Improve Your Customer Retention with 6 Digital Tips



A key to retail profits is to up your customer retention game. Unless you have a bare-bones marketing budget for minimal results, in major markets it can cost you as much as $300 just in advertising costs to attract one customer.

True, marketing has evolved rapidly in the last quarter century. And yes, it’s important to be mindful of trends, especially digital marketing trends.

Outstanding loyalty programs for stellar customer engagement play an important role to improve your prospects for lifetime customer value.

How?

stockimages cartImplement strategies to thoroughly attract, engage and retain customers with digital convenience and price-saving.

Digital initiatives will save you time and money to increase your revenue with enhanced customer retention results.

Here are six tips:

1. Design and implement an integrated approach

It isn’t enough to just have an e-mail campaign. You must set the stage for a dialogue. Plan to send in-stock announcements. Send delivery-confirmation e-mails.

In all communications, include your branding to prevent buyers’ remorse. Too many companies rely on their shipping companies for these messages.

Timing is important, too. Delivery confirmations with your branding should go out within minutes of a delivery.

2. Your loyalty program should include a points-based scenario

Every time customers make a purchase, award them redeemable points to enhance their shopping experience. Again, such communications must include your branding.

This is also where your pricing is important. If you give a few points for every dollar in a purchase, be sure you price your products right.

You can also consider awarding points for a product review with a bonus if customers include a video or picture in the reviews.

Again, if you strategically price your products, you can also consider a discount on most or all products and free shipping once their orders reach a minimum dollar amount.

Plan also to permit redemption of their points in the online checkouts and mortar store purchases.

It’s all about showing value and convenience.

Stay Current. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Nor is there any future in it.

3. Facilitate convenience with social logins

Decide which social mediums your likely customers use such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. Permit your visitors sign in and register with social sites.

Consider inserting buttons for the salient social sites as well as a toolbar from AddThis or ShareThis that allow customers to use any one of nearly 300 social mediums.

4. Implement a subscription-and-save model

For frequent sales to the same customers, consider a subscription program with discounts that will lead to frequent purchases.

Include subscription options on all your product and checkout pages.

While you’re incorporating these ideas, be careful. Top e-commerce sites risk losing money by adding too many bells and whistles.

5. Keep an open mind

Again, it’s all about value and convenience. Promote all sales channels and enable one-click shopping. Allow your customers to use their favorite channels – from your bricks-and-mortar location to your Web site.

Consider using comparison-shopping malls and engines to enable you to appear on a diversity of channels to target your prospects.

Make it possible for your customers to visual how your products’ utility. For example, if you sell wearable items, empower customers to virtually try them out.

6. Build Trust

It’s important to take precautions. Be mindful of your legal requirements.

Make certain you’re using the latest security measures and strategies. Be prepared with a response strategy in the event of a breach.

Tell your customers what you’re doing to solve the issue, and give them ample opportunity to get in touch with your company.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are editor’s picks for relevant articles:

Tech Checklist to Provide the Best Customer Support — Ever wonder why big chains – from quick-service restaurants to electronic products – print invitations on sales receipts to entice customers to go the companies’ Web sites to comment online? They’re doing it for customer engagement. Businesses need insights on how they’re faring with customers.

14 Web Site Tactics to Attract Repeat B2B Customers — There are many tactics you can use to attract loyal B2B customers via your Web site. Above all, you must demonstrate value. Here’s how.

8 Basic Social Media Tips for a Newbie in E-commerce — Are you just starting out using social media? Well, if used well, social media is an excellent tool to accomplish two goals – connecting with your existing customers and attracting fans for new business.

10 Best Tech Strategies for Stronger Financial Results — Businesses that use 10 digital best practices are achieving stronger financial results than those that don’t.

Marketing Tips via Mobile Devices, Reviews, Coupons — Digital marketing opportunities keep growing and growing. For instance, 70 percent of consumers research product reviews while they shop in stores. Ninety percent are relying on their mobile devices as they make in-store buying decisions.

