The Ultimate Guide to Customer Relationship Marketing
If you don’t have a plan for customer relationship marketing, you might as well close your business for good because you’re wasting your time.
You might get a sale here and there with your efforts, but you’re sales will flat line pretty quickly without a plan. If you really want to make money, you need to focus on long term repeat customers.
A fraction of repeat customers will account for a majority of your sales. Not only that, they cost less than acquiring new customers and are willing to spend more money on you.
In this guide, I will reveal how to develop a customer relationship marketing plan from start to finish so you can attract loyal fans and create a sustainable business.
To get long term repeat customers, start from the very core of your business. Plan from the ideation phase of your business to attract and wow your initial buyers so they’ll return. Here are four ways to set yourself up for lifelong fans.
1. Defining Your Purpose
It’s not good enough to state your mission statement or list your “core competencies”. The “synergized” business speak of yesteryear not only sounds pretentious, it doesn’t even do a good job of explaining what you do.
Knowing the purpose of your company will guide every future decision you make and permeate through every aspect of your business.
Your purpose tells the world what you’re about and gives a reason for customers to support you. In fact, having the same values as a company is the number one reason why customers feel like they have a relationship with a brand.
Take a look at the company Ten Tree. They promise to plant 10 trees for every product purchased and provide a token you can register to see where your 10 trees are planted.
What started out as a small venture for two university students four years ago has now expanded across North America because of their company purpose.
Here’s a few questions to ask yourself to define your purpose
i. What are you personal values?
The founders of Ten Tree were inspired by spending time in nature and wanting to give back to the environment. How do you spend your time? What do you read that makes you feel passionately angry or overly excited? If you ran into a classmate five years from now, what would you want to be able to tell them about your life?
Start writing down your thoughts and see if you can pick out three to five values you would want to live every day.
ii. What are some of your personal values that you can transfer to your business?
For each personal value listed above, think of how this value will be important to long-term business success. Can this value be maintained even if your company has a terrible year of sales? If your company grows, is your value scalable?
iii. How will you communicate your purpose to your customers?
Customers will research you before they buy so you’ll want to establish a no-brainer approach to consistently deliver what you promise. One way to do this is to create a simple table to ensure every part of your business represents your purpose.
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2. Keep It Consistent
Consistency plays a huge role in letting customers know what you’re about. By developing a cohesive message across all of your advertising platforms, you’ll build brand awareness that will make you easily identifiable.
Think of when you were driving and didn’t look very hard at the signage, but you knew exactly what store you passed. It’s the same thing with your customers when they are scanning social media.
One company that does consistency extremely well is Lush Cosmetics. Lush is a cosmetics company that brands itself as “fresh handmade cosmetics” made by “happy people making happy soap”.
This message is perfectly displayed in their stores, with all products left unpackaged in their raw form. For products that need containers, a sticker with the face of the employee who packaged the product is displayed.
The face of an employee on Lush packaging
i. Craft your logo with intention
Your logo will be everywhere, so it should be easily recognizable. To create a great logo, use the DISCO technique:
If we look at Lush’s logo, it’s simple and clean.
It also has a distinct font that makes it instantly recognizable among its competitors on social media.
ii. Think of your colors
Colors can be a useful tool for getting a customer to understand the personality of your brand.
In one study done by Lauren Labrecque and George Milne (2011), they provided the same logo (shape and size) in 10 different colors. The study showed that if you want to appear sophisticated, black is your best bet, followed by pink and purple.
Going for sincerity and reliability? Use yellow, white, and pink.
If you’re looking to make a bold statement, the study also showed that color saturation plays a key role. A high saturation means you are more ‘rugged’ whereas a lighter saturation is seen as being more sophisticated.
Lush’s logo denotes that the brand is committed to consistently delivering high quality products. The company also integrates the color green, which typically corresponds to earthiness or being environmentally conscious.
iii. Watch the style and tone of your writing
Whether you are writing a blog post, press release, or posting on social media, your voice should allow anyone to become more familiar with your brand and what you’re about. Lush Cosmetics does a fantastic job again crafting an organic, homemade message with their earthy product descriptions and by listing their ingredients:
Use consistent language to emphasize your unique selling points and to communicate your business purpose.
