Digital Strategy Tactics for Customer Retention

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Marketers have a strong tendency to focus on courting new business. But this can cause you to neglect your very best prospects: the customers you already have. According to figures from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, a loyal customer will spend ten times their initial purchase value over the life of a relationship with your company. But, building these strong relationships takes planning and strategy.

A few things to consider when building your digital strategy for customer retention.

DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE

Customer retention is about engaging with your existing customer base. Hopefully you already have a wealth of analytical insights on who your customers are, how they interact with your organization and their purchase patterns. If not, now is a crucial time to get to know who your buyers are and begin to create marketing materials and promotions that appeal to them. Learn what they want and provide it to win their loyalty. To bring this existing data ”to life”, think about creating various personas of who your existing customer is.

The marketing materials you create targeting your personas will also become a crucial part of your content strategy and play a pivotal role in improving your overall SEO efforts, because you can create content that would be sought out by each of your personas. Buyer personas are an excellent tool for getting inside your customers’ heads. A persona is a fictional creation who matches the demographics of one of your sets of buyers.

SET REALISTIC GOALS

Without goal setting, you’ll have no tool to measure the success of your customer retention efforts. There are many ways to define your goals. To ensure success and buy-in within your business, create your set of retention objectives around the SMART principle. Consider sales figures from prior years or months to set the goal for an upcoming time period.

Example S.M.A.R.T Goals

  • Achieve 17% of existing customers to service their online account within 12 months. Service could be defined as: visiting the site, logging into their account, or making a repeat purchase.
  • Upsell 27% of existing customers to make a repeat purchase within 5 months through the company website.

USE EMAIL EFFECTIVELY

Email can be one of your most powerful tools for bringing customers back to your site to make new purchases. There are a number of strategies that you can employ:

  • Abandoned cart emails. Conversion rates for abandoned cart emails are twice as high as other email marketing. Some companies send a simple reminder that the customer left during checkout. Others offer a discount or free shipping to lure the buyer back.
  • Drip email campaigns. Start with a thank you email a day after a purchase; then, send periodic emails with tips and tricks for using your product and a reminder when it is time to reorder. This can all be automated, meaning you put in the work once and enjoy the benefits for months to come.
  • Email newsletters. Sending your customers regular newsletters with informative and useful content inside increases their brand awareness and creates warm associations with your company.

USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO CONVERSE WITH YOUR BRAND’S FANS

In a survey conducted by research group Loyalty 360, more than 25 percent of businesses indicated they ranked social media as the most effective channel for customer retention. The main reasons being that social media marketing allows for brands to speak directly to customers (and attract new ones), along with easy access to companies.

Customers use social media more and more often to contact a company when there is a problem. By responding quickly (surveys say that customers expect replies in 24 hours or less) you can not only fix your customer’s problem; you can also publicly show the quality of your customer service.

Here are a few other strategies to consider with using social media to improve customer loyalty:

  • Analyze your current database of Social Media followers/fans. Services like Followerwonk and SocialDNA are great resources. If you’re B2B, consider creating lists on Twitter for all current customers.
  • Create an editorial content plan specific to your customers needs (remember they are different than prospects’ needs) in place to drive timely content through social media channels.
  • Ensure you’ve provided In house training for staff to use social media channels in communicating with customers.

ANALYZE YOUR SUCCESS & SET KPI’S

Check your engagement, sales and other figures regularly to see how your efforts are working. When you observe a tactic that works well, you can use it again to bring more success in the future. But, if there are efforts that seem to fall flat, you know it’s time to tweak things. You can also use monitoring to decide on the best places to invest your time and funds. For instance, if your Pinterest page has three times the engagement of Instagram, you know that Pinterest is the place to put the bulk of your social media marketing efforts.

Here are a list of suggested KPI retention measurements that could be considered:

SEO

  • Number of branded keywords
  • Number of not branded keywords
  • Number keywords on 1st page of SERP
  • Number of outbound links generated
  • Traffic referral volume
  • Pages viewed per visit
  • Number of in-bound links generated

Email

  • Number of emails sent out
  • Segment email lists by existing customers
  • Click through rate to website
  • Open rate of email campaign sent
  • Repeat purchase rate through channel

Social Media

  • Number of followers and fans
  • Measure engagement through re-tweets, likes
  • Percentage of referral traffic through to website

There is no one size fits all solution for keeping the romance alive with your current customers. But, by testing strategies, consistently putting forth effort and measuring your performance, you can increase your retention rates and significantly increase your brand’s sales.

