Connecting With Customers: The Heart of Appreciation Marketing

The core of appreciation marketing is to show customers you care. Communication is how you do that. In appreciation marketing, regular communication of information that benefits the customer will help build mutual trust. In other words, appreciation marketing is about turning the vendor-customer relationship into a mutually beneficial and constructive partnership.

Regular communication is a key part of the appreciation marketing strategy. Here are some steps to help you get started.

Know Your Audience

Appreciation marketing means getting to know your market. That way, you know your customer’s needs and how receptive they will be to the products and services you can offer them.

The more you know about the market, the more effectively you can communicate, and the better and quicker you can build up that trust-based partner relationship. This requires you to do the work needed to understand the market, including:

  • their needs
  • their desires
  • their fears
  • what they like and what they don’t like
  • why should they care about what you’re saying or selling
  • their perception of your value proposition

Customers don’t buy products or services—they buy solutions to problems or challenges they face. For example, they might buy advertising to reach a new market segment they think will be profitable for them. They might hesitate to use your firm because they don’t know whether they can trust you to deliver the necessary value for the money.

Regular communication can reinforce your company image and reputation, keeping you top of mind with potential customer’s while demonstrating your competence in this field. This builds that “like and trust” relationship, provided you know what customers want and need.

Know What You Want To Say

Once you’ve done your homework and know your audience well, decide what you want to say to them. Make each message about one idea. Brief communications will be much more effective. If you have a number of different things to tell them, space them out in several communications, or organize them under something that unifies the messages.

Express the main point of your message in one sentence. If you cannot do this, you will not be able to communicate it to others. Here are a few examples:

  • Example: The new ABC model 123 copier/printer operates 12 percent more efficiently and uses less toner and paper. It is also easier to operate with little to no training required.
  • Better: The new ABC model 123 copier/printer will save your operation $1,200 per year, because it uses less toner and paper. In addition, it’s easy to operate.
  • Example: Workplace accidents can result in increased inspections from government agencies, and they cost thousands of dollars in increased insurance premiums. They also cause delays and lost productivity. Better safety training can protect your employees and your business.
  • Better: Safety training for employees will boost your productivity, employee morale and bottom line.

Notice that the main point, sometimes called the thesis statement, is not the whole story. It is the elevator pitch—the most important part of the message.

Next step: An Appreciation Marketing Communications Strategy

Communications is an indispensable part of appreciation marketing, which means you need to take a strategic approach.

Start by getting to know your market as well as you can. Learn the needs, goals, aspirations and fears of people in this sector as much as possible. Why should they care about the products or services you provide? Why should they care about your messages to them? What’s in it for them?

Then you need to work out your key messages. These must show that you care about customers’ needs, goals and aspirations, and that you  can help achieve them. Key messages should reinforce the like and trust that are being built by other parts of your strategy.

Next month, we’ll discuss appreciation sales and marketing messages themselves on The Appreciation Agency blog.

 

How to get your customers to like and trust you

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The objective of appreciation marketing is to get your customers to like and trust you. The Appreciation Agency is dedicated to nurturing this approach to marketing.

This past month, we laid the groundwork with some definitions of appreciation marketing: building long-term customer loyalty by systematically constructing a personal relationship between your organization and every individual or business you serve. Few approaches are more likely to motivate customers too like and trust you and your organization. Let’s look at a plan to systematically encourage like and trust among customers.

Start with getting to know your customers well. Who are they? Which ones buy most frequently? Which ones are most valuable in terms of the products or services they purchase from you?

Ask whether customers like and trust you now. Do your customers share testimonials that they are happy with the work you are doing? Perhaps they pass on referrals to other potential customers after having a great experience with your business.

Analyze your existing relationship with all customers. Are the members of your team on a first-name basis with them? Do your customers come to you looking for solutions to unusual problems or tricky issues? If so, these are good signs they will likely continue to come back.

To get your customers to like and trust you, it’s first necessary to know them.

The personal touch

The core of appreciation marketing is to show you care about your customers. This is true not only in terms of commercial transactions but also in terms of who they are as people. You can do this in a systematic way that makes it easier for you and ensures your organization stays top of mind with customers. When your customers think of the products or services you sell, they should be reminded of you and your personal connection with them, too.

The first step is to provide outstanding products or services that consistently will be their first choice. The next step is to reinforce the value they place on your company’s expertise by developing the personal relationship.

Start with simple and obvious things. Ensure all your team members say “please,” and especially “thank you,” frequently. In our personal lives, we are more likely to trust and like people we find pleasant to deal with. This extends to our business relationships, as well.

Remember, too, that you need to develop that personal relationship not just with managers and decision-makers but also with front-line representatives you deal with more frequently. The people who carry out decisions will provide feedback on your products and services and are more likely to be the source of testimonials and referrals.

