Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Economical methods to touch your customer

Start with e-mail
If you can get your e-mail through and read, it can be a quick and cost effective way to generate responses and identify qualified leads. However, e-mail experts will tell you that most unsolicited commercial e-mail is now blocked, and they privately admit that from 20% to as much as 70% of opt-in e-mail never gets through the spam filters, or past the delete key, to be read by prospects. If you want to generate the maximum number of leads from your database, you need use other lead generation tactics too.

Reach customers and prospects with direct mail
If your budget is tight, consider personalized, laser-printed letters or postcards. These formats are some of the lowest cost-per-touch mail formats and are a way to reach prospects you can't e-mail. These mail pieces are getting through and getting the attention of your prospective customers. They also are cost effective (if the other tips are followed) on a cost-per-lead basis.

Use search engine optimization or paid search if you want more leads that represent short-term sales opportunities
You need to increase the likelihood of being found at the top of the search engine results when buyers are actively searching for products or services like yours. Despite what the SEO experts say, optimizing your pages can be as easy as putting the right words or phrases in the right places on your Web pages. If you can't get to the top of the results that way, consider spending a portion of your limited marketing funds on carefully targeted pay-per-click ads.

Leverage social media as another inexpensive way to stay in sight and in mind with your prospects
Being in sight and in mind at the right time is often the key to generating qualified, sales-ready leads. All it costs to use social media, like LinkedIn or Twitter, is time. Start by investing an hour a day to read whatever you can find on the subject. Soon you'll know more about social media marketing than most. Then, join appropriate LinkedIn groups and search in Twitter for terms related to your products or services. Observe for a while to get a feel for what's working, and then jump in and start contributing to the conversation. And even if it doesn't get you lots of leads, it will keep you from twiddling your thumbs because you have no budget to do marketing.

Use multi-touch direct marketing to increase your chance of being in-sight and in-mind at the right time with your prospective customers

You'll generate more by touching 1,000 prospects three times with your direct marketing, than you will by touching 3,000 prospects once. Each contact is another chance to be in the right place at the right time.

Make offers that your prospective customers can't refuse

Compelling offers or calls-to-action are the key to getting prospects to identify themselves and take the next step in their buying process, from awareness to inquiry to consideration to qualifying as sales-ready leads. With this in mind, create a suite of offers each designed to address those different stages of your prospects' buying cycle. Be sure to include some "buy-now" offers intended to incentivize prospective customers to buy now rather than later.

Avoid one-size-fits-all messaging

Group your prospects and customers by similar industries, company sizes, applications or job functions. Then tailor the messages to address each group accordingly. For example, use jargon that demonstrates a familiarity with their industry. Address a specific problem that is widespread in companies their size. Make relevant offers that address their unique application for your products or services. Use testimonials from others with similar job functions. These tailored messages will increase the number of sales-ready leads generated.

Focus first on your existing prospect and customer database

The in-house database is often the most productive source of short-term leads and sales. That is because the people in the database have already expressed an interest in your products or services by responding to previous marketing programs, inquiring or buying. They also may have been added to your prospect database because they were similar to your best customers, or they appeared likely to have problems or needs your products or services can solve. That makes them the right people to target with lead generation campaigns.

Marketers weave web of loyalty

Many multichannel merchants are investing in the e-commerce customer experience as a way to drive results even as economic pressures force them to cutback in other areas. These retailers are also delving further into the connection between online customer experience and customer loyalty.

While most areas are being cut, and online efforts are not immune, retailers see the online experience as an investment which can increase sales through better conversion rates and decrease costly customer service calls.

In general, retailers understand that a good user experience will enhance loyalty. Companies are just starting to really explore how to merge channel behavior with loyalty programs. Major retailers are considering giving good customers a coupon for the e-commerce Web site after an in-store purchase is made as a way to stimulate multi-channel behavior. 

For now, most retailers are focused on ensuring that customers can find what they are looking for without encountering problems. A smooth shopping experience that keeps them coming back and encourages them to recommend the site to others is the goal. These efforts run the gamut from site optimization to bells and whistles such as product recommendations, video product descriptions, live chat and customer reviews. 

There's a high degree of correlation between good customer experiences and consumers' willingness to make subsequent purchases from a company, according to the recent Forrester Research report The State of Customer Experience, 2009. 
One of the key areas for improving online customer experience is relooking at product landing pages; Often, consumers come to a 
product page through a search engine, so the product page becomes a default landing page. This requires many firms to rethink content and layout of pages.And as companies put more content and functionality on their Web sites, it has become harder for customers to find what they are looking for.

Retailers are looking into what are the barriers to buying online and trying to address these. Whether it's a new customer or an existing one, the goal is to make it easy for people to shop, transact and keep coming back to the site. The issue is similar to what retailers face with their offline stores. If a shopper has to wait online or can't find what they're looking for in a bricks-and-mortar store, they're not going to come back or recommend the store to someone else.

Live chat is also being used to improve the customer experience online. In a recent survey by live chat software company BoldChat. Sixty-two percent said they are more likely to buy again from the site because of the live chat interaction.

Getting it write

You may still be thinking, "That's okay - I know how to write!" But do you? You may know how to put sentences together and you may understand the basic rules of grammar - but that's not the same as writing effective copy.

If you write marketing materials without a thorough understanding of good copy, you could be doing your business a disservice. This is because you might not be using the best ways of getting your points across.

If you want your business to succeed (and who doesn't?), it's vital that whatever is written about your business shows you in the most favourable light possible. So choose your words carefully!

Copwriting tip 1
Write short words, short sentences and short paragraphs! This will make your marketing words more readable. Writing short sentences, in particular, will make your copy flow.

Copywriting tip 2
According to the old adage, 'The more you tell, the more you sell'.  So, the more you write - the more you will sell. Hence the requirement for 'long body copy' (i.e. more words). Remember that it's only the people who are actually in the market to buy - who will avidly read every single word you write.

Writing for your audience

You might enjoy esoteric word choice or complicated sentence structure, but you don't want to lose your readers or send them reaching for a dictionary. Likewise, consider their perspective—what they value and what will interest them.