4 Customer Engagement Strategies That Add Value
Welcome to Vegas! All week long, Promo Marketing will be reporting live from the PPAI Expo 2019 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. If you're at the show, stop by booth 3237 and say hello. If not, keep an eye on our newsletter for product information, session wrap-ups and a whole lot more, brought to you right from the show floor. Up now: We recap Cathy Houston's education session, "Beyond the Sale."
It was 2010, and Delta Marketing Group was at a crossroads. As the recession bottomed out, the distributor lost its top three clients. To survive, it would have to reinvent itself as more than just a promotional products seller. It would become a full marketing services provider—a trusted partner, rather than an order taker.
For Cathy Houston, vice president for Delta Marketing Group, that meant one thing. "We need to become better farmers," she told a full room yesterday at the PPAI Expo 2019. "We need to nurture our customers." Houston outlined a four-step process for doing just that. Here were her keys to creating customer engagement strategies that go beyond the sale:
1. Use a robust CRM platform. There are plenty of these to choose from, some designed specifically for promotional products businesses. But whichever you choose—Delta Marketing Group uses HubSpot—make sure you're using it to its full potential. Most companies just enter the basic information about their customers and prospects, but Houston said it's crucial to gather the most information possible, from the very beginning of your interactions. Enter that data as soon as you get it, so it's fresh, and try to build a profile that has enough information to tailor sales calls individually to each customer. She also recommended connecting with customers on social media, especially LinkedIn, as that can yield additional information that may be useful later.
As for what to look for in a CRM platform, Houston suggested one that records every interaction a customer has with your business, automatically adds "intelligent info" about the prospect, records pages they've visited on your site and includes data from offline interactions.
2. Use email marketing to stay top of mind. Email marketing might not be sexy anymore, but it's still a crucial tool for customer engagement. For Houston, though, the key is to add value. Otherwise, you're just wasting people's time. She suggested three different kinds of emails to send. The first, a "thinking of you" email, is exactly what it sounds like—basic outreach to remind your customer you're there to help, without a sales pitch. The second, a "curated email," would include a hand-picked collection of promotional items selected just for your customer, based on their previous orders. The third, a "product email," includes information about certain products and how they could be used.
Houston also stressed a few email best practices. Find the sending frequency that works best for your customers, she said, and send email from a specific person, not a generic company account. Also, keep your messages short and, most importantly, include a call to action.
3. Do something unexpected. Houston used the word "delight" here—basically, go out of your way to engage customers in ways that will make them feel special and appreciated. Handwritten notes are a good start, but Houston also suggested spec samples and welcome kits. Spec samples can often be obtained from suppliers for free or at a reduced rate, she said, and are good for clients who may not be sure about a specific item. Sending customers a welcome kit of items branded with your logo shows that you appreciate their business, while simultaneously reminding them of you and highlighting items they might find interesting for future orders. Everyone likes getting some free stuff, and your customers are no different.
4. Stay in touch with innovative technology. This might mean an automated chat bot on your website that can book appointments and answer questions, a Contact Us page with a detailed submission form, or personalized video messages that allow you to check in with customers and demo new products. (Houston recommended Soapbox, a free Chrome browser extension for simple sales video creation.) Whatever you do, just be sure to try something. Tech solutions don't have to be complicated to use or implement, but they can differentiate you from competitors stuck using old-school methods. Any way you can stand out is worthwhile.
Ultimately, customer engagement comes down to one critical factor: How much value you can add for your clients.
"If you're being helpful, eventually you will get the sale," Houston said.