Are Sales Training Your Customers?

Have you noticed that everything is on sale right now?  Businesses are trying to recover from lost revenues. So many are focusing on slashing prices and having sales. It’s a bonus for everyone right now, but are sales training your customers?

I don’t know about you, I’ve lost count how many sales emails I get daily. 

I had a friend, let’s call her Kathy, who had a beauty salon. When things got slow, Kathy had a special.  Discounted services. I remember a conversation we had…

Sales train customers to wait for them.
Sales Training Customers Photo by Justin Lim Unsplash

The high price of sales

“I’m so excited, things are picking up, Judi. Putting that special on Facebook really worked.”

“I’m delighted for you,” I responded but something I’d heard once kept niggling at the back of my brain. I didn’t say anything as I certainly didn’t want to be a downer.

Two days later I got a call,” We’re booked a month out!  Clients are coming out of the woodwork for our specials.”

So several months later when things slowed down again, Kathy ran more specials. The books again filled and Kathy was all smiles.

I didn’t see Kathy for a while, then dropped in to visit with her at her salon. 

The phone rang and she raised a finger to pause our conversation and reached to answer it. “Hi, this is Kathy, how can I help you.?”

I leaned against the counter waiting for her to finish.  

“Specials? I’m sorry, you missed our offer last month.”

From where I was standing, I couldn’t miss the caller’s response. “Oh well.  Could you let me know when you’re having your next special?  I’ll just wait.”

My gaze flicked to Kathy’s face…it was crestfallen.  She had trained her clients to wait for sales.

I’ve seen this scenario repeated over and over by diverse businesses over the years.  

Many department stores actually initially price goods above the MSRP knowing they will have to mark them down. They skim the cream with the first sales.  Then in 5-6 weeks maximum, they start dropping the price….and it never goes back to normal.  They have to move it out before the next batch comes in.

I used to love shopping with my girlfriend at Nordstroms in San Francisco.  Our mission…to see what great new stuff had reached the markdown stage.

Think of your local furniture or mattress store… they are ALWAYS having some sort of sale.  Instead of adding value or creating a desire another way, they focus on discounting products. Sure, we know they mark them up then mark them down, but they’ve trained customers to watch for the word sale.

Are sales training your customers?

It’s important to keep in mind, our marketing techniques teach our customers what to expect from us. If we’re always having sales, they lump us in with budget discounters.  

It’s the halo effect or guilt by association. 

While it might be a win for businesses and consumers in a pandemic when most people’s funds are crunched, this can become a fixed mindset or cycle. 

Sales will become more and more dependent on the discounts you offer. They will become commonplace and expected.

With lower profits, it gets progressively harder for a business to stay viable. What you need…alternatives.

At the same time, your brand’s value is dropping in the eyes of the consumer because of the constantly discounted prices.

3 Alternative Techniques

There are actually lots more than just three techniques, but these are particularly suited to those with an online presence be it products or services.

As an alternative to a discount, they tend to lean on scarcity and urgency as motivators.

Transparent Pricing alternatives

Transparent pricing is about showing “how” you control costs so you can offer a product at significantly lower than a competitor.  You feature both the quality of your product, and the steps you take to control costs.  

For example, Everlane is an online eCommerce operation.  They have few brick and mortar stores, no traditional advertising, and offer no discounts. 

This snippet from a Google ad explains their concept well:

Timeless Pieces Made with High-Quality Materials Designed to Last for Years. Shop Modern Luxury Basics. Ethically Sourced, Radically Priced. Ethically Made. Radical Transparency. Modern Basics. Types: A-Grade Cashmere, Luxe Alpaca, Soft Cotton, Italian Merino.

A look at their website confirms they have high-end goods and very few items on sale. I would assume those that are…weren’t good sellers. 

They also incorporate a social responsibility aspect with their 100% Human line. A portion of all sales benefits the ACLU human rights efforts. 

Subscription alternatives

Dollar Shave Club is one of the best known of this type of marketing. By cutting out the middlemen, they went direct to consumer, D2C. They went with a simple basic product…a razor.  Their target market 20-30 year-olds who wanted a razor without the frills.

For their subscription, they no longer have to remember to buy razors. The products are auto-shipped on a monthly basis.

