current problem, or explores their concerns just before they’re ready to commit, then you have a tool that will seamlessly move an individual from one stage of the funnel, to the next.

Ultimately perfecting your sales funnel can be a long and demanding process, however the results achieved with an effective sales funnel in place can be practically unparalleled.

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If you need even further guidance as to how you can get to grips with content marketing, feel free to contact us.

Tel: 01953 851513. Email: mail@presspoint.co.uk