Thursday, July 20, 2006

Are You Putting Your Customers First?

What is your company’s most important asset? Your first thought may be your employees, products, or services. But, it’s actually your customers.

And your customers want you to put them first. In fact, a survey by Forrester Research found that “customer advocacy” — a consumer’s perception that a firm does what’s best for its customers, not just its own bottom line — is the strongest drive of customer loyalty.

By its very nature, direct marketing speaks to customers more personally than mass media advertising. The key to effective communications is relevance. Direct marketing typically uses highly sophisticated database marketing strategies to gain better insight into customers and prospects. Marketers have the technology and data to get to know their customers on a one-on-one basis.

But amazing software applications and customer insight are only the beginning. It takes marketing skill and finesse to use this customer and prospect information to create communications that engage readers and persuade them to respond.

Now more than ever, we need to take a customer-centric approach to marketing. The product-centric and campaign-centric models of the past are losing ground with customers.

With a well-organized database, you can slice and dice your data to create virtually any type of segmentation. You could pull demographic information to vary your message based on small age bands. For instance, many companies are finding that everyone over 55 is not alike. If you target a senior market, you may find that younger seniors respond to different messages and approaches than older seniors. You might promote easy-to-use, interactive online tools to younger seniors and mail paper worksheets and brochures with dedicated call center information to older seniors.

Even moms are not the same these days. A mother of toddlers could be in her early 20’s or early 40’s. There are working moms and stay-at-home moms — and virtually every combination in between. There are moms who lead the trends and moms who follow. You may want to segment moms based on age, age of children, buying habits, buying lifecycle, or other variables.

Shifting away from focusing on the products and services you offer to focusing on how customers interact with you can help you build and grow customer relationships.

Most marketers concentrate on two key target areas: gaining new customers and growing existing ones. It is a well-known fact that it is more cost-effective to keep existing customers than to attract new ones.

That’s why it’s important to nurture your customer relationships. Using customer-centric communications will help you do that. By providing relevant information at the right time to the right customers, you will build more loyal relationships.

Customer-centric direct marketing can help you:
• Increase program ROI and get more results while mailing less
• Increase message relevance, accuracy, and time to market
• Increase lead generation response rates and resulting sales
• Increase client loyalty and grow existing business

It’s time to pay more attention to the customer experience, and adjust your marketing practices to send fewer, more relevant messages that reflect the overall relationship your company has with its customers.

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