Putting the Customer First

It’s okay, you can admit it.  As a marketing professional, you feel that ongoing pressure to build responses, grow utilization and just generally deliver the world (or revenue) to your organization. While these feelings are understandable and should motivate us to action, the problem is that they too often lead us to focus solely on acquiring new customers.  We need a renewed focus on our current customers.  This strategy is often just as effective, if not more so, than a heavy focus on acquiring.

Show them some love

To start, let your customers know how much you appreciate them.  Everyone likes to feel appreciated.  This is something that should be a regular commitment.  If you haven’t done this, however, don’t worry.  With 2011 just beginning, now is a great time to get started. 

If you’re in a business-to-business market, consider sending your customers a thank-you card with a personal greeting.  If your budget permits, you might also send a gift.  It doesn’t have to be overly expensive, but don’t go too cheap either.

With a consumer market, greetings and gifts can work as well, but the number of customers becomes a consideration.  With a large customer base, you may want to consider an email greeting campaign.  Gifts may need to be more cost-effective.  Another option is to provide a customer-only promotion or discount to show your appreciation.

Learn to listen well

It’s critical to regularly listen to your customers.  Effective listening could alert you to a developing dissatisfaction with your product or service.  You can also learn about what challenges your customers are facing and how you can be the one to help them overcome those challenges.  Companies that listen well are often innovators in their markets.

In order to listen you need to ask questions.  Survey your customers, either one-on-one or with a questionnaire.  This will help you to understand them and better shape your products or services to meet their needs.  Thank those who participate for their time and insights with small gift, such as a gift card to their favorite coffee shop or restaurant.

Social media can offer great value in listening to customers.  Make it an objective to use your blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other platforms to gain customer feedback. 

Take caution, however, when listening through social media not to overreact to a vocal minority.  The feedback you receive online may not be representative of all your customers.  A recent blog post by Seth Godin discusses that fact that you can always expect to have an alienated minority of customers.  Focus mostly on those who will provide reasonable and constructive feedback.

Good relationships are built on communication

Lastly, keep current with your customers.  Let them know what you’re up to.  Keep in touch, even if they haven’t used you in a while.  Make sure they’re aware of all the ways you can help them.  If you’re working on something new, let them know about it, even if you’re just starting. 

Good communication breathes life into your relationships with your customers.  It lets them know you care about them, want to hear from them and that you can help them.  The goal is not to bombard them with information.  It’s to provide just enough communication to keep them informed and coming back for more.

Are you a marketer looking for a growth strategy?  Start with your customers.  Of course, we should always be seeking new customers.  But are we doing enough with those we already have?  Remember, it’s more expensive to gain a new customer than to keep one.

What are your thoughts?  How are you marketing to your customers?

Author: Steve Sonn

Steve Sonn is the Principal of S2 Marketing Communications. He has more than 25 years of marketing and PR experience with health care and business-to-business companies.

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