Customer Retention Strategies

We began this series of articles on applying the tricks of training to the business of marketing with the fact that the customer’s ego is the spot to place the fulcrum of any leverage you hope to apply. There are plenty of ways to enhance self-esteem in your customers by making them feel smarter than they were a minute ago. The way to a man’s heart may be through his stomach, but the way to anybody’s wallet is through his or her brain.

What’s happening in the average brain the first time it encounters your site? You can assume that new visitors come to your site feeling either nervous or skeptical. To move them to a sense of security, confidence, and trust, the site has to give them the information they need, when they need it, in terms they can understand.

Let’s talk about two terms that have negative connotations in training, but embody the essence of customer care for marketing: “spoon-feeding” and “handholding.” These do not imply a condescending or disrespectful attitude toward your customer. You spoon-feed a young creature whose life you care about enough to nurture. You hold the hand of someone you’re courting. These are customer attraction and retention tactics. Employ them boldly and blatantly.

You can even have fun with them. Give a reward for completing a practice exercise. Sure, it’s designed to have only a successful outcome. Sure, all who accept the challenge get the reward – they’ve all earned it. The reward is a discount coupon for the product they just practiced using… and when they use the coupon, your site presents a printable “Training Certificate” page complete with their name (captured from the order information). You have just given your new customers instant gratification.

Just make sure they also get instant confirmation of the order’s placement, its tracking number, and dates of shipping and probable delivery. Oh, and follow up on the delivery date with a message inquiring about its arrival and their satisfaction with the buying experience and the product itself. Otherwise, they’ll feel stupid and blame you for it. The BizRate.com model of product follow-up is worth emulating.

All communications – on the site or via email – should be at least useful. The types of usefulness that make people feel smarter include:

  • Criteria on which they can make decisions

  • Practice in a new skill
  • Clear directions for that practice

Pricing information, for example, gives power to consumers. You can assume they’re comparison-shopping with online services or referrals from friends. If you know your price is higher than competitors’, include information about the additional value you alone provide: easy “how to” directions, extended warranty, free overnight replacement, discounted upgrades or accessories, etc.

Before they ever make a purchase, however, they have to trust you, and they’ll probably have to visit a few times before they do. Information alone can be the “strong attractive force” (if we may borrow from quantum physics). Your challenge is to acquire content efficiently. Producing it yourself or searching the web for it can be costly in money or time, but an efficient new tool may work for you.

You can become a trusted guide to the web’s deep resources of information related to your products, a treasure trove more vast and more valuable than we previously knew. In more than 100,000 free, accessible databases, containing about 550 billion documents, you can find deep, high-quality information, according to a white paper (“The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value“) recently issued by BrightPlanet. This content’s quality is greater than that of the “surface” web – probably because it’s less commercially oriented. Sure, BrightPlanet wants you to use its LexiBot search technology to find these documents that are invisible to ordinary search engines, so you have to buy LexiBot after your 30-day free trial. But after 30 days, you’ll know if it’s worth it.

So you can spoon-feed yummy information to your customers on your site, and then hold their hand as you lead them to the document containing the entire smorgasbord. The site hosting this feast is not trying to sell anything, and its information makes your customers feel smarter about buying your products. After all, you didn’t insult their intelligence, and you made it easy for them to get even smarter. More customers buying more products makes you feel smarter, so everybody’s happy.

Homework: For next week, make a list of what you’re doing to find out what your customers already know (or think they know), so you can lead them to the knowledge you offer – not to mention your products and services. Meanwhile, if you need coaching, you know where to find me.

Recess: If it’s later than 10:00 a.m., you need to take a break. Deskercise of the day: Your seat. First, get it up off the chair.

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