Website Launch Checklist

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Launching a new website is exciting, albeit daunting. There are several things to accomplish, details that are too essential to overlook, and many people collaborating to make the deployment go smoothly.

In this blog, I’ll give you a checklist of things you should review before your website launches.

Disclaimer: This isn’t a comprehensive list, there are many other details I don’t go into here, but I hope this provides a solid sample of the steps to take to ensure you have a successful website launch.

1. SPELLING, GRAMMAR, PUNCTUATION

It’s cumbersome, but necessary to go through the site and check for typos, grammar, and proper punctuation sitewide. Pay special attention to new pages. Also, many times weird formatting can appear if you copy/paste from older pages, Word or Google Docs.

2. WEB FORMS

Checking forms is especially important if you have a marketing automation platform integrated in your site. Go through and fill out the forms and note the following questions:

  • Are the forms passing lead information over to your marketing automation system?
  • Can the flow be improved? Shortened? Or do they need to be updated to reflect your new business model/service offerings?
  • Did you get stuck? Were there any errors?
  • Does the completed form get sent to the right people or person?
  • Was an automated response sent to the reader (i.e. Will they receive a thank you email after completing a contact form or receive the intended content after they download it from your website)?

3. LIVE URLS

When a site goes live, the URLs are transferred from a staging area to production. Every single URL on your site needs to be tested when the site goes live to make sure they lead to the correct destination. This is important from both a functionality standpoint and for SEO purposes; visitors will get frustrated, and your site will be penalized search engines if these URLs are incorrect.

Will your URL structure be changing significantly? If so  what is the plan for redirecting them to prevent broken links? Here’s an example of a change we made on the Mediacurrent website:

Old: mediacurrent.com/events/%5Bfield_event_date-month%5D/…

New: mediacurrent.com/events

4. TITLE TAGS/META DATA

This may sound old news to many, but make sure every page has a unique title tag. Also make sure each has a meta description. This is still a common source for search engine spiders to draw from to understand what the page is about and provide visitors with a sneak peak into the page contents from the results.

5. SITE SPEED

Site speed can make or break your users’ experience. The better performing your website is, the more efficiently a user will complete their desired tasks. Consider things like: How fast (in units of time, such as milliseconds) does it take to load an entire web page? How big is the webpage, in terms of file size? Does the website use web development best practices for website performance?

There are two main factors to consider when testing the speed of your site. 1) Initial page load – this will take longer because all of your images/css/js must be sent from the server to your browser. 2) Returning visitor – these users will have some, if not all, of the assets cached so they won’t have to download all these files again. Be sure to test for both scenarios where you want to get the initial page load size as small as possible and you want to have as many assets cached for returning visitors.

It’s also critical to test page load times on mobile devices.

6. CONTEXT

Before mocking-up wireframes take a step back and review your buyer personas. Frankly, some of your messaging and positioning may have become outdated. Once you’ve updated your personas, build out your our content strategy, wireframes, and visual design around the needs of your target audience.

When giving a critical eye to the pages within the site, ask yourself:

  • Why would your target audience visit this page?
  • Does the page address the audience’s buying questions?
  • Is there a clear call to action or conversion path?

7. COMPATIBILITY

Testing your design in advanced browsers as well as legacy browsers is a necessary part of any project. The old-school way to test code was to load your website on as many computers as you could find, using as many different combinations of browsers and operating systems as possible. That was fine if you had access to a bunch of different computers (and had some time to kill). But there are much more efficient ways to test across browsers, using either free or commercial Web services and software like Adobe Browserlab, Browsershots or SuperPreview.

8. MAP ALL OLD PAGES TO NEW

Sometimes content gets lost in the transition. New pages are added, deleted, and renamed. It’s not the most glamorous or challenging project, but mapping out your page redirects will have a significant impact on your new site. A basic Excel spreadsheet showing all the old pages and their corresponding new pages will probably be sufficient.

9. FONTS

From time-to-time font codes get dropped into a page inadvertently and make a letter or a word look wacky. Go through the copy checking to see that the formatting is consistent, and look for odd blips in the copy.