8 Red Flags Your Web Site is Out-of-Date — Just like your finances, human resources and other aspects of your business, your Web site should be continuously monitored for red flags and to be sure it’s not out-of date. Yes, it’s time-consuming and expensive, but any problems should be solved. The trick is to do it right, cost-effectively.

Stay Current. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Nor is there any future in it.


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Photo courtesy stockimages at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net 


Classic Red Flags You’re about to Lose a Sale – How to Save It



You’re in the hunt for new business. You’ve done your research about a prospective anchor client. You’ve had some preliminary discussions. Now, you’re seated with the person and making your case.

But will you seal the deal?

Here are the red flags you’re about to lose the sale, and what to do about it:

1. Instead of a meeting, you’re asked for a proposal. This is a sign you’re about to enter a “cattle call.” That’s an old phrase used in the entertainment industry to indicate you have to get in line with your competitors – the prospect is shopping around.

Solutions: Cut through the clutter of competition. Ask to sit down with the prospect to discuss the prospect’s needs and objectives, and on what basis a selection will be made.

Your two goals should be to get an agreement on need and the answers to your questions for an opportunity to present a proposal with laser-like focus.

Otherwise, you’re walking in blindly.

2. The prospect says you’re too pricey. There are  typically four possibilities.

Firstly, you’re dealing with 18 percent of the population who only buys at the cheapest price.

Secondly, price is usually an objection if your offer doesn’t create an image of value.

Thirdly, the prospect believes there are other options for less money.

Fourthly, the client might think you’re trying to over sell –more than is warranted.

Solutions: In order to overcome objections in sales, it’s important to use empathy in a three-step process:

  1. Get the prospect to restate the concern. Then repeat the person’s words:  “If I understand you correctly, you feel…?”
  2. Empathize:  “I can see how you feel that way”…or “You know, someone said the same thing last week.”
  3. Overcome the objection with facts and/or creativity with options.

3. The prospect is impervious about setting a start date. In your initial discussions with a prospect, ask open-ended questions about the person’s concerns about timing until you get the answers you need. If there’s no urgency, you don’t have a priority A prospect. You have a priority B or C.

Solutions: Discover the person’s emotional hot buttons. What would be appealing? Is it a discount, added value, or limited time offer?

You don’t necessarily want the person to buy out of fear. But you can heighten the person’s awareness issues about the competition. The classic “join the bandwagon” approach is often effective.

Strategically identify and suggest the financial risks by not acting. If you’re successful in portraying yourself as a senior advisor, prospects frequently respond favorably if delicately told they need what you’re offering for competitive sustainability – but you must be authoritative and be absolutely certain it’s the right thing for the client.

4. You suddenly realize you’re not talking with someone who can sign your checks. It might be an indication that you have a suspect instead of a prospect – if the subordinate doesn’t introduce you to the right person after a few discussions.

It isn’t ideal if your initial discussions are with a subordinate; hopefully you’re being tested before the meeting with the brass. If so, it’s a good sign if you’re being introduced to other managers for their buy-in before you meet the decision-maker.

Solutions: It’s so important to start prospecting at the top. It’s much easier to work your way down than trying to work your way up.

Otherwise, you face climbing a mountain. So always have collateral that the boss might see after you leave the premises. But never give a subordinate something to give to the boss – a sales guru never expects anyone to carry the ball.

Two options:

  • If it appears you’re spinning your wheels at the subordinate level, diplomatically request a quick chat with the boss. People can get easily offended if they feel you’re going over their head.
  • Ask the subordinate some deep questions that only a CEO can answer. This would likely disrupt their screening process, and would accelerate your move to the C-suite.

5. The prospect appears indifferent or too detached. If you’ve succeeded in piquing the prospect’s interest, you can expect questions, concerns or objections. All three demonstrate you’re being seriously considered. If you don’t get any of the three responses, you’ve got an obstacle to success.

“You’re as good as the best thing you’ve ever done.”