This model used in the alternative health industry extensively.  The challenge for the consumer is keeping up with their product usage so that they don’t end up with a backlog. 

It’s a fact, some people use more than others.  Options on the delivery schedule might resolve this issue and increase the customer lifetime value.

A variation on this theme are Membership programs.  Commonly, there is an annual or monthly fee automatically charged. The member then either gets automatic gift packs or can use their “credit” to select items they’d like to purchase.  Wineries and wine clubs often use this style.

Freebies and Extras

The products are sold at full price. For each purchase level, which varies from company to company, you get bonus gifts. 

I’ve seen this used with cosmetic lines like MAC and IT. Cosmetics have a broader markup, especially D2C. The company can expose buyers to products they either love or haven’t tried.

The perfume industry also uses this format to give extras with good cause.  Why?

Studies by psychologists revealed the people would rather have a 2-for-1 than getting something at 50% value.  They transfer the value of the priced item to the gift item…regardless of its true value.

A clothing company for surfers called Surfstitch also uses this model. They offer free gifts at the $100 and $200 mark.

The type of program you might want to incorporate could be one of the above or other alternatives.  All rely on value, convenience, scarcity, and or urgency instead of giant markdowns.

When I work with clients, I want to understand their goals and ideal customer. Then I can recommend one of the various strategies to build brand value and loyalty without constant sales.

Marketing Team for Growing Your Business

Marketing + customer service are your secret weapon for growth
Marketing + Customer service + client input

You have a secret marketing team at your disposal to effectively grow your alternative health, wellness, or CBD business and it’s probably closer than you realize. It’s your customer support team and your customers themselves in addition to your marketing team. They need to be closely working with marketing.

A colleague and I were talking about this recently. He’s been a copywriter for over 15 years. One of his clients suddenly had a huge drop in his business. In less than six months their revenues had dropped over 40%. 

Desperate, he called my friend, Joshua, and asked him to come to help them sort it out and he would make the arrangements for Joshua’s travel.

Joshua flew to their headquarters for the staff meeting. He needed to talk to all the key people to see what had changed.

When he arrived to the meeting, the head of the marketing department wasn’t there. Joshua stopped and told them he couldn’t progress without everyone there. The owner made a call and an hour later the department head arrived.

Like I do, after listening carefully, Joshua started asking questions. He started digging. The products hadn’t changed. Pricing hadn’t changed appreciably. Orders, shipping, and delivery were all handled the same.

He asked to see the copy they had been sending out to customers over the past few months. 

The owner liked the new messages. He found it hard to believe that the changes they had made could cause such a dramatic change in sales. 

Could a marketing change really do that?

Instead of trying to convince him, Joshua asked who had written the copy. Turning to her, he said, “Please write the next piece that’s to go out. Do it just the way you have been…no changes. Okay?”

Slightly bewildered she agreed. Then he turned to the owner and said, “I’ll also write copy for the same content. I want you to A/B test them and we’ll see what your buyers say. Agreed?”

The owner agreed and they sent the test emails out.  The copy my friend wrote outperformed their staff writer’s copy 20:1.  Why?  He wrote directly to their target market and their mindset. He didn’t try to change them from who they were.

Management had lost connection with their buyer’s wants, needs, and mindset.

We can’t afford client marketing disconnects in the midst of this crisis.

Have you noticed it’s harder to get answers to questions right now?  I have. In my client work I’ve noticed they are slower to get back to me. 

Businesses that I deal with are slower to get back to me. Some are even completely ignoring their customer’s requests for support or have reasonable ways to be reached.  

It’s a recipe for decline, loss of sales, and a decrease in customer retention.

The answers are at your fingertips or the other end of your cell phone.  Your best secret weapon is your customer support staff and existing clients.  

Your customer support team is your “first-responders”.  Just like medics and firefighters, there are the first ones your customers interact with. They hear the stories. They know what’s working and where the problems are.

In my client work, I have found there is often a big disconnect between management and customer service. Management may assume they have it all delegated. 

Numerous studies and surveys verify this.  About 75% of management thinks they have great customer service.  Only about 25% of customers agree. 

Management may assume that they are on target. It’s easy to not accurately connect marketing strategies, investments, and focus with what the customer service team is experiencing.