10. IMAGES

Make sure all display text renders on the image when you hover over it (the alt attribute). Make sure the images display correctly. Understand the images you are posting and the correct format for them. While most people ignore the file type/extension they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. The most common types of images you’ll deal with are JPG, PNG and SVG. You’ll want to store photographs as JPG, simple images like logos, icons etc as PNG or SVG. If you use Adobe Photoshop or similar programs they’ll usually let you compare the different formats side by side so you can get the quality level you want while comparing it to the overall file size. Remember, you can get your image on your site looking perfect but if it’s a few megabytes in size most people aren’t going to want to look at it. Also don’t forget image optimizing programs like Imageoptim, which will losslessly compress your images much better than your photo editing software allowing you to shave off a few more kilobytes from your page load.

11. TOOLS

Make sure Google Analytics or the analytics package you’re using are set up and ready to go. Also ensure all Drupal modules (including marketing automation modules) have been installed correctly and are functioning.

12. SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATION

Having your users share your content on social media is also a big portion of driving traffic (both organic and direct) to your site. Ensure that the social media icons on the site go to the correct pages. Are the right buttons and social plugins installed for what you are trying to accomplish? (For example, share a page versus “Like” you on Facebook.)

13. STRESS TESTING

It’s important to stress test your site to ensure it won’t error out from the surge in traffic from your initial publicity push or there after. This simply means by simulating the HTTP requests generated by simultaneous users, you can test your web server performance under normal and excessive loads. A suggested tool is Load Impact.

SUMMARY

Launching is just the beginning. You should continue to iterate based on how your site is performing on analytics and customer feedback. Hopefully you can see that everyone on a marketing and web team can be assigned tasks to test leading up to a site launch- even if they aren’t a developer.

Improving Lead Generation Using Your Company Blog

If you’re looking to increase your company’s digital presence and lead generation, one place to spend time auditing is your company’s blog.  Does your blog do a good job of answering questions your buyers have? Are you consistently blogging and optimizing your posts for SEO? Are your titles compelling enough to attract the reader’s attention?

I could list numerous more questions to ask, but in this post I wanted to specifically talk about how your blog should function as a triage for your lead generation efforts by creating momentum with visitors who are likely to buy.

Since the end goal of a business blog (or any customer facing content asset) is to stimulate demand and generate enquiries, here are a few tips to increase conversions:

OFFER RECOMMENDED READING

Like what you’re reading here? At the bottom of this post there are additional resources that are related and relevant to lead generation.

Offering visitors another post on the same page gives them a reason to stay and click around other content. Related post plugins like this can also help with SEO.

OFFER DOWNLOADS

Many marketers spend countless hours/dollars creating outstanding eBook and whitepapers only to use them sporadically in email campaigns. Apply a bit of creativity on your blog and showcase your solutions with an offer to download related content. Offering downloadable content on your blog increases your website’s secondary conversion points, and a great way of generating reconversions.

Developing a Strong SEO Keyword Strategy

SOLICIT FEEDBACK

Show that your blog isn’t just one way communication by asking for feedback. Serial Atlanta entrepreneur, David Cummings, does a good job of always ending his blog posts with a question.

Encourage discussions by seeding comments on new blog posts so visitors aren’t shy about being the first one to comment.

Use your site’s analytics to establish which topics people liked the most.

GAIN PERMISSION TO SEND SPECIFIC UPDATES BY EMAIL

Email remains critical to business marketing communications– securing an opted-in email address is a primary goal for most businesses in the process of building a new business pipeline.

Dig a bit deeper and you can build targeted email lists based on specific site content.

Targeting content at niche groups builds trust and moves a minority towards transacting.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY

Don’t give up! Most blogs fail in the first few months because companies start one with the best of intentions, but then quickly realize it takes time, money, and resources. If you’d like some help identifying your buyer personas and coming up with a content strategy feel reach to reach out to us. We’d love to help.

What other demand generation techniques have you used on your blog?

Related Resources

Why Web Analytics Are Important

How to Drive Traffic to your Website

Maximizing Social Media Through Email

Boost Your Content Marketing with Email Campaigns

Boost Content Marketing with EmailA properly-implemented email marketing program is a tool that can improve the impact of your overall content marketing effort by keeping your audience engaged, driving traffic to all of your content, and helping build stronger relationships.

