Romancing your prospects. Establishing a rapport, creating a relationship with your customers. Making them “fall in love” with your product.
When we talk about marketing – when giving marketing advice – we often use language similar to love and relationship advice.
Even terms you hear in marriage counseling! That’s because the moving someone from mere prospect to passionate evangelist is very much like a courtship.
Boy meets prospect.
Boy offers interesting value and content and ideas to prospect.
Boy turns prospect into paying customer.
Then…boy loses customer.
How? Why? Because boy stopped trying. Boy dropped the song and dance, the wooing. And he moved on to the next romance.
Most of us do this. We work so hard to make that sale or land that account. But once it’s made…we hand the relationship to an impassive account rep. Or worse – to our harried customer service.
(We have a lot of posts on the blog about amazing customer service so be sure and hop over there and type in customer service in the search box. All the tips we have shared will help you create the perfect customer relationship.)
Again, consider your typical marital advice. If you want the key to a great, long-lasting relationship, you wouldn’t focus only on the first few dates, would you? Because that’s exactly what you’re doing when you put all your energy into the sale and none into the ‘honeymoon’.
The first few weeks after the sale. That’s the real crucial relationship-building time period. That’s when you can transform a pleasant one-off transaction into a lifelong passionate love affair.
(Listen to this 5 minute podcast with tips to help create amazing customer service.)
But how? What kinds of things can you do to really retain those customers? How to make them like you, love you…evangelize to anyone who will listen about how fantastic you and your products are?
How to Romance Your Customers
Get to Know Them
It may sound like creepy advice from a good stalker, but don’t be afraid to really get to know your best customers. When you talk to them on the phone (you are calling them personally, right?) share some personal detail that you’re comfortable sharing – how many kids you have, where you went to college, general interests.
Listen to this 5 minute podcast on who your customers are, and then hop on over to this post where we offer tips on how to generate that personal profile of your customer.
Have a notepad handy and when they offhandedly mention their kids or alma mater or the classic car that they are rebuilding, make a note of it. Not just a mental one. Actually write it down! Then get that info entered into a CRM (customer relationship management) tool like Insightly.com or Salesforce.com.
Then, the next time you communicate with them you can ask what they thought about last weekend’s college football game. Mention a recipe that your picky kids went wild for and email it to them. They’ll be so pleased and flattered that you are addressing the WHOLE person that they are, not just a wallet full of money.
You have elevated yourself from business contact to, if not yet a friend, at least a thoughtful acquaintance.
(Be sure to check out our 7 reasons why you need to join the Owners Club. We offer more tips and tricks to elevate your business.)
Surprise and Delight
If you get to know them well enough to have a sense of their hobbies and passions outside of your business relationship, send them gifts and trinkets that address those outside interests.
You don’t have to be false buddy-buddy with them and awkwardly send them random gifts “Just Because!” You’ll feel fake and they’ll feel manipulated. Send them for the authentic reasons.
Be honest and transparent that you are sending this as a “thank you for the business” gift.
But then, go beyond the fruit basket. Take the time to hand write them a note on the inside of a hardback copy of their favorite author’s new book. Surprise them with a subscription to a car enthusiast magazine. They’ll be charmed, delighted and utterly loyal.
Be a Partner, Not a Sale Guy
Yes, of course you are a sales guy. We all are. There’s no shame in building your business and making a profit. And to make a profit, you have to make sales.
But that doesn’t mean you have to be that and only that to your customer.
You can also work at becoming something else to them. You can become a partner. Someone who doesn’t just want to sell them a widget and move on. Show them you care about their entire business, their needs, their success.
This is a concept borrowed from content strategy. For instance, if you are a wedding caterer and you are trying to think of things to write about on your blog, you might scratch your head and run out of blog topics that are relevant to being a caterer, OR just writing about all things food.
Instead, you should switch that thinking around and stop thinking of your prospects and customers as someone to pitch your services to, and start thinking of them as holistic people who are trying to accomplish something themselves.
In the case I just mentioned, the caterer shouldn’t just see the customer as someone he wants to sell catering services to. He should see her – and treat her – like someone who wants a wonderful, smooth memorable event.
That’s great news for him. That throws the doors wide open for all kinds of blog topics. All things parties and events are fair game for his blog because he’s suddenly not writing her as a caterer. He’s writing her as a “friend in the party industry” One who wants her to have a fabulous, affordable, memorable event.
See the paradigm shift? It’s not more work to see your customers as holistic human beings…its actually less. By addressing more of them than just the part your business touches, it should give you loads more to talk about…and bond over.
So let’s apply this to your business relationships. Let’s say you sell a certain kind of product to general contractors who work in the residential sector.
You could do something like set up a Google alert for news items that mention “homebuilding trends” or “home improvement statistics” etc.
Then, peruse what those articles look like and say once a week. If there is one that you think would be of use to your customers, take the 15 minutes it takes to pick your top 10 customers and send them a personal (not bulk!) email with a link to the article. Something along the lines of “I came across this article the other day and thought you might find it useful.”
Small touches like this convey to the customer that you care about them and are thinking about their business in general. Position yourself as a partner who wants to help them flourish and they’ll be yours forever.
Press the Flesh
Nothing, and I mean nothing, bonds a customer to you as well as you meeting them in person. Especially if you’re doing something fun with them. It’s that marriage counselor thing again. Think of it as Date Night! Once you’re married and living together, you really shouldn’t have to go out on dates. You can stay home and watch TV and just…be.
But having that one on one time is an invaluable way to strengthen the connection between you and your customer.
So identify your most influential, most valuable customers and find a way to meet in person. If you happen to be in their town, even for a quick layover, try to meet them for lunch or coffee.
If you have a few of them clustered in the same region, offer to fly out and host a “mastermind” dinner where you introduce them together for some networking. Heck, if you have the budget, offer to host a weekend -long networking and educational seminar session in your own hometown. Have them fly in for 48 hours of fun, fellowship and useful information.
Maybe you absolutely cannot meet your customers face to face. Maybe you’re in Canada and they’re in Thailand. Fine, fair enough. But you’re not off the hook yet!
Wonderful technology now exists that allows you to ‘meet’ as clearly and as easily as if you’re sitting in the same room. You can use the free versions of Skype or Google Hangouts, of course. But often those connections can be dicey and frustrating.
For just a few dollars a month more, you can set up “face to face” meetings and free seminars for your customers with tools like GoToMeeting, Fuze or Adobe Connect Webinars. While none of these can replicate the warm and fuzzy feeling of meeting in person, any and all of these are a step above mere phone calls or emails.
Okay, your turn. What are some of your best customer retention tips? Have you ever done something for a customer that had a surprising effect on them? How about you as a customer? What’s the nicest or most unexpected thing a company has ever done for you? Share your experiences in the comments below.
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