Here are three techniques to lessen this disconnect and empower your business to move forward.

Talk to your real marketing team…

Have a conference with your customer service team with your marketing team listening in. Start by listening to what they are experiencing.  What’s going right? What are the concerns they hear the most often? Where, if any are the breakdowns?

Is there a product that has developed an issue? 

Is there a need that could be better met with a little tweaking?

What about a concern or information that if provided on the website could reduce interaction friction?  You want to minimize purchasing friction every step of the way. What would make the buying process easier?

Review how customer service interacts with clients or queries. 

Phone? Email? Chat? What is the typical response time?

What is the scope of your sales? Local, regional, national or beyond? 

What hours is customer support offered and are they reasonable for people beyond your time zone? 

If you’re an east coast firm doing business with not just continental USA, but also Alaska and Hawaii – you have a six-hour time difference to consider.  Even just in the continental US, it may be 5 PM  on the east coast…but it’s only 2 PM on the west coast.  This can cause a lot of customer service friction.  

Right now…and for the foreseeable future, consider shifting most, if not all customer service to remote work. If you don’t have it, consider how to create a way for that team to be able to offer support.

Also, is there a way you could have longer hours through a remote worker?  Either an opposite coast liaison or someone who would be willing to handle an early or late shift…depending on your location.

Create better customer relations by letting them know when they can expect to hear back from you.  Supply chain users are learning they have to be more flexible and things are taking longer. Retail consumers are less content to wait.

One of my clients is a distributor and while their sales have been suffering greatly, now they are getting lots of requests for “I need it right now.”  

Set expectations by having clear guidance on how you are working and fulfilling orders.

Even if you get it out the same day…we both know deliveries are not predictable. Not even express or other very expensive delivery services. 

What are your customers saying?

You might want to read some of the customer emails or chat threads to get a better sense of how your customer is feeling about your company and your product.

Visit your social media pages and check out the conversations there. Do you need to ramp up support there?

Are you getting reviews on your website or social media?  What do they say?  What can be done to improve them? 

Customer problems are opportunities for increasing sales…if you listen and act on them. 

With over 30 years in business, I know we can’t make every person happy. However, often, there is an easy fix. Product or product packaging tweaking. Digital content tweaking or additions. Better customer experience opportunities.

Get feedback and share it with customer service and marketing

If you don’t have an automatic feedback system following a sale, consider incorporating one. 

Every time I pick up groceries… I get a how did we do email.  Businesses that use square automatically followup with a little smiley face or frown option on my phone…again, feedback on how they did.

Customer surveys are a goldmine.  Offer a bonus for taking a few moments and giving you some feedback.  Keep it short and simple.  I hate my grocery store feedback because it asks way too much demographic information that is identical every time.  

Be respectful of their time.  Think of how You would feel being asked these questions.  

It’s better to have just a few quick questions and then a space for comments.  It empowers and respects them at the same time.

If you get a comment that brings an issue to your attention, have a script for staff to use as a response. Thank them and let them know this will be looked into.

When I work with clients, these are techniques I share. I recommend the findings and suggested modifications/changes be shared with all levels. Management needs the information, Customer Service wants the suggestions and Marketing needs to keep the customer in the loop of changing you are making.   

Need more recommendations? www.jculpcreativecopy.com

Halo or Horns…How is Your Business Seen?

Psychologists have understood for years that appearance and positive interactions can create a halo effect across a person and those standing close by. 

It works equally across a business. Get one area top-notch and the halo spreads across your brand. Look at Apple’s halo as an example.

You’ve probably heard the story about equivalent job applicants? 

Two people with very similar abilities, but quite different in appearance and presentation. 

The one with the more classically appealing appearance and presentation will get the job every time.

I recall one particular story where an applicant when into a business to apply for a job…obviously before the mandated online application systems. He had a scraggly beard and wore unkempt clothing.

Then he went home and shaved/groomed his facial hair and put on a business suit. He reapplied.

When they offered him the job, he clarified who he was and that he had done this in the interest of research.

How embarrassing for the business. 

But we have had these responses ingrained in us for millennia. A beast at the entrance to the cave was much more a threat than say an attractive female alone. 

