Elayne Whitfield, BA, MVA ~ VA Industry ExpertSubscribe Now

Conditioning Your Prospects and Customers

Conditioning your prospects and customers

When you’re looking to market to prospects and build relationships with existing customers, it’s important to stay in touch with them as often as possible. Get them on your email lists and segment them according to where they are in the buying cycle so that they can be targeted by your messages accordingly. Consistent communication can go a long way for conditioning customers to trust you and think of your business whenever they are in need of your services.

Tell Them What to Expect

Whenever anyone buys from you or signs up for your email list send them a thank you note with an explanation of what to expect from you in the future. How often will they hear from you? What will you contact them about? Make some promises and assurances to them.

Do What You Say You’ll Do

It’s very important that you do whatever you said you were going to do. For example, if you say you will send them a newsletter every Monday, send them a newsletter every single Monday and never on any other day. If you skip or switch the days they may get confused. A lot of people will actually forget they signed up for a list and when you don’t stay active they will report you for spamming them.

Remind Them of What You Said

Periodically, be sure to remind your prospects and customers about your previous promises and assurances. This will help them remember who you are and will build trust.

Let Them Know When You Follow Through

When you do something you said you would do, tell them. “I told you I would send you an update on my xyz product and as promised, here it is.” Again, this reinforces the point that you stick to your word and can be trusted.

Ask Them for Input and Opinions

Once in a while invite your prospects and customers to submit their ideas and input. If you have a new product idea, tell them about it. Ask them what they think. Ask them what they’d pay for such a product or service. Ask them if they would like to see something from you that you do not currently offer.
Tease Them about New Products – Never pass up an opportunity to give them some hints or small bits of information on a new product, service, or event. As you hint about it, make them really want it by explaining what’s in it for them.

Thank Them for Buying

When someone buys something from you (or answers any call to action), be sure to thank them. A ‘thank you’ is always a nice thing to do, plus it gives you a little bit of extra space to provide them with more information about you and your products and/or services.

Follow Up Regularly

Even after someone has purchased and you’ve thanked them, it’s not over. It costs a lot less to create a repeat buyer than it does to turn a lead into a new buyer. On top of that, repeat buyers are more likely to make larger purchases than first time customers. Cultivate your relationship with buyers even more consistently than you do leads and prospects.

Most people need to hear things multiple times before it sinks in so stay consistent with your messages. The more you stick to your word and the more value you can provide to your audience, the more they’ll look forward to whatever you offer them.

Permission Marketing: How to Market Ethically Through Email

Permission Marketing - How to Market Ethically Through eMailMarketing in general often raises ethical questions and subjective interpretations of what is right and wrong. From online marketing to face-to-face and traditional direct mail marketing; advertisers, businesses, and marketers have always had to walk a relatively clear, well-defined line. On one side: ethical business -- opt-in lists that let people opt out just as easily, buyer-friendly sales tactics, generous return policies, and a desire to build trust. On the other: unethical business -- aggressive marketing, unfriendly tactics, and a short-term business mindset.

While marketers are often branded as the latter, most are very ethical and buyer-focused. Marketing depends on repeat business, and the most effective online businesses know that satisfied customers, clients, and participants are exactly what they need to ensure that customers return to them in the future. Returning customers spend money, are very easy to deal with, and are often the most profitable and valuable customers available. Rather than focusing on the short-term, most smart marketers are intensely focused on the long-term potential of establishing customers who will keep coming back to them.

Email marketing is one of the most popular and trusted forms of online marketing but it, too, draws the same kind of ethical questions. Spam is a major problem online and it hurts responsible email marketers more than anyone else. Just like short-term offers and unfriendly tactics hurt the rest of the marketing and direct sales world, massive spam marketing efforts have affected legitimate email marketers more than they have the spammers.

When Email Marketing Becomes Spam

The word ‘spam’ gets thrown around so often that it’s easy to lose track of what it actually means. Spam is not sending targeted messages to interested buyers, but rather it is sending too many emails to too many people who never asked to be contacted. Unfortunately, many email marketers overestimate the value of their email updates and cross over into the latter category. This short-term focus might lead to rapid sales and quick product uptake, but it leaves little in terms of long-term potential and establishing a reputable brand name.

