The number of ways businesses can communicate with customers and prospects has exploded over the past several years. In addition to phone, postal mail and in-person touch points, technology now allows marketers to reach people virtually anytime, anywhere. And as the saying goes: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Let’s say for arguments sake you can hold your customer communications up to three standards:
- Be a spammer – sure you can send emails and other communications to purchased lists or email addresses you scraped off the web about the inheritance the recipient could receive, if only they send you a credit card number. Besides not being a very nice way to spend your time you’ll likely find yourself violating all kinds of US and international SPAM laws and pay some serious fines :(
- Do the minimum – If you use digital communications such as email, SMS or the web as a communication channel, you could do the very minimum to meet CAN-SPAM laws in the US, the EU Opt-In directive in Europe or the CASL in Canada. Yeah, doing that will keep you out of jail and avoid hefty fines, but won’t do much in providing value to your customers or turning prospects into customers.
- Be AWESOME – this is where the fun happens. The goal: provide so much valuable stuff in your emails and other communications that people can’t wait to get them in their inbox and forward them to their friends and family.
Is this easy? Nope. Otherwise, everyone would do it! But it’s possible for marketers who want to be awesome. Here are five steps you can take to help get there:
- Know who you’re talking to
- Send the right content…
- … At the right time
- … To the right place
- Give people a choice
Let’s go into detail on each one:
Know Who You’re Talking To
Take the time to really understand who your customers and prospects are. There are several ways to do this:
- Conduct surveys or polls (Typeform is a great survey tool, or use a poll as part of a giveaway)
- Look at your website analytics to find out the content you’re already creating that people like the most.
- Pick up the phone and call them :)
- Use this information to create personas
Several questions you can ask your customers:
- What’s important to them when it comes to their business?
- What metrics do they use to measure their business?
- Where do they go to learn new things about their industry?
- What do they love or hate about your product or service?
- What questions did they have about your product or service before buying?
- What they like to do in their free time?
Taking the time to learn about your customers and asking them questions helps paint a better picture of who you are creating content for and writing your communications to.
Send the Right Content…
Now that you know who you’re talking to, this should help you determine the right content to send.
To use ourselves as an example, two types of customers that use Rafflecopter are bloggers and e-commerce companies. Each have different goals for their business types. From our own research, we know we want to send content to the blogger with tips focused on writing, basic website design, and growing subscriber lists. The e-commerce customer might receive information on the importance of using high quality product images, A/B testing call-to-action buttons, or optimizing the checkout process.
The right content can also focus on where they are in the customer lifecycle with your company.
First time visitor. You don’t know much about this person yet but it’s probably safe to assume they don’t know much about you either. You don’t have their email address so you can communicate to them through the copy on your website. A first time visitor could be interested in product information, but they also could be early in the buying process and need educational information on the problems that products like yours could solve.
First time buyer. You likely have this person’s email address since they just purchased from you. Right after a purchase is a great time to ask for referrals and get feedback on your buying process. Maybe your product is such that a series of several emails would benefit them in getting up to speed with what they just purchased. With a good understanding of your customer, you can tailor the communications they receive right after buying to make their experience a great one.
Past buyer. This person knows your product and company and if you provide a good onboarding and user experience, then asking for referrals should be a must at some point. Other opportunities to communicate with past clients include purchase anniversaries, notices about product updates or special offers just for existing customers. Your business may have other key moments that are part of the customer’s lifecycle.
… At the Right Time
No matter what kind of website you have, visitors come to your site at different stages in their relationship with you. A first time visitor may want to poke around your site a bit before signing up for your newsletter. Alternatively, a past customer might visit your site for support information and may be a repeat buyer some day. Another visitor may have just made their first purchase. Each of these visitors is at a different stage so treat them that way in when you deliver messages to them.
Examples of what might be appropriate timing to message customers and prospects at different stages include:
- Right after signing up for your mailing list
- Right after making a purchase
- After completing a key action in your web or mobile app
- After your giveaway ends
- Following up after visiting your trade show expo booth
In addition to customer these customer events that could drive when communications are sent, paying attention to the optimal day of the week or time of day can be an important consideration. Website and email platform analytics can help provide the data needed to determine the best days and times to send customer communications.
… To the Right Place
There is no shortage of options when deciding how to communicate with your customers and prospects. Channels to consider include:
- Email. With plenty of tools available and the email address being the primary contact point many businesses have with their customers, this has been and will likely continue to be a key channel to send your communications.
- In-app. If you have a web or mobile app then this can be a great place to communicate with customers – while they are using their product. Of course it’s a great time to show contextual messages within your app
- SMS. This communication touchpoint is gaining momentum in the right situation. If you have younger customers, they may prefer to hear from you via SMS over email.
- In-person. This is an obvious one for retail and other brick and mortar businesses. Also, if you regularly have an expo booth at a trade show, spending time determining the best way to communicate with customers in person becomes very important.
- Social. many businesses have 1 – 1 communications over social. However, you’ll generally be communicating on a broader scale than 1 – 1 and it’s still important to plan appropriate targeted messaging through social channels.
- Postal mail. While the use of postal mail has dropped significantly as a marketing channel, depending on your business, there may be use cases where this channel is the way to go, particularly if your product is delivered to your customer.
Give People a Choice
Sometimes instead of trying to guess or infer what or when your customers and prospects want to hear from you, the best option, is to give them a choice.
Do you normally communicate with them weekly? Give them the option to hear from you daily or monthly. Have different categories of content you share? Let people opt-in to the types of content they want to receive.
The underlying point: the more you can involve people in when and what they receive from your business, the more likely they are to stay subscribed and be a great customer over the long term.
Wow, This all Sounds Tough!
Any one of these suggestions has its challenges, particularly around implementation. Each can bring with it a significant investment in time and technology systems. However, there are a growing number of tools that give you the ability to create optimally timed one-to-one email (and multi-channel) conversations with your customers and prospects which can help you achieve the ideas outlined here.
No matter what kind of time and financial resources you have available, communications with your customers should be approached in a holistic manner. Look at all the communication touchpoints you have with customers and prospects over their lifetime with your company in order to optimize that experience from their perspective.
Once this is done you can prioritize your efforts by the expected return you could realize from each idea and then implement according to a schedule that makes sense for your business.
What’s the biggest challenge you face with your customer communications? Share them in the comments below!