In my 30 years in business, I’ve interviewed thousands of clients, students, and applicants. There are some truths that almost always hold true…and I see the same thing happening with businesses and products.  

In fact, there are numerous articles about businesses chasing the halo effect to increase their chance to gain new clients.  It’s the old “if you stand close, it rubs off on you” theory.

It’s important to keep in mind…

Once that halo is applied, it needs to be backed up with continued support. It only takes one bad product to destroy loyalty and that positive view of you  When that happens, they call it the “horn effect,”…speak of the devil.

Here are 3 techniques to earn that halo…

That halo is generated from the first brief 2-5 seconds of a customer’s encounter with your brand. That might be the physical product, you in person, or your website.  You only get one chance to create that first impression.  These tips can help you make it your best.

Halo 1 is earned with your website.

The coronavirus has made online the preferred method of connecting with and purchasing from a brand.  They will decide based on… 

  • Your website appearance
  • Ease of navigation 
  • Great product information 
  • Detail resource documents 
  • Ease of finding and using the contact information

Speaking as a customer…there is nothing worse than an inability to get questions answered.

A second Halo is your voice or tone

Its the way you share. Confident…not cocky or grandiose. Sincere, honest, and clear. 

For your products, it’s how they match your mission statement physically, price, and in the presentation.

Every type of communication needs to reflect this… 

  • Website
  • Marketing posts
  • Videos
  • Products
  • Customer communications

Passionate about what you’re doing…there is nothing that engages us quicker than a passionate person that is close to our beliefs. 

A third halo tidbit is getting client-focused…

Some businesses are built on this. Some are evolving into it. And others are fighting it tooth and nail. With all the competition out there, this last group will be getting the horns…not the halo.

To earn and keep this halo, you need to demonstrate it across every connection and interaction you have with clients and prospects.  


You don’t have to be perfect in every little thing, but get the customer focus right, and provide quality products and they will let your halo from that shine across your brand.

Look at the tone of your communications, responsiveness, and ease of access.

Right now everyone is running a little bit slower.  Put it out there.  Whatever you are able to do at the moment, communicate it clearly to establish client expectations.

A few months ago small businesses were struggling to compete against Amazon’s next day delivery. No more. Even they can’t accomplish it. Just tell your customers what you are experiencing and what you can do.

Share this across all your brand communications: website, emails, and social media.

Keep customers updated if a product is coming back into availability that has been back-ordered. Let them know if there will be restrictions and limitations. 

It’s really all about being the kind of communicator you want your suppliers to be. Share it forward with your customers and prospects.
Want to know if you earn a halo or horns? Contact me by Friday, May 8 at 5PM PDT to have a shot at winning a “halo or horns” look at your website.   judith@jculpcreativecopy.com. Please include your name, email, and website URL.

Newsletters Build Bonds

Newsletters are a great way to bond with customers. They are a friendly, casual way to stay in touch.

There are a lot of different formats. But there is one thing they must do to be successful.

Newsletters must get the reader’s attention…

I’ll never forget the two teachers I had in a shared-time experimental English class. It was my junior year of high school.  

Monday through Wednesday we had English literature followed by two days of public speaking. 

The teachers couldn’t have been more different. 

The English teacher was a petite woman with a soft voice. Unfortunately, she also tended to speak and read in a monotone.  

I love books, I love literature. But she was so hard to focus on in that soft lullaby voice. The hour dragged. I could feel my eyelids wanting to droop.

The first time I met our Thursday-Friday teacher, I was terrified.

Mrs.Trueblood strode into the room like a warrior-queen. Her voice boomed rich and deep. Authoritative. Strong. 

As she made her way toward the teacher’s desk on the far side of the room, I noticed everyone was sitting up a little straighter. Mrs.Trueblood commanded every class.

Yup. She had my attention…and then she captivated my brain. That turned into one of the most enlightening and amazing classes I took in school.  

If I would see her now, I’d stand my tallest and shake her hand with all the professionalism I grew into…and thank her for what she gave me.  Skills and confidence that are still with me today. 

Every newsletter needs to open with a good subject line and lead that gets the reader’s attention. 

I’ve been writing newsletters for well over 25 years. They’ve kept customers up to date, inspired them and offered valuable information.