-Billy Wilder

Solutions: This is where your branding and relationship approach are so important – to lay the groundwork for an archetypal consultative posture – the image of a senior advisor. Trust and respect are what you want to create in the minds of prospects. You will have enhanced your chances, if you initially used such an approach.

Many businesspeople will open up with an advisor as opposed to a mere salesperson. Remember that’s how Progressive sells insurance. The company provides insurance shoppers with rate quotes from multiple competing insurance companies. That’s how Dick Cheney became a vice president. He helped then-presidential candidate George Bush screen for a running mate.

So, your only fallback position is an advisor’s role. If you have enough credibility, you can suggest other providers or offering to help locate others. Such detachment can work in your favor.

Try such an approach. Let the vendor interview others. The process might prove to be disappointing to the prospect. You might be surprised to discover the prospect knocking on your door, after all.

Happy selling!

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related sales tips:

7 Tips for Strong Results in Setting B2B Appointments with CEOs — As every salesperson knows, face time with B2B prospects gives you a foundation for sales success.  Execution in the appointment-setting process is, of course, is key to being successful.  

Valuable Secrets for Profitable Deal-Making with Clients — If you’re in professional services or consulting, many times you’ve heard the phrase: “Give me a proposal.”

The Lost Art – How and Why to Use Cold-Calling for Higher Sales — Do you get enough face time with the right prospects? Here’s how and why in-person cold calls will help you make sales.

The Seven Steps to Higher Sales — Secrets for sales success – seven steps to higher sales, five value perceptions that motivate customers to buy, and the three-step process for overcoming sales objections.

“You’re as good as the best thing you’ve ever done.”

-Billy Wilder


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Strategies for Maximum Customer Loyalty, Profits



A major factor affecting profits is customer retention. Profits tend to be elusive without consistent customer loyalty.

If you don’t have sufficient numbers of loyal customers, it’s important to do a profit analysis to determine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Then develop a strategic action plan and implement it.

Bear in mind American businesspeople and consumers have increasingly become cost-conscious and look for opportunities to save money.

ID-100117052 stockimagesThis trend has prompted many companies to slash prices and to make the mistake of focusing on price in their sales messages.

That means your customers are constantly hit with discount offers.

And they are tempted to change to your competitors because of price, quality and service.

But it isn’t a permanent switch. Such customers will then gravitate to the next low-ball offer.

So advertising to target such low-balling customers is simply not cost-effective.

I’m referring to customers base their decisions on price, only. They constitute 18 percent of buyers.

Therefore, it’s key to target the other 82 percent who can be persuaded to buy based on their five perceptions about value.

My research also shows that you have to reach a prospect with five positive messages before the decision is made to buy your product or service.

Why companies lose customers

When devoutly loyal customers shop elsewhere, 70 percent of the time they feel taken for granted.

Customers will leave you for a myriad of reasons, including failure to properly answer questions, treating them abruptly, making the buying process inconvenient, failure to solve problems quickly and subsequently failing to provide added value to assuage an unhappy customer.

Losing customers also means blown opportunities for word-of-mouth advertising and customer referrals. Plus, social networking and blogs – positive and negative – have changed the marketplace even more.

That’s why listening to customers is so vital – to gather information, to analyze it, and to develop answers.

In large cities, the advertising opportunity costs are high – usually $300 to $400 or more per customer.

If you lose a customer, it will cost you more to attract a replacement. Then, you have to factor in the sales curve – how long it takes for a new customer to become profitable.

So profits suffer in a down economy if you lose customers and can’t easily replace them. That means layoffs, which will hurt you even more.

Fifty-two percent of a customer’s value-perceptions motivating them to buy from you hinges directly on what they think about your people – spokespersons, sales reps and other personnel. (For more on value perceptions, see “The 7 Steps to Higher Sales.”)

So it helps to have ongoing discussions with your staff on these topics: Why customers buy from you, perceptions about poor customer service, and the factors about your service and products they like the best.

Research and other methods

Continually query your customers in formal surveys and in casual conversations using open-ended questions to get solid answers, not “yes” or “no” answers.

Take action steps and make improvements when feasible.

