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It takes a lot of work opening up a new e-commerce business...
...and even more work acquiring new customers.
That's why all of the marketing gurus and all of the best marketing campaigns focus so much on keeping their existing customers.
Because it takes so much work to get them there in the first place.
Not only that, but
- Repeat customers spend more per purchase than brand new customers.
- Repeat customer are more likely refer their friends and family to your shop, too.
- Finally, it costs between 5-7 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain existing customers.
Focusing on customer retention in your marketing campaigns will not only boost your sales over the long-term but will also help you out in acquiring new customers as well.
It's a win-win situation well worth the effort.
So how do you do it?
By building long-term relationships with your customers.
In this article, I'm going to show you how to create your own marketing strategy and how to measure its success. By the end, you should be able to implement at least one strategy that helps you build relationships with customers.
And after seeing how well it benefits both you and your customers, you'll be eager to focus your marketing efforts on existing customers from here on out.
Let's do it.
What is Relationship Marketing?
Relationship marketing, unlike traditional marketing, focuses on building meaningful long term relationships with your existing customers. By doing this, businesses can increase customer satisfaction as well as brand loyalty, meaning that their customers will continue to shop with them for years to come.
Why does this work?
Because humans are emotional beings and we like feeling connected to others, whether it's through our friends, our colleagues, or the brands we shop with. If you can foster a similar emotional connection with your customer base, then they (and their wallets) will stick with you for the long-haul.
As you can imagine, this kind of marketing strategy is drastically different than transactional marketing, which is focused solely on sales. Instead, it is a marketing approach that cultivates long-term relationships, one customer at a time.
How to Create a Relationship Marketing Strategy
Building a customer relationship strategy may seem hard to do on top of running a virtual business, but it’s really pretty straight forward.
There are many different strategies that can help you develop meaningful relationships with your customers, each of them easily integrated into your existing business model.
Because all you need to do is consistently provide meaningful value to your target audience, no matter what you’re doing.
Think about it.
You’re already putting in the hard work day to day, running the shop, negotiating deals with the suppliers, publishing blog posts and posting ads.
All you need to do as you do those things is to keep the customer in mind. Keep asking yourself if what you’re doing will bring value to the customer.
And when you keep a laser focus on this, your customers will have no problem shopping at your store time and again.
1 - Offer Great Customer Service
Great customer service goes way beyond customer satisfaction.
Because satisfied customers aren't necessarily going to stick with your brand over the long haul. But customers who feel connected to a brand will.
In fact, customers who feel an emotional connection with your brand are 52 percent more valuable to your business than customers who are simply satisfied.
Rather than focusing on the product or service that you provide, your customer service should focus on...
So, how do you do that?
By providing value right from the start.
Think about your target audience as you begin your digital marketing efforts and consider whether or not your content provides any value to them.
As cool as your product or service may be, it will be rendered useless if you can't convince anyone to check it out.
So rather than focusing your marketing efforts on your own product, focus on the customer. This is where excellent customer service truly begins.
And then when your current customers actually need to reach you, be sure to provide multiple channels for them to reach you through. Regularly respond to messages received through social media and consider using a chat bot on your site for easy access. By being totally customer-focused and available to them when they need help, you are building trust, which is the foundation of every long term relationship.
Target is by far one of the most popular brands in the United States and it’s no doubt due to their incredible customer service. If you hop on any of their social media channels, go to one of their stores, send an email, call their support team, or use their chat feature, you will reliably get your problem sorted.
They are committed to helping their customers in a positive and open manner, making them one of the most popular brands to shop with.
Providing excellent customer service is crucial in other industries, such as hospitality, where competition is fierce. Here businesses not only have to make sure that their food is great, but also that their customers are treated well and and create great memories.
Key Takeaway: First and foremost, be helpful to the customer.
2 - Meet Customers Where They Are At
The easiest way to build loyalty in your customers is to make the entire experience of engaging with your brand as easy as possible. The less they have to do to reach you or your site, the easier it will be for them to purchase your products or services.
So meet them exactly where they are at.
Create an email marketing campaign that is personalized to their exact shopping behaviors and interests. If your target audience is active on social media, then be active on the same social media channels as they are.
Give them everything they need right where they already are so they don’t have to go out searching for it.
By remaining present, you're making yourself available for two-way communication, which will make it a whole lot easier for them to purchase your products.
Birchbox has an excellent welcome series set up for their new customers. Rather than hitting them with products (and immediately being dumped into the Promotions folder), they offer support and value.
They breakdown their program details, provide links to their important pages, and connect the reader to their magazine. And their first email is gushes with joy (and emotional copywriting)
No hard sales pitch. No icky feelings. All the info the customer needs right in their inbox.
They do a great job of making the entire experience enjoyable and trustworthy, without leaving the customers to navigate the experience all on their own.
Key Takeaway: Be available on all marketing channels, like email, social media, and blogs, so that your customers can more easily engage with your brand.