Were they all masterpieces? Of course not. But they’ve given me lots of practice to find what works.

Discover your stats specific to your industry niche.

Industry stats are something many businesses are unaware of. 

Sending out e-newsletters and then seeing how many people do, or don’t, open them can be a little nerve-wracking. I’ve seen many businesses start second-guessing themselves and abandon the project.  

Instead use Google and find the typical statistics for your business segment. 

You’ll find out all sorts of interesting data there. The typical number of opens, the typical number of clicks, (if you have links,) and even conversions.  It’s all available as part of the tracking of the mail-handling program. 

Different systems track different things if they are properly interconnected to your website. Talk with your webmaster about what will work best with your system.

Once I learned those statistics I discovered I was doing better than most businesses in my industry. Sometimes 10 times better. 

But what if you get an email that doesn’t get the response you expected? I’ve found most of the time it was timing.  It wasn’t the perfect time for that message. 

It could also be the wrong group or segment of your recipients.

Try these 4 techniques for a great newsletter

One question I often get is…how often should I send a newsletter?

Frequency

Your newsletter can be a monthly release of multiple articles that are featured weekly.

They start with  the first week’s article in brief with a link to the full article. They  also include links to three other articles at the bottom. Each week one article gets its turn at being featured in an email.

That works well for larger businesses who really want to build and share information. It also builds traction faster.

But if four monthly articles are not in your time schedule, or budget, then send at least monthly.

You need to stay in touch with clients and prospective clients at least monthly to stay on their mind.

I like to work from an idea list.  I also review what worked well in previous years for specific time slots. 

You have two choices for tracking data from your email system. Export it to a data file or stay with the same email contact manager system. This builds you a history you can easily review.

Keep your newsletters to one theme if possible. 

Even many popular magazines tend to use themes. You won’t find 4th of July picnics in the December issue. Get the right message at the right time.

Start with seasonal. Look for events or holidays you can tie into if that fits your specific products. 

But if you’re in the midst of a crisis? Pause and think about what is going to be the most important message you can share this month. 

Right now family bonding, mental health and self-care are all important.  

Tips for coping with stress, anxiety and getting a good night’s rest are high priorities.

Tips for dealing with unavailability. Many of us are accustomed to dropping by the store nearly daily to get this or that.  Not now.  

Most of us are planning and shopping in advance to minimize the number of trips we need to make. We’re making contingency plans for things that aren’t available.

We’re coping with back orders and items out of stock with no projected availability.  This adds to the stress levels. Anything to cope with stress or anxiety is getting checked out.

Consider length…

Are your customers  looking for a quick read?  Plan the length and complexity based on your target audience.  Are you sending a series of educational pieces? Those may run longer.

Are you sending a helpful, hopeful, hang in there message? Keep it short, positive and inspirational. 

Get your message clear and simple. 

I’m often asked how long is long enough?  

A short email might be 200-300 carefully chosen words.

A blog length article can be 800-1500 words.

But as my seventh-grade-teacher always said, as she primly lifted her calf length skirts toward her knees…

It needs to be long enough to cover the subject and short enough to be interesting.

Of course, we giggled or tried to keep straight faces. It was years before I realized how profoundly truthful those words are.

Don’t drag it on…that’s when you lose readers. 

Find the magic balance…

Many of the emails and newsletters we receive are 100% sales. If you’re like me, you can spot and delete those in seconds. 

The first pass of my emails is looking for stuff to delete. Sound familiar? Absolutely.  

We are being so inundated with emails…especially sales and sales pitches, that we’re experts at spotting the stuff we aren’t interested in. So we go down, tick them and in one fell swoop…their opportunity is in the trash.

Maybe those businesses haven’t noticed people have other needs than just a sale.

Here’s a quick question or two for you to consider.

What type of email do you like to receive from your suppliers?  

A sale? Or helpful information with maybe a short call-to-action or product special at the bottom?

Which makes you feel better? Which makes you feel more connected to them? 

Make your communications heavy on the information, inspiration and connection side. 

Keep the selling information to between 10-20% of the total. Message first. Sales second is a better way to bond.

Not sure how your newsletters rank?