After you get great feedback and measure the results of improvements, tell your customers and express your appreciation.

When customers make purchases, don’t forget to thank them and prevent buyer’s remorse by tactfully reminding them of the value of their purchases.

And explain to your employees why it’s important to stop using the most-trite phrase on the planet: “Have a nice day.” Instead, your employees need to focus on providing an attitude of service and gratitude.

You’ll be creating a happy buying environment for repeat business and customer loyalty.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related articles:

How to Profit from Word-of-Mouth Advertising and Customer Service — When was the last time you explored options for improving your word-of-mouth opportunities? Here’s a hint: Customer service is the No. 1 key to good word-of-mouth advertising and repeat business. My firm’s research shows that consumers usually respond favorably to marketing after receiving five positive messages. Conversely, they will divorce your company if they have five or fewer unfavorable experiences.

Why Companies Are High Maintenance to Customers (but Don’t Know It) — Businesses are losing more than they know because they inconvenience customers. Such negative customer perceptions result in lost opportunities in revenue growth, tarnished branding and smaller profit margins, according to a study.

Marketing – Insights for Attracting Millennial Customers — Marketers from fast food to cars are struggling to understand an important demographic – 59 million young adults, aged 23 to 36, according to a published report. Other observers believe there are 80 million millennials, but in a slightly narrower age group. Either way, companies are obsessed with targeting millennials for good reasons.

Why Your Customers Stay or Leave – Insights from Study — Despite all the emphasis on speed in customer service, it’s not the salient factor in keeping customers happy. A study confirms that the power of emotion is most important, according to a January 2013 published report in QSRweb.com.

Understanding Customers — Social Media Humbles Companies — Marketing is the understanding of your customer for the cost-effective process of selling the right product or service at the right time and at the right price. Inexplicably, Verizon joins the list of big companies failing to understand how poor research and judgment would draw fire from their customers and social media.

“Well done is better than well said.”

-Benjamin Franklin 


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Photo courtesy of stockimages www.freedigitalphotos.net

Use Psychology to Ease Your Debt-Collection Headaches



What are your choices when your accounts receivables reach 60 to 90 days past due? After all, cash flow is a paramount priority.

Stellar debt collection is all about emotions. Certainly, you don’t want to be too aggressive in debt collection and lose possible revenue from slow-paying customers – they might soon be able to pay you.

Even a court judgment isn’t a cure-all. Nor do you want to let your receivables cripple you.

Many businesses face this perplexing problem – unlike what we’ve experienced in recent recessions. Consumers don’t have money to spend so they’re not consuming.

Consumer spending usually helps end recessions. But they probably aren’t buying from your vendors.

So turn to psychology to understand how to ease your debt collection nightmare.

ID-10068612 imagerymajesticFirst, recognize four salient issues:

1. Tight credit has traumatized business. Many of your business customers can’t get credit. For countless businesses, the credit issue started with Advanta.

Advanta was the nation’s 15th-largest credit card company with about 360,000 small-business customers.

It declared bankruptcy in Nov. 2009 – five months after it cut off all credit to its customers. Advanta CEO Dennis Alter was quoted by CNN as claiming the economy hurt his company (Bankruptcy filing is a blow to small business).

That’s partially true, but there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. Advanta and other credit card companies helped create the Great Recession.

Advanta was repeatedly accused of bilking countless customers with predatory interest rates at higher than 30 percent for dubious reasons, and abruptly cutting credit lines without warning to unsuspecting businesses long before the recession was acknowledged by economists. 

Little wonder about Advanta’s downfall. Its business customers couldn’t pay their credit card bills. Here’s a representative sample of complaints.

2. Weaker sales and fewer exports. The red ink cycle in the gross domestic product isn’t over. GDP growth has been well-below average during the Obama presidency.

The majority of small business owners isn’t feeling relief. We continue to see universal evidence of the slow recovery from the Great Recession in loss-leader sales and empty commercial space.

