Communicating with Customers
In my last marketing post, I asked “what makes you a loyal customer?” The reason I asked is that it helps you get into the customer mindset when you can understand what your own buying habits are and why.
I answered my own question in a discussion of customer benefits about ebooks on the forum. I consider myself a loyal customer of Lyn and Zed’s ebooks because the books are well written, have easy to understand instructions, a lot of good pictures And the fact I can work at my own pace. When they produce new books, I would likely buy them because I know the quality is good, the price was reasonable, purchase was convenient — immediate download and I was able to contact the seller with questions. All of these things are key benefits to me especially since I’ve purchased ebooks more expensive and less user friendly.
My buying loyalties for groceries are different. I like a good bargain and am loyal to retailers who are conveniently located, offer sales, discounts and coupons, good customer service with liberal return policies.
When buying art, fibers or art supplies, I have an impulse buyers mindset. Although I won’t turn down a coupon, discount or sale. I love this, I have to have it! I’m sure you all know what that is like.
As a business person, you want to cultivate loyal customers. How? It’s all about understanding buying habits, mindsets, benefits and problems. The best way to keep on top of trends is to do a little market research and communicate with your customers and get to know them.
Ask customers why they like the specific product they are buying. Is it for themselves or someone else? If for someone else, who? Starting this conversation will bring more detail because most people love to talk when they like something or someone. Of course, this is easier to do if you are selling face to face at a craft fair or to friends and family.
But if you are selling through a third party like a gift shop or an art gallery, the people who procure your products know this information and will share it with you since it is a benefit to them to keep customers satisfied and popular products coming in. They can also give you an idea why something isn’t selling. It’s not necessarily negative feedback; you may find this is just not the right market for that product.
On the forum discussion, Ruth mentioned all the things she does at her store to keep loyal customers Basically, great customer service was at the heart of it. A few of them —
- Shipping at cost
- Free gift wrapping
- Keeping the inventory fresh and unique
- Custom orders
- Creating customer oriented events.
She said, “go a little beyond the normal service, people are wowed because the norm is pretty low.”
When communicating with people, don’t underestimate your enthusiasm. When you do what you love it shows through in the attention given to making the item, but your enthusiasm for what you do is contagious! So, is your loyal customers.
If you’re selling online and don’t have the opportunity to communicate face-to-face, keep an email list and follow up after the sale. Asking a customer if they are satisfied or if the gift was well received can help reveal trends and keep your customers coming back. Most people will respond to one or two questions. It tells them you value their opinion and want to guarantee their satisfaction. Many retailers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble follow up with an email after the sale to ask you to rate the product and make comments. Take the marketing hint from companies who spend a lot of money researching these things!
Emails can be used to communicate news about introducing a new product or line, exhibit or fair dates. Email marketing is inexpensive and can result in repeat sales. Of course, e-newsletters and blogs also provide the same benefits.
Posting news and pictures of works in progress also works using social media like Facebook. If I see an item I know one of my friends would like, I can share it on my news feed or send it to that persons news feed. Again word of mouth in the digital age!
Remember less can be more. I say this because if people are busy too much information becomes background noise. So, be selective about what and how often you post or email. Make it newsworthy and friendly.
You may be saying, but I do all this or I’ve tried that and it’s not working. Again, knowing your customer will help you determine where to sell and the best strategies to use. If normal outlets aren’t working, it’s time to get creative to develop better strategies and or find new markets.
Food for thought: Where do my customers go? What do they do?
18 thoughts on “Communicating with Customers”
A very interesting article, and plenty to think about, thank you 🙂
Thanks Marilyn – getting feedback is important and I don’t always take the time to do it. Glad you reminded me.
Thanks Ruth! I know it’s not always on the front of people’s minds, but it helps.
Very well done, Marilyn. Gives us lots to think about. Feedback is crucial but not easy to get via on-line shopping.
Thanks Cathy! There is a lot to think about in marketing in order to start planning strategies.
Thanks for this Marilyn. I agree with Cathy, getting feedback isn’t easy online, I don’t know why, it used to be so common.
I have some theories about the lack of on-line feedback today, but I’ll save it for another discussion! Looking forward to Marilyn’s continuing marketing and business series.
You’re welcome Zed! It is very odd to me that places online lack an option for feedback. If you look at the big guys as I mentioned, its critical to get feedback. Customer satisfaction is key which is why many have very liberal return policies. A lot of smaller online retailers have also started feedback and loyalty programs in the footsteps of the giants. Companies that don’t offer this option are missing out and probably losing business.
They do have an option, ebay has options for customers and sellers, etsy has options for customers, they just mostly choose to not bother. Unfortunately sellers can’t leave feedback, but we can message buyers to thank them for theirs.
Great article Marilyn. Lots to think about. The feed back on eBay became pointless. People got very upset if you didn’t give them top rating. Then there were the sellers that would say if you don’t leave me good feedback I will leave you bad feedback.
Thanks Ann! It’s unfortunate the system Ebay has created is so skewed because sellers are afraid of bad ratings. But there are many other good examples of online feedback as I mentioned.
I am enjoying your series of articles and learning a lot – thank you!
Thanks Lyn! I’m glad to hear the information is useful.
Finally, I had the time to sit down and read this properly.
Very good questions, Marilyn! Feedback is very important, and asking customers what they think is paramount, regardless of whether they will take the time to write it down on your shop feedback section (an email will often suffice). I also worry about whether items reach people on time, whether packaging was good, all those little details that can make or break a sale. Online shops need to take care and make sure word of mouth is working in their favour, since our buyers can’t really touch or feel the items for sale…
Thanks Leonor! Excellent points and observations. Follow up is so important because you don’t know once your product has left your hands what has happened that could affect customer satisfaction or future sales. It takes a little extra time and effort,but I think it’s well spent.
You have a very interesting point of view: What makes you a loyal customer? This is a very good thing for all people in customer service to think about. This way, they can provide the service that they would like to be given to them. Customers would be happy about that. Sometimes, customer service people can become institutionalized that they forget about what customers are and who they are and become lost in the world of rules and policies given by the company.
Thank you for your comment John. It is very true in big business. However, for a small business person, it should be an absolute must to provide excellent customer service. The next sale may depend on it.