As we make our way through the marketing complexities we face, here’s a special offer. For the first 2 people who contact me…before 5PM PDT on 4/16, I’ll do a quick complimentary review of an existing newsletter. 

www.jculpcreativecopy.com

Content Marketing to Connect During a Crisis

Content marketing engages with clients when things are tough

It’s no secret we’re in trying times and uncharted waters. And businesses are trying to figure out how to survive.

Only a few people alive today that went through the Flu Pandemic of 1918. It killed millions.

The good news is medicine and communication systems have come a long way. The first antiviral drug was only developed 57 years ago.

Drugs are already being researched for the coronavirus as are other therapies to help treat those who have it.

It won’t be fun, but we’ll make it and learn a lot on the way.

For marketers…it means regrouping and rethinking our marketing strategies.  We need to show care, concern and be aware of sensitivities.

Here’s what not to do…

Did you see the post from Spirit Airlines? In early March Spirit Airlines sent a promotional email with the subject line, “The perfect time to treat yourself? Right this minute,” the email went on… “never been a better time to fly.”

Frontier Airlines also sent out a blunder at the same time. “Book with confidence. Increased flexibility! Change/cancel fee waived for bookings through March 31.”

Both emails have hurt the brands’ reputations despite apologies. These were pre-scheduled automatic sends. No-one turned them off.

And then there was the company promoting you to buy their luxury pajamas since you had to stay home.

They were the wrong message at the wrong time and they felt very wrong to those who received them.

When in a crisis people are looking for information, education, inspiration, and entertainment.

Why Content Marketing now?

Content marketing is non-promoting, digital, online. That makes it easily accessible regardless of social distancing.

It can have every attribute people are looking for. Value, education, inspiration, entertainment.

It used to just be blog posts but has expanded to become more a holistic approach. Now content marketing covers email, social media and even paid distribution.

What to avoid?  Highly promotional.  A crisis sale can come across very tacky.

Content marketing works in a more subtle, acceptable and approachable way.  It builds bonds, and relationships that keep going during and after the current crisis ends.

This style of marketing is a highly effective way to stay in touch with your customers. It will attract leads that are ongoing.  When done, it’s an investment that will last for years.

Staying in touch with clients and prospects can be uninterrupted with content marketing. All you need is to make sure you follow proper content marketing strategies.

It might take a little time to figure out your best approach. That’s okay too.

One secret to remember…

You need to be as responsive as that cat on the hot-tin-roof.  To prevent a mishap, turn off your auto-sender.

It’s time to be in the trenches, flexible, in control of what goes out. You have to be sensitive to the timing and make sure the message you planned is still right.

You don’t want to have a boondoggle like those airlines made…

It’s okay to take the time to make sure your employees and those directly affected customers are taken care of.

It’s okay to slow down your email sends.  People are being inundated with emails and it’s harder to get seen. When you do send them, make sure they are content based rather than sales promotions.

Focus on three things in content marketing.

Here are three things to focus on when planning your content marketing regardless of how you deliver it. 

For businesses that depend on meeting people and making sales at trade shows…take it virtual. Offer educational information about your business on-line. This is becoming more and more common.

Build relationships

Share the types of things that will build getting to know you and your team. Build trust. Maybe what you’re doing so you can take care of staff and customers… and plan for the future.

Think brand awareness. People need to feel you are connected with the situation we’re living in. If you’re doing something special or helping out your community in some way…share that story in a non-promotional way.

Invite them to help in their own communities. Let them know you are here for them.

Social media may be the best place to be.  Cecilia Gates, CEO of Gates Creative, a creative agency agrees. “It’s time to step back.”  She suggests that social is a better idea than push marketing, and your best way to stay engaged.

Be where your customers are in a gentle supportive way. Be genuine.

Inspire

Piccioli, the Italian creative director of Valentino, posted recently on Instagram. There is an image of him at home in Nettuno, Italy, surrounded by his sketch materials. His personal caption reads:
“Home. This country has overcome the toughest moments with pride, creativity, and optimism. And so it will, once again. There is a time for moving and a time for staying still.  Even at home, our imagination can lead us anywhere. Such a serious situation will not stop us from dreaming. Our will is strong, our duty is to resist and we will keep on dreaming, harder than ever and we will rise stronger than ever.”