3. Identify Your Target Customers
If you’re doing branding right, you won’t appeal to everyone. Be the best solution for a smaller group of people who will feel like your business is exactly what they need. This creates customer loyalty which means better profits for you.
To identify your target customer, ask yourself:
What brings my customer pain? And how am I going to solving it?
One example of a company identifying their target customer is Michelob Ultra beer.
Their commercials show young, fit people who are motivated to get up early to exercise before they start work:
Their pain pain point is wanting to still drink alcohol while maintaining a health conscious lifestyle.
They reward themselves at the end of their work day with a low carb, low calorie beer:
To determine who your target customer is and how you are helping, answer these questions:
i. Personal Details
- How old is your customer?
- What is their gender?
- What kind of hobbies do they have?
- What sort of family situation are they in? (willingly single, married, widowed, etc.)
- How do they spend their free time and money?
- Does this person enjoy learning?
- What is their education level?
- Did your customer gravitate towards a certain subject in school?
- What kind of work does your ideal customer do?
- How many hours do they work?
- Do they have a large amount of disposable income?
- Is your customer introverted or extroverted?
- Are they a homebody or do they enjoy traveling?
- What does success/failure mean for them?
4. Know Your Competition
Part of planning is knowing what you’re up against. Competitors can provide valuable insight on how they retain customers, or how they lose them.
i. Check for reviews
See what sort of positive reviews your competitors are getting. Likewise, see if there are any trends in their negative reviews and make it very clear how you mitigate that problem within your company.
Let’s take a look at Frog Box, a reusable moving container company:
Here you can see Frog Box’s top competitors from Spyfu.com:
Other useful tools are Yelp, Google reviews, Amazon reviews, Consumer Reports, and Yahoo.
Frog Box consistently gets reviews noting friendly and prompt customer service:
However, there are a few negative reviews that describe how the boxes are not as clean as expected:
If you were to start a reusable moving box company, you could see how customer service is paramount to customer satisfaction. You could also differentiate from Frog Box by emphasizing your cleaning process for the reusable boxes.
ii. Check social networks
The number of likes and shares on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media networks are all great indicators of how well your competition is doing with certain types of content.
In an interesting article by Austen Allred, he describes helping a friend brand his handcrafted neckties. They go through the process of getting into the mind of the person who would be attracted to handcrafted ties.
They found that their customers would use hashtags like “craftsmanship” “artisan” and “dapper” in their captions, and pictures giving off a handcrafted vibe received the most likes:
By researching their competitors’ media strategy, the necktie company sold $4,000 worth of ties in one day.
iii. Interact with your competitor
If you want to know what your competitor is doing, order something from them. It can be quite easy to assess a business by interacting with them as a customer. How easy is it to navigate their website? How is the customer service, order fulfillment, and packaging? Was there any customer satisfaction follow up?
Alternatively, you can call directly and state who you are and what you do. You may be surprised with how open they are to answering questions. We love talking about ourselves and your competitor may be more eager to share information with you than you think.
Before you have repeat customers, you’ll need to market your company to acquire customers first. To set yourself up for happy customers that will return later on, set up your websites so it attracts your ideal buyers. They’ll feel like your solution is tailor-made for them, and they’ll be much more likely to want to spend money on you down the road.
1. Generate leads through SEO
i. Find the Long Tail
If you haven’t heard of this yet, Jamil Velji describes long tail keywords here. Long tail keywords are easier to rank for when you’re starting out, and you can target your ideal customer. They’ll land on your page and it’ll be like they found the solution that was made EXACTLY for them.
Let’s take an example keyword: the best backpacks.
Now go to the beautifully named KeywordShitter.com and input “the best backpacks”. It’ll spit out hundreds of suggestions for long tail keywords:
Now you can pick a handful of keywords that you can try to rank for.
Next, open Google Keyword Planner and estimate the traffic level for each long tail keyword.
Google Keyword Planner also gives ad group ideas for like-terms:
Next, go to SEMrush.com or WebSEOAnalytics.com and look up the difficulty to rank.