As we mentioned this past month, handwritten notes have a huge impact on whether a business contact will like and trust you. Encourage your sales team to write notes by hand, and consider developing a set of templates they can use to craft their letters.

Rewards

The suppliers that customers like and trust most are those who go the extra mile. Perks such as rush deliveries with no extra charge, bonus or premium features thrown in without premium charges and small favors that help customers solve little issues can have a huge impact. These gestures show you value your customers.

Small gifts can also be a nice gesture for key customers and their representatives. For example, you can click here for a free trial of SendOutCards. These need not be valuable in themselves, but they demonstrate that you appreciate your relationship with your customers. Such action on your part can build a rapport and nurture positive feelings toward your organization.

Lunches and other events can have real value, but more importantly, they represent time shared with customers. Such activities reinforce long-term business relationships with a personal relationship. The investment of time itself is most effective in fostering a positive relationship with customers.

What is appreciation marketing?

Before you get started with appreciation marketing, we’ll be glad to provide some basic definitions. What is appreciation marketing? Simply put, it translates to building long-term customer loyalty by encouraging a personal relationship with each individual or business you serve.

That means that the goal of appreciation marketing is to gain customer loyalty. Research shows us that the main reason customers leave a long-term supplier is very simple yet serious: they don’t believe the supplier cares.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has found that one of the main reasons businesses lose customers is the perception that staff members don’t care about their customers.

In fact, according to one SBA poll, close to 70 percent of respondents said their perception that staff did not care about their business or their needs led them to try working with a competing business. Dissatisfaction with products or services sold was not nearly as important—by a wide margin.

Translation? The biggest reason we lose customers is that they don’t feel appreciated.

Appreciation marketing: Show you care

The goal of appreciation marketing is to build customer loyalty through a long-term relationship with your customers. It’s far more powerful than hard selling. The reason is that this approach is customer-centric and focused on the customer’s needs, not the seller’s.

It starts with the recognition that customers are people just like you. That means they want to know you care about their success and well-being, and they also want to be assured you know them as individuals. When they feel a connection to you, they are more likely to trust you and, by extension, to buy from you.

A strategic approach to building personal relationships

You’ve probably heard or read about the tools that can successfully help you build a closer relationship with your customers, including hand-written thank-you notes sent after a sale. Others include:

  • follow-up phone calls placed a week or two after a deal closes to ensure things are working as expected
  • white papers and email messages to help customers deal with the issues they encounter most frequently
  • small gifts
  • lunches
  • coupons for your own company’s products or services or another’s

But what’s more important is implementing an appreciation-marketing strategy for your company, a strategy that your marketing, sales and fulfillment departments—indeed, all of your employees—can fully buy into.

The process has to begin with the understanding that customers stay with a supplier who recognizes their needs and responds to them as individuals, not as a mass market waiting for mass sales pitches.

Your sales staff needs to be trained to identify customers’ specific and individual needs. In seeking feedback and in communicating regularly with customers, your team should conduct itself in a way designed to address needs, not sell more products. This is the embodiment of the customer-centric approach.

Sales staff also need a defined program for continually engaging with customers and building upon relationships with them. They need a schedule for sending a thank-you note after a sale, and a reminder about following up later with an email or a phone call. They need to know which words will be most effective when used in hand-written notes, emails and text messages.

Finally, they need to know how to solicit feedback from customers about your products or services. Not only can you use this information to improve your offerings, it can also be valuable for strengthening the connections your company shares with its customers.

Integrate appreciation marketing into your strategy

Customers are the life-blood of your business. Use appreciation marketing to show them how important they are to you with a plan that is integrated into your marketing strategy, and watch your customer loyalty and retention grow.

Contact our team at The Appreciation Agency for more specific advice on your strategy.

A Competitive Edge through Customer Experience

Did you ever wonder what makes the superstars of your industry the superstars of your industry?  Does it frustrate and mystify you that your competition seems to always remain one step ahead?  Do you seem to be on a never-ending quest for a competitive edge in the marketplace?  Or even more seriously, do you see your revenue decreasing, your customer base diminishing or your market share evaporating?

If so, it might be time to re-invent yourself.  Thankfully it’s a lot simpler than you think! 

Today we live in a Google world.  Whatever product you sell, or service you provide, can be found online, for less money, in a few seconds.  So why would anyone ever do business with you?

The answer is simple… Because they like you; have a relationship with you; trust you! 

In today’s fast-paced world we’ve become so automated that many of us believe that a text message is sufficient to say thank you.  We communicate through cyberspace. We’ve become desensitized. It’s time to put the human touch back into your life.

Look at many of the world’s top performing companies and you will see a commitment to “people strategies”.  But does the strategic use of recognition generate business results and directly impact the bottom line?