I think he handles it beautifully. Did you notice he doesn’t mention fashion?. He doesn’t mention his company or even the coronavirus by name. He doesn’t say what anyone should do during a time none of us really knows how to deal with. 

His message has been liked many thousands more times than his typical posts. Those tend to be focused on Valentino’s designs and events.

Look for how you can boost others through inspiration.

Educate, inform and entertain

Sometimes just helping people feel good is a big boost for them.  It might be information on how to use your product to feel better. It might be a story from one of your clients that could inspire.

It could equally be helpful to give them a tip for self-care they can do at home, with things they may have on hand.

It is a time to give, help and support…not push a big sale.

My hair salon recently sent an email update. Of course, they are closed and no one knows when they will open.

Instead, they acknowledged that hair keeps growing and to help their customers they are putting up a how-to video to get people through the crisis. Helpful ways to avoid the dreaded “baby-bangs.”

My tip for anyone who offers services? Look how can you help, support and nurture.

Let people know you are here if they need you or have questions – virtually. And that once this is passed you’ll still be here for them and their business in 2020 and beyond.

If we focus on how we want to be remembered when the world starts to return to normal, we’ll be on the right track.

5 Ways to Retain Customers

retaining customers is less expensive and easier then replacing them.
Retain customers these 5 ways

It’s not a secret that retaining customers is a good thing.  It can cost up to 25x more to get a new customer than to keep an existing one. So why do you think more companies don’t do it?

I think it’s mostly habit. They’re stuck in a hamster wheel.  Patterns and habits, once set, can be hard to change.

Here are five of my favorite techniques to keep those customers engaged and coming back. Read through it and I’ll have a quick question for you.

Find a way to engage them…

I love to cook, but I get bored. I need something to entertain me. So this weekend when I was prepping vegetables for a stew, I turned on Hell’s Kitchen. 

Gordon Ramsey is one tough dude.  He can, and regularly is rude and verbally abusive to the chef competitors on his show.  I don’t think that particular style would ever be my cup of tea. But it is entertaining to watch the contestants try to impress him.

Some come from a background as a successful chef. Others are pure amateurs who specializing in fixing their kids’ food.

A recent contestant of the latter type offered up a lunch she fixed for her kids as her opening signature dish.

Ramsey took a taste and seemed to grimace.  “Who do you make this for?” He growled.

The woman tried to hold her voice steady. “My kids’ lunch.”

Ramsey shrugged slightly. “In that case, not bad, I guess.”

And to the chef contestant. “What do you do?”

“I’m the head chef.

Ramsey takes a bite and spits it out almost gagging.  “You serve this dog food?” he yells.

The stakes are high. The grand prize winner gets their own restaurant.

But the losers face daunting and physically demanding punishments.

It’s the path of their trials, the wins and the losses that engage watchers and keeps them coming back. 

The program does such a great job at keeping viewers returning, they’ve completed 18 seasons with two more scheduled.

Retain customers with engagement

TV reality shows can give businesses a lot of tips to improve their client engagement and retention.

Dancing with the Stars.

American Idol.

Survival.

And of course the myriad of cooking shows.

For myself, I come from the beauty and spa industry.  If you don’t engage with your customers there and form a bond that keeps them coming back – you won’t last.  

I owned a career school for a decade. The students that could connect and engage experienced return client and sales.  And then there was the student who didn’t like anyone to touch her.  She struggled terribly.

One thing I saw repeatedly…

The rule of like attracts like. It played out with every student. 

Cheap students attracted cheap clients.

Open giving students attracted open sharing clients.

Negative students attracted exactly that type of client.

So your business personality is exactly the type of customer you will attract.

And your message must fit that customer. High end and budget don’t mix.

My favorite ways to retain customers

These techniques are not in a particular order. Adopt them as makes the most sense for your particular business. All of them have been proven to work…well.

New customer guidance

Have a system in place to educate and support that new customer. Show them the ropes. How to use your website, communication system and products to the greatest effect.

Think of it this way.  When you go into a new setting, it’s nice to be shown where things are and how they work. It helps you relax and feel more comfortable in your surroundings.

You want to be able to recognize and know who is in charge.  Who you go to with questions. In a spa, it might be where different rooms are located and how to identify the different teams you might interact with. 