It’s also important to note that email marketing is not a successful marketing strategy on its own. Rather than using it as an isolated tool, your marketing efforts will be far more successful if you properly integrate email marketing into as many inbound campaign channels as you can.

In my latest blog over at Mediacurrent.com, I share 5 tips to help amplify your content marketing with email campaigns. I discuss:

1. The importance of building your lists
2. Tips on leveraging all your content…even the older stuff.
3. Tips of segmenting wisely
4. Tracking your email campaigns as part of your complete marketing analytics
5. Thinking mobile first

Read the entire post “5 Tips to Amplify Your Marketing with Email Campaigns” and share your thoughts. You can also follow me @adamwaid.

Strategy Tips to Make Gated Content Successful

Gated Content A common challenge facing many organizations is determining what content should be generally available to all website visitors and, which content should be behind a form (aka gated content), requiring users to provide information about themselves before being able to access it.

Before you restrict access to your precious content, it is important to determine which assets should be gated. Blogs, webinar, pricing, and “about us” pages generally should be left without a gate to create traffic through SEO and assist with overall web conversions. However, content that underscores your organization’s thought leadership, such as whitepapers, webinars or eBooks, as well as free product trials and demos, should be gated.

Check out my post on Mediacurrent’s blog for tips on making gated content successful. 

10 Tips for Outstanding Internal Customer Service

BlogInternalCustomerServiceProviding good customer service is not only important to external customers, but internally to co-workers as well. I believe that a huge factor in being able to deliver outstanding external customer service (which leads to high levels of customer loyalty and retention) is without question, great internal customer service.

A quote I recently read resonated with how I like to train my team as it relates customer service.

“There’s a remarkably close and consistent link between how internal customers are treated and how external customers perceive the quality of your organization’s services. A commitment to serve internal customers invariably shows itself to external customers. It’s almost impossible to provide good external service if your organization is not providing good internal service.” – Benjamin Schneider, University of Maryland

So, who is an internal customer? A basic definition is anyone within your organization who is dependent on you to meet a goal or deadline. The foundation for outstanding internal customer service is excellent interdepartmental communication and cooperation.

Everyone within your organization affects the outside customer, and virtually everything you’ve read or learned about customer service in general applies to the internal customer.

Here are a few guidelines I live by:

1. Set clear expectations. 

As an internal provider of service, you are responsible for setting clear guidelines about what internal customers can reasonably expect. Last minute requests are typically due to poor planning on the part of the internal customer. However, if someone reaches out to you with a request while you’re working on something time sensitive, talk with them and identify how important his or her task is relative to yours.  If they have unrealistic expectations, explain your workflow, priorities, processes, and timelines. Then, reinforce your goal is to provide top-notch service for them.

2. Always keep customers informed on project progress.

Nobody likes to be blindsided by delays or last minute requests for additional information. I like to err on the side of over-communication. If you’ve finished a portion of the request, let them know the status, and when you plan to complete the rest of the project.

3. Get to know your teammates.

Go to lunch with co-workers in other departments or schedule quick calls just to check in and see what’s happening in their department. At Mediacurrent most of our team works remotely, so it takes a little more effort to get to know everyone, but it’s worth it.

4. Get the “big picture.”

Develop an understanding of how the whole organization works. How does what you contribute fit into the big picture? What do other departments need from you to meet their goals? Think outside of your function and department.

5. Publicize your schedule.

Keep your calendar updated with your schedule for the current week.

6. Always Close The Loop.

When you receive an email that requires additional work or research, let the person know that you received it and you’ll work on it. Do not let it sit in your inbox for days until you get around to working on it.

7. Make your co-workers feel valued.

Recognize them with a smile and call them by name. When someone approaches your desk stop what you’re doing, make eye contact, and be attentive to what they have to say.

8. Develop a positive attitude.

Your attitude is reflected in everything you do. It not only determines how you approach your job and your co-workers, but  it also determines how they respond to you. Avoid complaining. Do whatever it takes to get the job done—and done right.

9. Solve problems.

Great customer service professionals are quick on their feet. Don’t procrastinate, develop a plan of attack, and handle the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible.

