One of the most effective ways to help you with both of these programs (help your customer acquisition as well as help you with your customer retention) is the customer insight or in other words knowing more about your customers by building and managing an organized information system.
When you improve your customer insight and knowledge you will be able to:
- improve your customer acquisition
- improve your customer retention
- improve your average customer lifetime value
How can we learn more about our customers and why it is important?
Here are 10 tips and ideas on how you can organize your system for gathering customer feedback and information so you can improve your overall marketing, sales and business development:
- While during the early stages of the sales pipeline management most organizations have a way to collect customer or prospect information in order to learn more about the particular customer, during the later stages (once the customer is already there) companies ignore this golden mine opportunity.
- You can use every single interaction with your customer to learn more about his or her needs, preferences, requirements, interests, etc. Gathering info is more effective to be done step by step with little chunks of information instead of asking for everything you need at one stage. No one wants to fill out long forms with many questions so you need to plan and organize your process as an ongoing system – step by step.
- Create and manage loyalty programs. This improves the customer retention and maximizes the customer lifetime value because your customers are motivated to do business with you only. This is very effective for your marketing and sales process. Figure out the most effective and efficient way to build a loyalty program and reward your customers for their loyalty – this is a win-win situation you have to consider for your business development and a great opportunity to gather customer info.
- Segment your customers. Not every customer is the same, as you gather customer info identify what makes them different and what makes them similar. This will open a new perspectives on customer segmentation. For example, while general segmentation like locations based or industry based segments are your starting point in marketing, learning more will help you refine your segments in a more effective way so you can approach them better with focused offers and campaigns that bring value to your customers.
- Identify your ideal or core customers. These are the top loyal customers with top lifetime value. Once you have a clarity of who these customers are you’ll be able to improve your overall product and service management and sales growth.
- Don’t focus on the first transaction but instead focus on maximizing the customer lifetime value by offering high value solutions on an ongoing basis.
- Use interviews. Visit your customers (especially the members of your ideal group) and ask simple questions about why they do business with you, what they like and what they think should be improved and you’ll learn much more than you can think of. This is the single most effective way to learn more about your customers. In addition this approach builds trust and improves long-term relationships.
- Use surveys. Customer surveys can be easily developed these days whether you need offline or online surveys. Once a year (or based on your business this time can varies) you can use simple short surveys in order to get a higher response rate and compare the results from one period to another. This will reveal potential trends and opportunities for improvements.
- Build customer profiles. Profiling customers is an extension of customer segmentation. While the segment in general reveals basic attributes the profiling goes deeper into more details. You can develop group profiles and individual profiles. For example in B2B individual profiles can be very effective because they deal with high level of details allowing you to learn more about the customer. These types of profiles can help you with your customer acquisition as well because you can focus on targeting similar profiles based on your core customers.
- Customer database. Keep and update your customer database. Whether you use a simple spreadsheet or third party solution your customers database is a source of valuable information for your sales and marketing processes and approaches. By having an organized customer database you can develop customized offers and promotions and improve your customer lifetime value.
- Improve your products and services. By continuously collecting information and feedback from your customers and managing your database on a continuous basis you have all the info you need to develop new competitive services and products or improve the existing ones. Use your database and your customer feedback to define your ideal products and services and start from there by using a traditional gap analysis.
Being customer focused is easy when you have an organized customer information system to perform the job for you. Managing customer information is an ongoing system, contrary to what most organizations do, it is more than doing a single survey or filling out a form by a prospect.
By using once in awhile instruments you are only scratching the surface – the real value is in managing an ongoing customer information system.