I recently had the pleasure of seeing Ken Blanchard speak. Ken is the author of “The One Minute Manager” and a new book titled “Lead with LUV,” which he co-authored with Colleen Barrett, president emeritus of Southwest Airlines.
One of the key concepts of Ken’s presentation is: if you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will. I couldn’t agree more. I would argue that the number-one role of an email marketer is to understand the customer, so I’m always surprised when marketers misread their customers or simply don’t understand what customers are looking for in their relationship.
Getting to know customers and their needs isn’t a difficult thing to do, and it doesn’t require expensive research. Here are some easy and inexpensive ways to get to know your customers:
Just ask. As simple as it sounds, one of the best ways to understand the needs and wants of customers is to ask them. This can be done several ways. Include a short survey in an e-newsletter, in social media posts or on your website. To make it easy for customers to respond, use a dropdown menu for answers and give customers the ability to include more detail in comment boxes. Develop a preference center for marketing emails, which allows customers to determine what kind of information to receive and how often they want to hear from you. For example, a growing logistics company regularly sends its customers surveys via email. The answers they receive are used to segment their audience for more relevant marketing campaigns.
Monitor the conversation. Whether you know it or not, your customers are already talking about you and are providing valuable information about their needs. Are you listening? Social media channels provide the platform for many of these conversations. Stay on top by monitoring what’s being said about your company and industry. Become a part of the dialogue and address questions and concerns immediately. Also, review your reply-to addresses in email marketing campaigns. If you are not monitoring these addresses, chances are you’re missing important customer feedback. A software executive I know started an online forum for his customers to interact with each other. This forum provided such good information that it became his product roadmap.
Reward customers for input. Make contributing information a game for your customers, and you will benefit. This can be done through contests, sweepstakes, raffles, etc., and the prize doesn’t have to be expensive. Retailers regularly print out receipts with a survey URL, offering a coupon as a reward for participating. We ask our customers to tell us what they want us to write about in our blog and in our support newsletter. The payoff is getting a question answered.
Finally, in today’s online world, it’s easy to communicate with customers via email and social networks, but don’t forget face-to-face communication. Try to physically visit customers and spend time discussing how you can serve them better. People like to know who they’re working with and will appreciate your effort.
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