10. Identify and anticipate needs.

The more you know your customers (see tip #3), the better you become at anticipating their needs.  Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs.

What other tips would you say are crucial to providing excellent internal customer service?

Marketing Automation Success Story

As a Marketing Director,I find it very important to know if my company is  on track to meet our web traffic and lead goals.  Over the last year at Mediacurrent, we’ve had a major shift in how we implement, strategize, and work with marketing campaigns. This has translated to a significant increase in website visitors, leads, and viable sales opportunities.

Here’s a quick case study around the success we’ve had working with Pardot over the past year.

Fragmented Marketing Analytics

Before partnering with Pardot, a Salesforce Company, Medicacurrent had no formal process in place for attracting and following-up with leads in a timely manner. To manage our leads we were using Excel and shared documents that were organized by color coding, so members of the marketing and sales teams could all have access to the same information. This manual process was time consuming and didn’t provide enough solid data to further Mediacurrent’s marketing efforts.

Our team believed in inbound marketing—the practice of using remarkable content to attract visitors, convert them to leads, and close sales—but needed to create a scalable, repeatable process for our strategy.

Challenges and Solutions

1. Formalizing our Content Strategy – Mediacurrent uses inbound marketing to build trust, foster relationships, and drive credibility within the open-source software community. In order to achieve our long-term goals, Mediacurrent needed to produce and present the right educational resources to the appropriate audience exactly when they needed it. We took the first few weeks to define our buyer personas, audit our content, and reorganize everything around the questions, concerns, and interests of our target personas. This process showed us where we had gaps in ourcontent strategy, and what content direction we should pursue going forward.

2. Lead Grading and Scoring – After defining our content strategy and buyer personas, we created a system of lead grading and scoring to help fastrack leads that match our personas to focus on our most promising leads. Attributes such as title, industry, and revenue contribute to a lead’s grade. For example, we compare the list of buyer persona attributes to the details about a lead. Once they match an attribute their grade gets bumped up a letter grade.

Lead Scoring within Marketing AutomationLead scoring is a numerical value that corresponds to activities a visitor does on our website, such as download content or hit key pages on the website. A lead may get an extra 30 points for downloading content compared to point values for just reading a regular blog post. You can read more about our lead scoring structure in our blog post.

Finally, we faced the challenge of figuring out how and when a lead should be assigned to sales. Leads that received a grade of “A” automatically were turned over to be followed up with. Similarly, leads that reached a score of 100 were be contacted. Leads that had potential but didn’t quite reach the 100-point marker are nurtured until they reached the target score or they reached out to us directly.

Because of our new marketing automation tracking capabilities, we could now follow their behavior on our website—with full details of the pages they were visiting as they performed their due diligence: learning more about our company.

The Milestones

After integrating Marketing Automation into our Drupal website we laid out a plan and successfully hit the following milestones:

Milestone 1: Integrated Pardot (forms, landing pages, and tracking code) with our Drupal website.

Milestone 2: Synced Pardot with Salesforce. We switched our CRM to Salesforce because we needed more data about a lead and to close the loop between marketing and sales efforts.

Milestone 2: Defined our content and buyer persona strategy.

Milestone 3: Completed the Pardot Quick Start Training.

Milestone 4: Developed a grading and scoring system for leads.

Milestone 5: Added new forms and content to the Mediacurrent website to catch leads, and setup automatic lead assignment in Pardot.

Milestone 6: Audited all call-to-actions on the website while offering similar resources readers would be interested in (resulted in 129% year-over-year growth in content conversions).

Milestone 7: Created reports within Salesforce, Google Analytics, and Pardot’s lifecycle reporting about lead generation, cost per lead, and sales follow-up activity.

 The Results

In the last 12 months, we have experienced wildly successful campaigns and now have a much clearer idea of where our marketing budget is being allocated. We are also able to see the time and resources that went into each and every lead at a granular level.

Since implementing Pardot, defining our content strategy, and creating a lead scoring/grading model Mediacurrent has experienced:

  • 53% increase in organic searching through a computer, which meant more whitepaper and eBook downloads
  • 40% increase in our regular e-mail subscribers
  • 23% increase in leads assigned to the sales team
  • 129% year-over-year growth in content conversions
  • Closing on 55% of our viable leads
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