The best of the internet this month – February 2016

This is where I share my favourite customer marketing related posts, resources and tools I have discovered in the past month.

Not all of the content was written this month, but it is when I came across it and I think you’ll find it interesting/useful too.

This month’s reading

A good automated email strategy drives sales and retention. Here are 7 automated email campaigns that win customers and keep them coming back.

The health of a SaaS business is directly tied to its ability to retain its customers and prevent churn. This blog post discusses how to measure customer happiness, and how to actively manage your business to achieve it.

If you don’t understand how customers think about your product and the process of a free trial, you’ll have a much harder time convincing them to convert to a paid account. Improve free trials by getting to know your customers.

TechValidate’s research found that “30% of companies using gamification improved registration conversion rates by upwards of 50%.” This post by ConversionXL looks at how to use gamification to retain more customers.

Ever wondered how some brands attract passionate brand fans? Here are 4 strategies Disney use to create freakishly loyal customers.

Zapier has usefully shared the data that drives customer support for over 600,000 product use cases.

Since they launched automated emails at Intercom, one of the most common use cases has been re-engaging customers who have stopped using a product. In this post they look at how to do that effectively. Churn, retention and reengaging customers.

Matching reality with perception is one of the key things that defines a happy or dissatisfied customers. Is honesty really such a bad thing in commerce?

And finally, here are 5 tactics customer.io used to reduce their customer churn by a third.

Thanks for reading

If you have written any posts or created any amazing content related to customer marketing, and you’d like to see it added to a future best of the internet post, get in touch with me here.

The 3 most important emails you’ll ever send

Email is one of the most powerful weapons in your marketing arsenal. It is also one of the easiest to get wrong.

Email sets the tone, raises (or lowers) expectations, drives sales/renewals and can act as a barometer for customer happiness.

The three most important emails you’ll send are:

  1. Your welcome email
  2. Service/product satisfaction confirmation
  3. The opportunity to give feedback

In this post I will look at these emails in more detail, with advice and copy you can use in your emails.

1. Your welcome email

In my eyes this is not just one of your most important emails, it is one of your most important pieces of marketing full-stop.

This is your customer’s first window into your business and the product they have bought, so it has to be good.

Your welcome email must be much than just a simple hello or confirmation of the order.

From how it looks, to what it says and what it asks them to do, it all needs a lot of thought and attention. Ensure your customers get off on the right foot and instantly develop a positive opinion of your business.

What do I do next?

The biggest question a welcome email should answer is “What do I do next?” Is it log-in, activate something, phone you…?

Put this information prominently at the top of your welcome email like a call to action button on your website, and don’t bury it in paragraphs worth of text.

Get them using the product

The more your customer uses your product, the more likely they are to stay with you and buy more.

Obviously you’re welcome email should provide all the information they need to log-in, but it should also contain information on how to get started with your control panel and product.

You don’t need to put all the information into the email, but you should link to guides/ resources that provide step by step information on using their product.

Encourage referrals

One thing Dropbox do very well is incentivise word of mouth through the promise of more free storage space.

This starts instantly with their welcome email and a link to their storage bonus page with instructions on how to claim it by advertising them via social media or referring a friend.

You can do the same!

Here is an example welcome email you can use:

Welcome to Widgets Inc

Hi [Name],

Welcome to Widgets Inc, it’s great to have you on board. Your account has been set-up and is ready for you to use.

Here are your login details

Account login: http://www.widgetsinc.com/login

Username: XXXXXX

Temporary password: XXXXXX

You will be prompted to update your password when you login for the first time.

Let’s get social

If you want to stay up-to-date with the latest Widgets Inc news, new features and releases (which we highly recommend you do), then feel free to follow us.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WidgetsInc
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WidgetsInc

Here when you need us

If you need any help getting started, you can check out our [link]knowledge base[/link] for some handy hints and tips. You can also call us on 01234 567 890 or email us at hello@widgetsinc.com. We’re all ears.

Earn rewards referring a friend

We hope you enjoy using Widgets Inc, and as a thank you for spreading the word, we’ll add [reward] to your account for every friend you refer. Click here to login to the [link]rewards section of your control panel[/link].

[Footer]

2. Service/product satisfaction confirmation

A typical business only hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers (Source: “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner).

Additionally, news of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience, and for every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent. (Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs).

These stats hit home how important it is to reach out to customers early on in the relationship, and make sure they are happy.

