No matter how great your product or service is -- and we know it's great -- customers still make buying decisions based on emotions. Sadly, most businesses don't strive to create that personal connection that influences buying behavior. When it comes to effective sales and marketing approaches, building relationships with customers is key. But how can you bring that all-important personal touch to every transaction and really make your business stand out?
These best practices will help you nurture personal connections with customers and build brand loyalty.
Ask First, Sell Later
Before you jump right into a standard sales pitch, take the time to ask your customers a few questions. More importantly, really listen to their answers. A bit of gentle probing will help your customer articulate exactly what it is they need. That, in turn, will allow you to clearly explain exactly how your products or services will solve their problems.
This way, you're not simply pushing something that they may or may not really need or want. Instead, you're taking their unique situation into account and providing a personalized, customized solution. At the same time, you're building rapport by creating a personal interaction that's so important.
Again, really listening is key. While your customer is speaking, stop what you're doing, take a breath, and simply listen. Don't attempt to think ahead and formulate answers before they're finished talking. Remain in the moment, and place your full attention on them. They'll notice the difference!
Quid Pro Quo
Keep on building that relationship by offering some personal information about yourself, too. Don't worry. You don't have to give out your Social Security number or your home address. In fact, avoid TMI at all costs. Sharing just a bit will humanize you to your customer. Talking about where you where born, a common hobby, a sports team, or even a recent movie you watched or book you read can make a real impact.
Scientific studies support this strategy. A 2009 study in theJournal of Consumer Research found that customers were more likely to buy -- and to be happy about their purchase -- when a salesperson shared personal info like a birthday or a birthplace. But don't fake it; the study also found that creating similarities where none really exist simply to make a connection tended to backfire, especially if the customer found out later that the salesperson wasn't being forthcoming.
Keep in Touch
Regular newsletters are a great way to keep in touch with your customers -- with the added benefit of keeping your brand in the forefront of their minds. CIO recommends sending a newsletter at least 10 times per year. Make it simple to scan and read, with short, concise articles and a prominent table of contents so customers can find what they're looking for with ease. Focus on relevant content that your customers can use, making your newsletter something to look forward to.
That Personal Touch
Sending a handwritten note or postcard is a great way to ensure that your business stands out. Handwritten communication proves beyond a doubt that you've taken the time to sit down and make an effort, which makes your customer feel valued. Try to include personalized content in each note to really make an impact.
These simple steps will help you build that human connection that's so key to driving sales and customer loyalty.
Friday, May 23, 2014
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
People enjoy feeling as though they belong. It's a part of our universal desire to form strong bonds with other people and feel connected to those around us. From student clubs to neighborhood organizations, this desire plays out across our nation in a variety of settings.
This desire also has a firm place in marketing. One of the best ways to encourage brand loyalty involves encouraging customers to feel as though they're part of an exclusive group when they use your brand. When people feel connected to your company and to other users, they're more likely to become repeat customers and even recommend your brand to others. Few companies have enjoyed the success Facebook has in this regard.
The early days of Facebook
Back when Facebook was first developed, it was available only to users at colleges and universities, and they had to have a .edu email address to register. This effort to create a distinctive market resulted in a very strong community among Facebook users. Many users today still reminisce about the early days when their parents and grandparents weren't registered and it was just a way to communicate with their college friends. In many ways, the desire to belong to this exclusive 'club' of Facebook users helped the company grow exponentially.
Revising the Facebook exclusivity
After a few years of immense popularity with the college-age crowd, Facebook began to open registration up to people outside their original targeted demographic. At first, this upset many people who had eagerly waited until their college years to join, only to find that everyone else could now, too. In recent years, there have been some reports of the younger generations leaving as they search for a platform that allows them to converse with their friends without their parents and grandparents seeing their comments. Overall, however, the platform has continued to grow. This is because the developers have taken the time to still encourage feelings of community among users, even though everyone can now join.
How have they managed to maintain this feeling?