On your website, it’s how to use it and find what you’re looking for. This includes how to get help. Where to find support information. What people say about you. Testing, certification, and guarantee.

Not knowing where to find help is really rather like not knowing where the restrooms are located. Customers need useful, helpful, and problem prevention.

Here is a link on how to make sure your website is making that customer feel at home. https://www.jculpcreativecopy.com/2020/03/10/easy-useful-friendly-happier-customers/

Customer feedback keeps them with you

If we are open and listen to what customers say we can tweak and grow. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know it exists.

Have some sort of client feedback system on your website. Make it clear, simple and be responsive. If you can’t get back to them quickly, be sure and include when they can hear back.

I never went back to the company who took over a month to respond to my email query.

Engagement on social media can be great.  As you help one customer, others read it and are also learning.

Customer surveys are a very popular way to collect feedback.  You can’t go to the dentist, shop or take your dog to the groomer without encountering these. Keep them short and quick!

My dog groomer sends followups that give me a choice of three “smiley faces”.  Smiling, neutral, frowning.  All I have to do it tap one. I can provide additional information but am not required to do so. 

Be respectful of the client’s time.  Remember they, like you, get bombarded with these requests.

Customer loyalty program

According to a Clarus Commerce report:

“Consumers belong to an average of 14.8 loyalty programs but are active in only 6.7 programs.”

So if we go with those figures, that means about 50% of the programs aren’t really engaging or offering something that keeps the person loyal.

Some are price shoppers. I’ve seen spas and salons get into deep financial problems offering hugely discounted coupons. Bargain hunters bought them for often $.50 on the dollar.

The service selling the coupons kept half. And the salon was inundated with price shoppers that weren’t open to upsells, cross-sells or even coming back…for $.25 on the dollar. Not even enough to pay staff wages.

Your loyalty program needs to be the kind that “your” type of customer appreciates.  It needs to recognize and reward them. Most are tied into purchases. But customers can be rewarded in other ways.

Recognize them for social media shares – that’s free marketing.

Reward them for referrals.

Offer things that enhance and improve their life, or build an emotional bond with you.

Proactive communications help retain customers

Don’t wait for the customer to reach out to you.  Be proactive in your customer service and communications.

Think of the last company that did some work for you.  Did they followup with a call to see how things went?

Many companies aren’t very proactive because they don’t want bad news.  Bad idea.

I think most of us have been getting swamped with requests for money, support, our vote.

Imagine my shock when someone from my congressman’s office called to see if we needed anything.

Yes, I am on their mailing list and do get emails from them, but this was totally different.

They were aware people were struggling with the coronavirus and trying to be proactive. Not a solicitation call.  Voting was never mentioned.

I almost didn’t know what to say. It was such a different approach and far more engaging.

Guess who I’ll remember when voting time comes…

A monthly newsletter can be a great way to stay in touch with customers.  Use it to share something new, something that worked. Something that could help them improve their life.

You don’t want to overwhelm them, that’s spammy.  You want to make sure they know you are there when they need you.

Social responsibility mission retains millennial customers

In today’s world, you need to share how you are socially responsible. Millennials have made this their mantra. They prefer doing businesses with customers that reflect their values.

What is your mission to give back or go greener?

  • Lego is investing over $150 million to become more planet-friendly
  • Tom’s Shoe Company helps someone in need every time a person buys a pair of shoes.
  • The owner of Nike has given millions and millions back to his alma mater to help athletics and other departments.
  • The regional bank, Umpqua, covers staff time so each person can volunteer hours to the local community.
  • Thrive Cosmetics is known for its robust giving program that benefits a variety of non-profits year around.

And right now we are seeing millions of people individually and in business looking for ways to help others in the fight against the coronavirus.

Look for what fits you and your customer profile. State it. Share it. Follow through.

Connect and engage. Get feedback from customers and tweak. Repeat.  It’s that simple.

And that question for you?

What’s your favorite way to connect, engage and reward your customers to keep them loyal?

If you’re not retaining customers as much as you’d like… you may need an outsider’s view to help you fix it and improve those retention rates. Fixing it is far less expensive than ignoring it.

Ask about my “let’s help flatten the curve” get started offer through March 31, 2020.

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