Face-to-face, on the phone or online, every contact with a customer is an opportunity to deepen the relationship, and build your marketing and sales. Find your best moments to ask these five favors of clients:
1. Ask for an email address
Still the basic building block of marketing communication, email is “opt-in”, meaning customers agree to receive your messages. And it gets read: Customers open messages from small businesses at a typical 21% rate, according to MailChimp, the big email service provider.
Email is also easy to target for better results. You can segment your audience based on what you know about them, either within your email system or better still, a customer relationship management (CRM) system for a fuller picture of their behavior.
Customers expect a trade, however: Their address for messages that will alert them to sales or inform them of useful information.
Yes, you should ask for the social-media equivalent to the opt-in, a Facebook Like. But the reality is that Facebook makes it tough for marketing messages to get through to Facebook users anymore, unless you pay.
2. Ask for reviews and ratings
Good reviews (and multiple-star ratings) really do sway folks: A famous Harvard study found that a one-star increase in Yelp ratings boosted revenue 5 to 9% at independent restaurants. And search experts believe that Google factors stars and review sentiment into search rankings.
Start by asking for reviews from customers who compliment your work just after you finish a service or sale. Move on to your known fans: repeat customers, members of your loyalty program and readers of your email newsletter.
Be polite and considerate. Don’t make anyone feel like they’re being pushed (and don’t offer any incentives). Don’t even ask directly. Try “Do you use review sites? May I give you the web address for our Google, Yelp or Superpages profile pages?”
Be sure to thank them promptly after their review by responding on the review site and sending them a personal note.
And for really committed customers, ask for a testimonial. A written statement—or better yet a video—you can use on your website or other marketing materials.
3. Ask for a birth date
Here’s an old school promotion that’s been around a long time because it works: Sending a coupon or other promotion as a happy birthday wish. Some businesses formalize the process by running a birthday club but you can also just offer a birthday benefit as a hook to collect an email address. Email programs and CRM systems typically enable you to automatically send a personalized birthday message triggered by the birth date. Email vendor Silverpop created a whole guide to birthday emails, showing a bunch of different styles and approaches.
A social media alternative: Facebook collects birthdays from users, and lets you target ads to them within a week of their birth dates. You can target customers and non-customers alike, without having to ask for dates yourself.
4. Ask for feedback
Print up a comments card or create an online survey or just ask how you’re doing – but do find a way to systematically collect customer feedback. In particular, survey your best customers to zero in on their needs, your biggest payoff.
Key points about customer surveys:
- Keep them short; customers should be able to answer the question in a few minutes.
- Keep them simple. Ask customers to rate on their satisfaction level, their likeliness to recommend your business to a friend or likeliness to return.
- Keep them anonymous–and let customers know their names won’t be on the surveys.
- Keep them in perspective. Surveys are suggestions for improvements based on what some customers think.
5. And, oh yes, don’t forget to ask customers for a sale
A disheartening study by CRM Associates, based on listening to recorded phone calls to local businesses, found that only 33% of businesses asked what the caller was looking for and 89% never attempted to schedule an appointment. Train your people to:
- Listen carefully to customer needs
- Ask open ended questions
- Be prepared to handle objections
- Recognize “closing signals”, the comments that show the customer is ready to buy
- And, above all, politely ask to close a sale. Try “We have openings tomorrow afternoon. Can I put you down?” or “I can ship it today. Do you have your credit card handy?”
Dex Media offers Thryv, a cutting edge, integrated business management and marketing tool that allows local businesses to easily manage customer contacts.