This email should be sent within 24 – 48 hours of their purchase, and provide links and contact details for the customer to contact you if they need help, or if they are unhappy with the product/service.

Here is an example email you can use:

Do You Need Any Help With Your Widgets Inc Account?

Hi [Name],

Thanks for choosing us to manage your XYZ.

I’m getting in touch to find out how you are getting on, and if you need any help?

We have an extensive Knowledge Base that covers the most commonly asked questions. These include:

  • How to set up your ABC
  • How to activate your DEF
  • How to pause your GHJ

Do you have any questions?

If you have any questions or would like some help, we are on hand to help 24×7. Call us on 01234 567 891 and we’ll be able to get you on your way.

[Sign off footer]

If the customer is happy, then great. You’ve also primed them where to go for help if they have any issues in the future.

If they are unsure how to use the product, rather than risk them mentally opting out and eventually churning, you can address this by linking to support articles or directing them to your customer support team.

If the customer is unhappy, you are giving them clear directions on how to express that dissatisfaction, rather than giving up and churning.

3. The opportunity to give feedback

Feedback can one of two ways.

  1. Your business accepts it, but ignores it or dismisses it.
  2. Your business accepts it, and thrives on the positive changes you can make to improve customer experience and satisfaction.

I’ve worked for companies that do both.

The first had a terrible reputation in the market and was stagnate at every level. The second had passionate brand fans and was considered a market leader in its niche.

Customer feedback is your opportunity to be better.

Net Promoter Score

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. You can find out how satisfied the customer is with you and give them the opportunity to provide feedback via an open form.

An example email to use:

A Quick Question About Your Widgets Inc Account

Hi [Name]

I would appreciate it if you could spend a little time answering a couple questions, to let us know what you think about our services.

On a scale of 0 – 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a colleague, friend or family?

[NPS scale and radio buttons]

Is there anything else you would like to let us know?

[Open text form]

[Submit]

[Sign off footer]

If you ignore the small niggles customers report, over time these snowball and before you know it fixing them is now a major project that drains resources.

Big projects and sweeping changes are cool to work on and promote, but it is the hundreds or thousands of tiny feature tweaks and improvements that are greater than the sum of their parts.

In summary

The common theme that ties these three emails together is your business’ state of mind.

Are you making a sale or a new customer? Sales are one-offs, customers can be for life.

If you want a customer, then it is in your interests for them to be successful and help drive future development. The best way to do this is create an automated, regular line of communication with them.

20 ways you can boost word of mouth referrals today

Word of mouth is your most powerful, and cost-effective form of marketing.

84% of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family and friends

…making this the most trusted source of information about a product or service (source: Nielson).

How to increase word of mouth?

The best way to prompt word of mouth referrals is through great product/services and customer support.

Brands that inspire a higher emotional intensity receive up to threes times as much word of mouth as less emotionally-connected brands (Source: Keller Fay Group).

Additionally, highly differentiated brands have greater levels of word-of-mouth, as these brands allow consumers to share own sense of uniqueness. (Source: Journal of Marketing Research).

However, you should still be proactive mobilising your customers, turning them into an effective sales force.

50% of people are more likely to give a referral if offered a direct incentive, social recognition or access to an exclusive loyalty program.

39% say monetary or material incentives such as discounts, free swag or gift cards greatly increase their chances of referring a brand. (Source: Software Advice).

Quick and easy wins to increase customer referrals

With all this in mind, here are 20 quick and easy ways you can mobilise your customers to sell for you, and increase word of mouth marketing.

  • Use NPS to highlight your promoters
    Don’t treat your customers like one homogenous mass, pick and choose who you want to spend resources on mobilising

 

  • Don’t treat all your referrers the same
    Segment your customers based on their referral value (count ands value).

 

  • The more you love them, the more they will love you
    Send your power customers/VIPs a physical gift bag with exclusive badges, stickers, notepad etc. so they can show off their allegiance with you and feel part of an exclusive club.

 

  • Set up a monthly/ annual votes driven award
    E.g. ‘Website of the month’ – they can then promote and get people to vote for them.

 

  • Links in welcome emails
    Dropbox referrals start with their welcome email. They include a link to their storage bonus page with instructions on how to claim it by advertising them via social media or referring a friend. You can do the same!

 

  • Give customers something physical to pass on
    At the end of your transaction/ correspondence with a customer, send them something tangible they can pass on to friends and family. This can be as simple as a handful of business cards, a leaflet with your contact details or a full blown brochure.

