As discussed last week, brand loyalty is another consequence of this recession. From grocery stores to enterprise solutions, buyers are tenuous with budgets and all too eager to swap out product and service providers to save a few dollars.
So, aside from providing awesome products and services and enviable customer service, what are you doing to boost brand loyalty and retain your customers? The first and most important step you can take is to tell your customers two very important things.
1. Say thank you. How are you thanking your customers for their loyalty? The answer can’t be that the sales representative checks in once a year to re-up the contract. That’s not saying “thanks.” That’s say, “where’s the money?” And customers see through it.
An option is to have your account managers or senior leadership pick up the phone and thank customers for their business. Of course, you always want more business and cross selling is important, but the purpose of these calls should not be to highlight a new offering or upsell a contract. The purpose is to say thank you.
If you’re in a high volume business with thousands of customers, that’s untenable. But you can at least call key customers. Emails and letters are alternatives for large customer bases. For your non-government customers, take them to lunch to show them you appreciate their business.
2. Remind them that you’re great. The purpose of thanking your customers is not to give the impression that sales are down or revenue is tight, if that’s your present reality. You’re not calling to beg them to continue on with you. Good, bad or neutral times, showing appreciation is always a good idea.
Selling and marketing don’t stop after the sale is made, unless you never want their business again. Once an organization joins your customer roster, you must periodically remind them that you’re the absolute best choice they could have made. Chances are they have other options for the products or services you provide. If you keep in front of them in a positive light, you’ll reduce the likelihood that they will want to shop around for alternatives. That’s why marketing is a recession is so critical.
In technology marketing, the virtues of white papers are well known. But the deployment strategy too often goes off course. When this falls short, measurable results are sure to follow.
A successful white paper distribution strategy really only requires five steps:
1. A marketable topic that provides important content to potential buyers.
Just because your engineers are excited about a technology doesn’t mean this topic will generate enthusiastic readers. Research your topic and make sure you’re really filling a market niche and supplying needed content. If this step is not dead on, how can the program be successful?
2. Structure and content that delivers on the promise of valuable information.
This step can do one of two things. It can build on the credibility of the company that develops the white paper. Or it can damage your company’s credibility if the reader goes to the trouble to download your data, only to find the information is poorly organized, badly written, and/or hopefully week on good content. There’s a middle ground in there too, but that falls short of motivating the prospect to do business with you.
3. Visual appeal that contributes to the positive perception the reader has of the company.
White papers are marketing pieces and should fit with the overall corporate brand. Charts, graphs, screen captures and other visual depictions should be handled by an experienced graphic designer, as should all parts of the white paper. Not everyone who can design a white paper should design a white paper. After all, you want this document to be read by your audience. Visuals are important.
4. A distribution strategy of reaching potential buyers, customers, etc.
Writing the white paper is the easy part. Really. As difficult as it can be to extract important information out of your subject matter experts and convince your C-suite and peers that you’re not giving away trade secrets at every turn, the most difficult part of any white paper strategy is distribution. Take the time and allocate the budget to do this step properly. Before you embark on developing the white papers, research white paper search and syndication services like bnet, techtarget, knowledgestorm and more, as well as more niche-focused services. Also consider the white paper as a pull to an advertising or direct mail campaign.
Also, determine how you will continue to nurture those leads once they are in your pipeline.
5. Benchmarking and measurement methods to determine and define success.
Before you begin, determine what success looks like. Realistically. Is it the number of qualified downloads, qualified additions to your marketing database, inbound leads, search engine optimization, synergy with a PR program, etc.?