Maintaining client relationships has always been one of the most important parts of succeeding in business, but over time, these relationships have changed substantially. We have the caricature from Mad Men representing decades of clients being wooed, followed by a far less personal, more ‘professional’ modern business, with marketing departments having strict control over the message that the clients receive. However, in the digital age, that has changed.
With the rise of both social and ‘alternative’ media, clients and potential clients across all industries have easy access to more information and opinions than ever before, making marketing messages all but obsolete. Instead of the first business impression being key, every previous interaction can be taken into account, with any product faults or support hiccups playing a prominent role in a client’s decision-making process.
Maintaining client relationships in the digital age, therefore, requires a very different sort of personalisation than it did before. It isn’t enough to have your CRM system remind the account manager of a client’s birthday, prompting some social media interaction. Instead, businesses need to leverage their data collection abilities to give clients the information they need to make an informed decision, and then maintain contact and a high level of service throughout, to develop a trusting relationship, in order to leverage what amounts to word-of-mouth advertising through the new digital channels.
Through the internet, clients have access to huge amounts of information about your company and product before they make contact, but you can also collect substantial information about them. Any time a potential customer spends on your site, you are already collecting data. You just need to put that data to use to give that initial point of contact with your business information on the features or products they are interested in, allowing your salespeople to get to the point, beginning the relationship with a personalised service.
Instead of a traditional ‘sales’ role, sales and marketing departments need to adopt a level of customer advocacy, constantly taking the client preferences and behaviours into account, to be able to assist, advise, and educate the client, in order to create compelling personalised messaging. Clients who feel like your business is working to improve their experience and taking their needs into account are clients who will buy in, not just to the product, but to your brand.
With new media’s ability to ‘go viral’ and disseminate information, you need to ensure that every interaction is as positive as possible, and this means extending the personalised and customer advocating relationship past the point where the sale is complete, and ensuring that the post-sales support from your business has the information and training needed to keep your clients.
Also to be considered are alternative ‘personal’ advertising streams, through new media and social media. This can be having an executive with a Twitter account engage actively, a Reddit ‘AMA’ on a related subreddit with one of your engineers, or an in-depth interview with an industry-relevant YouTube channel with a substantial audience.
All in all, you want to build a feeling in clients that your business is accessible, transparent, and trustworthy. Speak publicly about how you want to improve their experiences and set your organisation up as a customer advocate.
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