3. The national debt. Government debt under the Obama Administration as a share of the nation’s GDP averaged 76 percent. The nation’s massive debt increases every split-second and is best illustrated by the U.S. Debt Clock.

4. Mounting healthcare costs. Employers are suffering from double-digit percentage increases. And the root causes of escalating healthcare costs haven’t been solved by ObamaCare. 

The majority of slow-paying customers are likely to be downtrodden, but not mean-spirited. If a slow-paying customer has an otherwise good track record with you, the odds are you’ll see your money when conditions improve – if you practice empathy.

Consider a different approach

So in view of these woes what can you do to improve your receivables? Consider using the Golden Rule and train your staff in empathy techniques.

The majority of slow-paying customers are likely to be downtrodden, but not mean-spirited. If a slow-paying customer has an otherwise good track record with you, the odds are you’ll see your money when conditions improve – if you practice empathy.

Empathy means a breezy, easy-going approach. Treat past-due accounts like you’d want to be treated. Ask friendly, open-ended questions to get your customers to talk with you. Listen to how they hope to repay you.

Case study

Admittedly, in my third year in business, I fruitlessly felt anger toward a client who didn’t follow my counsel and his company consequently fell on hard times. As I dragged my bag of resentment around, it grew bigger and bigger. My obsession was a drain on my emotions.

Fortunately, I remembered a passage in an old best-selling paperback book, “Love Is Letting Go of Fear,” in which author Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D., related his experience with a non-paying client. Dr. Jampolsky, who was angry over the nonpayment, changed his mind and used a new g0-slow approach to the problem.

Soon, he unexpectedly received payment.  But that wasn’t his motive for an easy-does-it approach. He did it for his own serenity. For more on Dr. Jampolksky’s organization, visit: www.corstone.org.

I decided to try his approach. So when the client owed me more than $4,000, I decided to let go of the problem after being unsuccessful after months of collection efforts. To my surprise – a year later – I got a phone call with a promise to pay in full. Yes, the check arrived three days later and it didn’t bounce.

Two other lessons

Two other best-practices to avoid problems with your receivables:   

  • Don’t be so eager in taking on new clients, and be certain to practice due diligence. I politely turn down new businesses as clients if they’re not a right fit. There are  steps to consider before turning down new business
  • Closely monitor clients’ progress. Even if they pay me a retainer, I hold them accountable if they ignored my suggested best-management practices. They won’t succeed if they don’t follow recommendations.

FYI, five years after my $4,000 surprise, I got an opportunity to see if I indeed learned my empathy lesson:

As I was turning into a parking lot to meet buddies for our weekly sailboat race, a young waitress with a small child rear-ended my late-model vehicle. The damage was slight – about $100. The driver begged me not to report it and promised to reimburse me. I agreed.

Soon, I realized the joke was on me – she was not in a position to pay – so I decided to let go of it. My loyal accountant was more than chagrined with me.

But just an hour after deciding to let go of the matter, I unexpectedly met a person who formerly worked for one of my clients. He mentioned how my work benefited his ex-boss, and asked me to approach his new employer to offer my services.

A week later, I had a new client, who became my biggest. Not to be gauche, but it was six figures a year in revenue for nearly five consecutive years. Meantime, my accountant began to tire from my chortling soon after I won the disagreement.

The moral: Treat each situation differently. What goes around, comes around.

Don’t ignore your receivables

However, this doesn’t mean you should ignore collection problems. But don’t approach each customer with a sledge hammer. See the situations as opportunities for growth and more options for due diligence.

In conclusion, think long-term. As much as possible, treat your customers as partners and use the Golden Rule – treat others as you would like to be treated if you were in a similar plight. What goes around comes around.

Besides, if you use due-diligence with customers early on and use best-practices in management, you’ll be OK. The odds are the majority of your delinquent customers will remember your empathy and will remain loyal after their situations improve.

From the Coach’s Corner, for retailers, here’s a related resource: Plagued by Chargebacks? 5 Ways to Fight Back

“Interest on debts grow without rain.”

-Yiddish Proverb




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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 





Photo courtesy of imagerymajestic at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.