The lower the competition for the keyword, the higher your website will rank in Google’s search results.
ii. Optimize On-Page SEO
Google needs to ‘know’ what your website is about so it can show appropriate websites in their search results. To optimize your website, follow this checklist adapted from Austen Allred:
- Your keyword is in the <title> tag
- The title tag is less than the viewable limit of 65 characters
- Your keyword is in the first <h1> tag
- Your page contains additional header tags (<h2>, etc) with your keyword or synonyms of your keyword
- All of your images have an <alt> tag that contain your keyword
- Your keyword is in the meta description
- Your keyword is in your URL
- Your keyword appears in the first paragraph of the copy
- Your keyword or synonym density should be around 1% and 2.5%
- The page is original content not taken from another page
You’ll be way more likely to be matched with customers who are looking for exactly what you offer if you follow these steps.
2. Create Engaging Content
Now that you’ve done research to reach your ideal customer, make sure your website is easy to read. Here are a few pointers.
i. Add images or video
People are visual creatures and love to share images or video that they find interesting. In fact, brands saw a 65% increase in engagement when Facebook introduced the timeline feature.
Infographics are also effective when displaying information or statistics:
Image from CMS Wire
ii. Respond to comments
Treat your customer’s time with respect. They found you, listened to what you had to offer, so now it’s your turn to listen to them.
If they took the time out of their day to ask a question, compliment you, or even criticise you for something they don’t like, respond and do so in a timely manner. Appreciate that they took time out of their day to interact with you.
iii. Provide a solution
To attract your initial customers, offer something useful that they’ll want.
The premise of this is the foot-in-the-door technique. It’s an old marketing tactic that shows how we love to comply with larger requests once we agree to a smaller request first. The customer will feel like you’ve already given them something of value so they are more likely to reciprocate in the future with larger requests.
An example of this is PinchofYum.com, who offers a free eCookbook with 25 recipes.
The highly successful site run by solopreneur Lindsay receives over 2 million visitors per year and made over $30,000 in July 2016.
iv. Stop speaking like a robot
Speak to your customers how they want to be spoken to. Depending on the product, it’s probably better to speak in a conversational tone. Don’t overthink it too much – just write like you’re talking to a friend. It builds a rapport with your audience, appears more credible, and easier to understand.
You’ve done all of the tough up-front work of planning and attracting your prospective customers. Now it’s time to actually convert them into paying customers.
The key here is offer as much value as you can.
1. Engage Customers with Social Media Marketing
You should always put as much effort into marketing as you do into your product. It’s how you will reach your customers and how repeat customers will know your latest promotions.
i. Set goals that are specific, measureable and attainable
It’s useless to say “I will use Instagram to increase brand awareness and reach new audiences”. Think of your social media marketing in terms of actionable and measureable steps. Something like “I will increase my followers by 50 people per week and create my own hashtag contest by ‘x’ date” is much more specific and useful.
ii. Use good etiquette
It’s great to use hashtags, comments, and likes, but don’t go overboard. It should go without saying to never directly say “check out my page!” but a lot of businesses still do this.
Only comment or like something when it is relevant to your business and customers will respect you more.
If you are using Instagram or Pinterest, or decide to post an image on Facebook or Twitter, be cognisant of your brand (as discussed in the ‘Planning’ section). Your social media should always embody your message in whatever image you post.
For example, where would the people who use your product be seen? Would the image setting be in the street? A park? At work?
Think of the image composition. Would there be a lot of space around them (aka. negative space)? Are they in a hectic city scene?
What actions would your model be doing in the image to convey your brand identity?
Look at Zevia, a zero calorie stevia-sweetened soft drink:
The images are colorful and they evoke a sense of happiness and lightheartedness. What do you want your brand to portray through images?
iv. Create your own hashtag or social media competition
Customers are much more likely to interact with you if they get recognized themselves.
Cheerios is a great example of this with their Bring Back The Bees campaign. By offering to send out packets of wildflower seeds upon request, they far exceeded their goal of 35 million packets and ended up sending 115 million instead. The success of the campaign was lead by customers posting pictures of the flowers they grew and using the hashtag #bringbackthebees:
Branding a movement will make your business memorable and encourage social media followers to develop a relationship with your business.
v. Create an editorial calendar
Having a consistent posting schedule keeps your brand relevant in the eyes of the customer without spamming their news feeds. Create a calendar like a mini storyboard:
- Are there any promotions coming up? If so, create some hype around it with behind-the-scenes images
- How often will you post?
- What time of day does your customer typically spend time on social media?