3 - Create A Customer Loyalty Program
Like I mentioned up top, customer acquisition is a lot of work. So once you are able to find customers who value your product or service, it makes sense to cultivate strong relationships with them.
One reliable way to do that is with a loyalty program.
Think about what you can offer them long after they've made their initial purchase, whether it's a discount on future purchases, a free product, or an easy upgrade. By providing incentives to make future purchases, you are slowly developing meaningful long-term relationships where the customer always benefits.
The best part?
Loyal customers are the best advocates of your brand, giving your business easy word-of-mouth marketing. You can take your customer loyalty program one step further and offer your existing customer base rewards for referring their friends and family. This kind of referral marketing strategy not only helps build long term loyalty out of your existing customers but it also grows brand awareness along the way.
PayPal is one of the most cited brands when it comes to successful referral programs. They basically created an affiliate program out of their customers by sharing a cut of their profits with them.
They’ve grown into a company with more than 100 million customers, boasting 7 to 10 percent daily growth when they first ran the program.
Key Takeaway: Make it exciting for your customers to return to your shop and to send their friends and family to your shop.
4 - Create A Meaningful Content Marketing Plan
As you create your marketing plan, ask yourself how you can provide value to the customer rather than simply showcase your product or service.
It's a lot easier retaining customers when they feel that your business offers value no matter their purchase intent.
This gives you a competitive advantage in the face of other pushy marketing programs because it leaves your customers feeling positively about your brand...
...which they will remember when they are finally ready to make a purchase.
Take Copyblogger, or example.
This site offers expert training in content marketing as well as an entire team of certified writers to get the job done for you.
As a busy business owner, it’s the perfect solution to all of your content marketing problems.
Unless you’re short on cash.
In that case, they offer all of their knowledge in the form of in-depth expertly written articles on how to do content marketing yourself.
The further into the research you go, and the more time you put into doing it yourself, the more you’ll appreciate the product and service that they are selling.
And when you finally have the cash, it’s likely the first place you’ll turn to.
Key Takeaway: Provide value to your customers, even if they aren’t actively making a purchase.
5 - Get Customer Feedback Regularly
Just like with any relationship, it's important to have two-way communication. Regularly seek customer feedback by asking them what they like about your products or services, what they would like to see from your brand, topics they'd be interested in reading about on your blog, and how your customer service can improve.
And then act on it.
If you want to know how best to serve your customers, then pay attention to what they have to say. Not only will it help you improve your business but it will also help you make meaningful customer interactions.
Target is a pro when it comes to relationship building and it’s because they actively try to improve the customer experience every single day. Just like they provide impressive customer service to their existing customer base, they also continuously ask for advice on how they could improve.
And when customers offer it to them, they listen.
Key Takeaway: To better serve your customers, ask them what they want.
Top Metrics On Relationship Marketing To Pay Attention To
Just like with everything in running a business, it's super important to measure the success of your marketing efforts. While you can't necessarily measure the emotional connection you've developed with your customer base, you can definitely measure the cost effectiveness of everything it took to develop it.
In order to know whether or not those chatbots are worth the extra monthly fees, whether or not your rewards program is actually boosting sales, or whether or not your content marketing efforts are hitting the right audience, pay attention to these key metrics.
CLTV - Customer Lifetime Value
The customer lifetime value measures how much revenue a business is likely to earn from a single customer. The longer a customer engages with your brand (and purchases your products), the more valuable he or she is. You can easily calculate the customer lifetime value by looking at your existing customer data. This will help you find gaps in your current relationship marketing process as well as discover who your most valuable customers are. Once you do that, you will know exactly where to find more like them (and how to hold onto them).
A lot of small business owners run their marketing activities as a way to attract new customers without giving much thought about whether or not all this effort results in conversions. Sure, your killer blog post might bring in hundreds of new visitors each month, but if not a single one of them ever makes a purchase, then it's time to be more strategic about your efforts. While you always want to be useful to your potential customers, you also always want to keep your end goal in mind, which is to increase sales.
You can easily calculate your conversion rate with this formula:
Conversion rate = (purchases / total visitors) * 100
The average conversion rate for ecommerce businesses ranges anywhere from 2 to 3 percent, which may seem small but adds up quickly once you start bringing in hundreds of new visitors to your site each month.
You can easily find this data within Google Analytics and should make a habit of it every month as your roll out new marketing activities.
Getting customer feedback is absolutely essential to your business, but especially when it comes to cultivating a long-term relationship with each customer. You can use this feedback to gauge how your employees are doing, to analyze consumer behavior, and to learn how to better serve your customer base. There are many different ways to collect customer feedback so you can easily find a method that works for you. The most important thing is to actually use that feedback to improve your business and the customer experience.
Cultivating long-term relationships with your existing customer base is the best way to ensure that your business will continue to make sales, month after month. So take the time to provide value to your customers and listen to their needs. Both your customers and your business will be grateful!