For many business owners, there's one question that rises above the rest: “What will make me and my organization successful?” While no two companies are exactly alike, there are three common things that help define their success: They solve a pain point for customers; they have a great location (either physical or online); and they know how to engage with customers and prospects in a way that maximizes the likelihood of success.
For the purposes of this article, let's assume that you have a good location that allows customers and prospects to easily find you, and that you offer a product that solves a problem or need. We'll focus on the third part of the equation by taking a look at how you engage and market to customers in a way that produces the maximum return on investment. It's my belief that that the competitor with the best ROI will ultimately win the battle for customers and their dollars.
The ROI story isn't always told because it scares people. But it's all about engagement marketing. There are three keys to a successful engagement strategy:
1. Understanding the customer's experience and constantly striving to improve it.
2. Connecting and building relationships with your current customers.
3. Setting up your passionate customers -- those who know and love your products or service -- to drive word-of-mouth marketing about you and your business.
You may have the greatest product in the world, but your customers' experiences in trying to acquire that product may be terrible. How do you know? You need to be constantly monitoring your customer experience to look for any areas of friction or dissatisfaction.
As an example, I recently rented a car from a national chain on a business trip and not long after, I received an e-mail requesting my feedback about my rental experience. The quick survey asked about the reservation process, the ease in pick-up and drop-off, the quality of the vehicle, and the likelihood that I would rent from this company again on future trips. Right there, the company was offering me an opportunity to share my customer experience with its service.
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You don't have to be a large national chain to do the same. If you collect an e-mail address from customers during their transactions, send them a quick online survey asking them about their recent transaction or interaction with your business. When they reply, follow up by thanking them for their time and effort. Better yet, reward them with something of value so they feel their time and effort was worth it.
Additionally, when you collect that e-mail address as part of a transaction, ask permission to add the people to your e-mail marketing list. Make sure to set the expectations for what people will be receiving from you (discount offers, tips, articles, advice, etc.) and how often. Getting people on your e-mail list is the key to building a relationship with them that allows you to stay top of mind. Of course, you should be collecting addresses from customers and prospects all the time, not just during transactions. Make sure they can sign up for your e-mails through your website and other touch points, such as your Facebook Page or in your place of business.
When done right, having this list of customers and e-mailing them on a regular basis will help drive that highly desired word-of-mouth marketing. In your e-mails, ask customers questions about how they use your products or how your service affects them. Direct them to respond on your Facebook Page, blog, or through Twitter. (For the latter, ensure they include your Twitter handle and/or a dedicated hashtag.) Generating a positive discussion via social media among customers will help spread the good word about your products, services, or brand to prospects.
Knowing your customer experience and efficiently engaging with customers is key to owning a successful small business. I'd love to hear how you engage your customers. Post a comment in the field below or e-mail me at email@example.com.
Eric Groves is Constant Contact's senior vice president of Strategy, Corporate Development & Innovation. Follow him on Twitter at @e_groves.