- How and where will you promote and cross-promote your content?
vi. Use influencers
Depending on your business, reach out to social media users with large followings to act as ambassadors. Of course, pick an influencer that consistently lives the message of what your business represents.
Nutrabolics, a health and fitness supplements company, does a good job of this. They find people competing in bodybuilding competitions on Instagram and send them their products for review.
As a result of their ambassador program, Nutrabolics has greatly expanded their market share across North America.
2. Email Marketing
Social media is a fantastic tool to market to your customers, but email still reigns supreme in converting customers according to a study by SocialTwist.
They looked at 119 social referral campaigns ran over an 18 month period for brands like Barnes & Noble and Unilever. In every campaign, the customers were invited to share information such as special offers to friends and family through social media and email.
Of the 3.2 million people included in the campaigns, 600,000 became influencers who shared material and 300,000 became customers.
The interesting part of this study is that out of the 300,000 new customers, more than 50% were swayed by email. In comparison, Facebook had a conversion rate of 22% and Twitter, 26%.
Email is still King of the Internet Jungle so here are some tips for your future marketing campaign.
i. Email at the right time of day
When you send emails greatly affects the click through rates of customers.
If you are dealing with business-to-business (B2B) customers, the majority open their emails between 11am-2pm.
The best day to send an email to B2B customers is on Thursday. This is because Tuesdays are busy with clearing backlogged work and Wednesdays are the day where B2B customers tie up any loose ends. Weekends are not a good choice because this is considered leisure time where emails are not checked as frequently, and Monday mornings are never a good idea because of the many emails waiting for folks when they return to work.
For Business to Customer (B2C), the same holds true that Thursday is the best day of the week to send marketing emails. However, customers are more likely to check their emails after 12pm, with the peak hours falling between 2pm-5pm. Thursdays are also ideal because customers are starting to plan for the weekend.
Demographics also play a huge role in the timing of marketing emails. If you are targeting college age consumers, the peak time to check email is 12pm. Conversely, those over 40 are likely to be checking their emails around 10am.
Mobile users have a similar click through rate as desktop user, however, those on mobile devices are more likely to open their email between the times of 8pm-11:59pm.
ii. Don’t forget mobile users
Interestingly, around 54% of the population checks emails on their phone, yet a whopping 91% of small businesses are not optimized for mobile. This is an unfortunate lost customer marketing opportunity because they have a higher click through rate of around 4% compared to 2% for desktop users.
Here are some quick tips to make sure your emails look great on mobile:
- Have a one column template so it’s easy for mobile users to scroll
- Increase the font size
- Your call to action should be immediately obvious
- Think of the hand position of your readers when they’re on their phone. Most are right handed, so they’ll be scrolling with their right thumb. Make sure any links are close to the right side of the screen.
iii. Give something away
With an already cluttered inbox, it’s even more difficult to get a customer to open what you send. So how do you get a customer to open your email? Offer free stuff.
One test done by Bluewire Media showed that offering a free eBook increased their conversions from 10% to 33%. When they offered expert interviews, their click through rate was a respectably high 7%. The key takeaway from this is to offer something useful.
Still have questions about email marketing? Christopher Meier’s article will take you through the steps.
3. A Clear Call-To-Action
On your website, have a call-to-action (CTA) where customers are compelled to take immediate action. This can be signing for updates, downloading a special offer, or buying your product.
A good CTA makes your customer excited to know more about you and what you offer. A CTA should be:
- Clear and concise so the customer knows exactly what they’ll get (e.g., click here to download a PDF)
- A completely different color from the rest of your copy
- Large and easy to see
- Followed by a thank you page
A great example of this is MailChimp:
They make it clear that you’re joining a brand trusted by another 12 million users, and the sign up is free.
4. Other Customer Converting Methods
i. Set up a loyalty program that rewards repeat purchases.
This can be a points program, discounts on future purchases, or exclusive offers.
Not only do loyalty programs increase your repeat customer rate, but those customers are also way less likely to buy from your competitors. A study by ZenDesk showed that 69% of people will buy from you again with a loyalty program.
ii. Set up a referral program
Delighting a customer will make them far more likely to buy from you in the future. Conversely, if there’s a misstep here, there’s an 86% chance they’ll switch to your competitor for their next purchase.