How businesses can learn from Facebook
Facebook has managed to build a community so strong that it appeals to nearly every demographic. Few companies will have the reach to accomplish this, but they will be able to strengthen their own connections to encourage customer loyalty and retention.
For example, try building portions of your company website that allow and encourage communication between customers. You can occasionally interject advice as needed, but in general try to keep the conversations between end-users, to encourage a connection between your customers.
Loyalty programs and rewards programs are also helpful. By offering prizes to those who use your products and services regularly, you'll show your appreciation and encourage customers to return to earn more. Publicly rewarding customers, such as showcasing particular people for their loyalty, can also help enhance brand loyalty. Even promotions such as free t-shirts can help customers feel connected to your company.
Facebook has shown the business world what is possible when a brand manages to build such a strong sense of community that users cannot imagine doing without it. Companies of all sizes can take some of the lessons to heart and begin to build their own communities. If you're interested in developing materials to help reach your consumer base and encourage them to be a part of your community, reach out to us. We'd be happy to help you!
Friday, May 16, 2014
Whether you love it or hate it, chances are at some point you've eaten at McDonald's. This corporation was a major cornerstone of the building of the fast food industry and is currently one of the symbols of the exportation of American culture around the world. Perhaps what is most remarkable about the success of the franchise is how unremarkable it is. The restaurants serve burgers and french fries. Yet somehow, out of all the burger joints available, the one started by the McDonald brothers in San Bernardino, California, has gone on to serve roughly 68 million customers per day. How did this happen, and what can other business leaders learn from the company?
The history of McDonald's
McDonald's was first opened by the McDonald brothers in 1940. The little restaurant served burgers and placed an emphasis on quick service, putting the fast food principles developed by White Castle to work for themselves. By 1955, the restaurant became a corporation led by aggressive businessman, Ray Kroc. Kroc is credited with taking what was a successful burger joint to the popular glory it now enjoys. Kroc was known for his risk taking and lofty goals that allowed him to lead the corporation.
How Ray Kroc made a burger franchise into a global phenomenon
Professionals have spent years analyzing the business decisions of Ray Kroc. Few disagree that he was a genius, even though his feud with the McDonald brothers certainly earned him some animosity. Two particular traits tend to be cited by those exploring the reasons for the success of the corporation:
- Attention to details
- Passion for the business
Attention to details
Kroc did not allow a single detail of the burger making process to go un-analyzed. He even broke down the process of putting a patty and toppings into a bun to see if he could improve it. He ended up essentially creating an assembly line for putting together sandwiches, which lives on in McDonald's restaurants today. Kroc worked to develop teamwork within each restaurant and even constructed the customer service model that includes a smile when greeting patrons.
Other businesses should put the same consideration into their own companies. This doesn't mean micromanaging the company, but rather looking for ways to improve the company from the ground up.
As a business owner, explore each level of your business to see what can be improved. Research the consumer base and gain deeper insights into their challenges, so you can see how your company can better help them. Similarly, research customer experiences with the company to see how customer service can be improved. Look for answers to questions such as:
Passion for the business
Kroc had a passion for building his business. He believed in dreaming big while always working to improve the business. In the world of making burgers, Kroc had a vision of turning McDonald's into a major franchise, and he worked to make that happen. He was also willing to take risks, which included betting on the likelihood of customers taking to the casual, fast-food model over the common sit down and more formal dining experience.
Try translating this passion into your own business. Your enthusiasm should be contagious. No one wants to support a company that doesn't have a clear vision, a plan for getting there, and a confident leader who seems capable of getting the business to these new heights. Use your industry knowledge and foresight to anticipate customer desires and needs, and show a true eagerness to encourage your entire team to work toward the shared vision.
Success isn't dependent on developing something extraordinary. Sometimes, it's leaders doing extraordinary things with ordinary ideas that can make a company great. If an empire can be built out of burgers and fries, the right business prowess can offer anyone the chance to have success. Keeping Ray Kroc's mantras of paying attention to details and a passion for business in mind can help you get on the path to bringing your own company to the top. If you're looking for ways to get started growing your company vision, contact us to see how we can help you get your message out.