How to Market Ethically Through Email

Provide value, don’t just offer what your business is selling. Whether you are providing tips and advice through email or merely interesting content, you have an obligation to provide value to your prospective customers before you expect it from them.  Marketing guru Seth Godin is fond of a specific term, one that he coined himself. He calls effective email marketing “permission marketing” and defines it as marketing that has the audience's permission to be received. Permission marketing is always more effective than its alternatives over time, and is a real boost for return customers, repeat clients, and long-term arrangements.

Why Permission Marketing is Best for Customers and Marketers

Marketers are human. Despite the overwhelming (and somewhat alarming) belief that marketing plans are thought out in a harsh corporate office, most marketing plans are pieced together by people that are just as susceptible to marketing as the audiences they target. Marketing is about trust, and consent is the basis of all trust.

When your email marketing becomes spam, every transaction is temporary and short-term. Customers appear, but they never stay. When your email marketing is based on permission – namely deep and value-providing permission – customers appear and keep appearing. As both a long-term marketing platform and a low-maintenance marketing method, permission email marketing provides more results, less work, and greater returns for your business than any unethical approach can provide.

There’s just something unappealing about the spam approach that cannot be rectified by any amount of other positive business practices. If you want to establish your business and your brand, focus on the long-term and use permission marketing; it will be worth it.

Three Reasons to Market Through Email AFTER You Sell

3 Reasons to Market Through EMail After You SellFor years, email marketing has been a pre-purchase exercise. Marketers spent almost all of their resources on acquiring customers before selling to them, rather than reaching out to customers after the sale. While this method is obviously effective, it is by no means the be-all and end-all of marketing forms.

After the worldwide recession hit in 2008, businesses everywhere responded by cutting their marketing budgets. Advertising expenditures plummeted, global marketing presences were almost eliminated, and sales-focused businesses found themselves running out of buyers. In a new environment of business, companies began turning to uncharted methods to attract customers, leading eventually to an expansion of the email marketing world.

Today, the focus on size over substance is clearly present in almost every form of marketing, from offline resources to online marketing tactics. Marketers brag about their mailing lists, touting millions of readers, all the while ignoring the fact that each reader is almost completely valueless. Despite their massive size, these marketing lists are largely pieced together and almost completely devoid of any post-purchase subscribers.

The money is, as they say, most certainly in the lists, it's just not in any list. The most valuable marketing resources and the targets of any serious email marketer are the attention of any prospective customer that can, will, and has bought before. Once you have overcome the initial sale, repeat business is as simple as creating additional marketing resources to stay engaged with the customer.

Sometimes it is best to forego the short-term subscription and focus on customers that are ready to buy. Before you start an all-inclusive marketing list, consider these three reasons to keep your list exclusive and limited to customers that have already bought from you before.

  1. Post-purchase marketing gives you authority through established trust: It is easier to sell a $1000 product to a current customer than it is to sell a $20 product to someone you barely know. Commerce, especially online commerce, is all about building trust and establishing authority. Build trust with a small initial sale and you will give yourself an avenue for larger, more profitable future transactions.
  2. Customers qualify themselves. Prospects require your qualification: Marketing to new customers is an uphill battle. You are constantly re-evaluating your assumptions to appeal to possibility and quite often they can fail to be worth your time. The vast majority of pre-purchase prospects turn out to be duds and the few that buy from you are typically the types of customers that would buy from you on their own anyways. Focus on fostering qualified customer connections, not indiscriminate and valueless connections coming from anywhere.
  3. Post-purchase marketing is exclusive and value-adding: Exclusivity is a currency in itself. Marketers have forever capitalized on the “exclusive offer” strategy, offering each customer a one-off opportunity that is available to almost everyone else. While many are content with false exclusivity, true exclusivity gives you a marketing opportunity that is almost completely unparalleled.

The internet, especially over the last few years, has given marketers intense power to undervalue and skim over  personal relationships with customers. It has become all too easy to send a generic  template email to all contacts instead of differentiating previous purchasers versus prospects. A focus on true exclusivity and one-on-one treatment goes a long way in the world of template emails and form letters, and will be appreciated by your clients, customers, and business contacts.