To offer spectacular customer service, here’s a step by step mini guide for good customer service.
i. Communicate, communicate, communicate
When you’re starting to craft your customer relationship marketing plan, it’s easy to get lost in your own head thinking everything is clear and there can’t possibly be room for interpretation.
Get a friend to ask questions and grill you on your business. It is likely you’ll discover concerns you haven’t thought of.
Also, respond to questions and concerns promptly. Quick responses have shown to increase revenues. In one study done by Twitter, customers were willing to spend an extra $20 with an airline if they were responded to within 6 minutes.
ii. Do what you’ll say you do
If you say you’ll respond within 24 hours, or deliver by a certain date, do it. If there is extenuating circumstances where your promise can’t be met, let your customer know before the deadline has passed.
Never, ever let it get to the point of having a customer track you down to see what the status is. You will lose consumer confidence and never get it back. In fact, 82% of consumers stopped doing business with a company due to bad customer service.
iii. Use positive language
Offering the same product or service in a positive light is very powerful tool. We’ve evolved to react positively towards positively framed scenarios and are much more likely to buy something if there is a perceived added benefit to us.
A basic example would be giving two people $30. Person 1 gets $10, but you give them an extra $20 for a total of $30. Person 2 starts with $50 but you take $20 away.
Guess which person would be happier?
When there is certainty that we have something to gain, the decision to move forward is easy for us.
iv. Close the call
You should be able to end a conversation with a customer confirming that they are satisfied. Your customer should feel like their questions or concerns have been acknowledged and taken care of.
If you do this, it’ll show that you care about getting it right and you’re willing to find a solution to their problem. When this happens, they are much more likely to become repeat customers and cheerleaders for your business.
This is why Amazon has been so successful.
They are quick to offer refunds if a customer isn’t satisfied and even provide a shipping label for ease of returns. No wonder their Amazon Prime renewal rate was 95%.
iv. Record every interaction
This might seem like a bit much, but you should keep a record of every interaction you have – whether it’s jotting down notes or a recording a conversation. If you see a trend in questions and concerns, it’s much easier to integrate that sort of information up front down the road.
Buffer does a great job of this.
They have a team of “happiness heros” who make it their priority to excel in customer service. Buffer knows that it’s 6-7 times more expensive to attract new customers and 8% of repeat customers are 40% of total sales.
You’ve made it this far – you’ve planned, attracted, and converted your visitors into customers. You’ve put all the safeguards in place to delight your customers, but how can you know for sure they’re happy?
Measuring customer satisfaction is a great tool to show how you’re really doing in the eyes of the people buying from you. Here are some ideas to measure how likely they will be a lifelong, repeat customer.
1. Customer Follow Up Surveys
The survey is a common approach to collect data on customer happiness. It consists of asking your customers how satisfied they are, and could contain follow up questions.
i. In-App surveys
One great type of survey is the In-App survey. It’s usually only one or 2 questions on your website, and you will receive the most responses this way. Survey Monkey is an easy tool to use for this.
ii. Email surveys
To get a more in-depth view of how happy your customer is with your business, use email surveys. The response rate isn’t very high (10-15% according to SurveyGizmo) but they do allow your customers time to think and write responses that can be truly helpful. Google Forms is a great tool for email surveys.
2. Social Media Monitoring
Social media can have a huge impact on how your business is perceived. Whether you offer great service, or someone feels like you’ve done them wrong, it’s being shared across the internet and you need to monitor it.
Remember this guy and his song about United Airlines breaking his guitar?
The unresponsiveness of United that prompted this song caused their stock to plummet 10%, corresponding to $180 million in losses.
It’s not just for damage control, though. If customers are satisfied, they will advertise for you too so it would be great to get on social media and respond with appreciation.
While you’ll need to acquire customers first before you can hope for returning customers, repeat customers should be your main end goal. They are your best source of reliable income, are lower maintenance, and your biggest champions. The 5 steps (Planning, Attracting, Converting, Delighting, and Measuring) to customer relationship marketing will be sure to please your customers and turn them into loyal fans.
About the Author: Sacha Doucet is a freelance writer who is passionate about helping businesses connect to their customer base. When not helping businesses connect with customers, she gives actionable steps to increase profits and reduce unnecessary spending.