 

  • Send regular discount/coupon codes
    You can encourage your customers to refer people through financial incentives that they personally benefit from. For example, give them access to coupon codes they can spread around, which in turn gives them money off their next order if someone then uses it.

 

  • Create a points system
    The more people they refer, the more points they earn, which they can use for future purchases.

 

  • Gamification
    If you already have a badge system, create one for the number of customers referred.

 

  • Thank your customer for sending any referrals
    They are much likely to continue if you do. A very simple, but effective idea!

 

  • Create one click sharing to their social media profile so they don’t even have to type!

 

  • Educate new customers
    Include a dedicated email about referring customers in your onboarding – new customers are naturally happy with you, they just bought from you!

 

  • Share this
    Add a form on your order confirmation page to share their purchase (like Amazon).

 

  • Tier your rewards
    Reward customer based on how many people they refer e.g. 1 – 10 get 5% off, 11 – to get 8% and so on.

 

  • Run a campaign
    Email your customers with a voucher code they can pass on to their friends and family for a discount.

 

  • Reward both the referrer and the new customer
    E.g. recommend us to a friend and you’ll both get 50% off your next order.

 

  • Create a targets
    Give targets for the entire customer base to hit which unlocks a prize or discount e.g. If your customers refer 1,000 new sales in a month they will be entered into prize draws to win some amazing prizes.

 

  • “Hey, have you seen this?”
    Help your customers start a conversation with their friends by creating content they want to share.

 

  • Listen to your customers and act
    Brands that actively engage with their customers and make changes based on their feedback are loved forever.

 

  • Add a social layer to your business
    This could be a forum or BuddyPress, but the idea is the same. Become a hub for your customers to share ideas and help position you as a thought leader.

In summary

I want to emphasise that these ideas are all the icing on the cake. They rely on you having solid foundations, and a product/service that customers are willing to associate themselves with.

They are not substitute for excellent customer service and valuable products and services.

If you already have that in place, then start mobilising your customers, and turn them into an effective sales force.

Brands supporting customers’ micro-moments are winning

People now turn to their phones or tablets to solve immediate problems, and they expect brands to deliver them with immediate answers.

It is these “How do I”, “Where do I go”, “I want to do”, and “I want to buy” micro-moments that now dictate our purchase decisions and preferences.

You need to become your customers’ go to source for solving problems with content.

For example, when choosing what to cook for their evening meal, research has found that while people over 35 are more likely to print out a recipe, 59% of 25- to 34-year-olds cook with either their smartphones or tablets handy.

Additionally…

  • 91% of smartphone users turn to their devices for ideas while completing a task.
  • Nearly one in three millennials say they’ve purchased a product as a result of watching a how-to video.
  • 82% of smartphone users turn to their phone to influence a purchase decision while in a store.

Source

“Mobile has forever changed the way we live, and it’s forever changed what we expect of brands. It has fractured the consumer journey into hundreds of real-time, intent-driven micro-moments. Each one is a critical opportunity for brands to shape our decisions and preferences.”

Source: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/micromoments

Micro-moments are the new battleground

Micro-moments are there for you to take advantage of, with only 2% of businesses acknowledging they have a strategy in place.

The key is to identify which medium your customers use to discover and consume this information on their mobile devices.

These are typically…

  • YouTube videos
  • Step by step written guides
  • Map search

None of these are exclusive to big brands.

For example, if you have a device to capture film and audio (most smart phones are good enough for this) and a YouTube account, you should be taking advantage of this huge opportunity.

Creating your micro-moment content

Rather than dive straight in and start producing content you hope find an audience, you will have a lot more success if you create a content and promotion plan.

Step 1: Defining the content

Get your head out of this being a sales pitch for your products. People will see straight through that within seconds and stop reading your ‘guide’ or watching your video.

what-brands-stand-for-what-audiences-care-about-venn-diagram

People are looking for genuinely useful content that solves their immediate problem. First and foremost the content you create has to be:

  • Relevant to your business
  • As short and succinct as possible
  • Focused on solving the problem
  • Information-led content, not sales

Here are some great examples of this in action from YouTube:

Getfitfastsupplements.com have produced fitness videos, “How do I get fit fast?”

Home Depot have created videos to help me with my DIY, “How do I change my thermostat?”

Shopping channel QVC have targeted searches for recipe ideas to help sell their cooking appliances. “How do I cook a pot roast in the oven?”

Step 2: Researching the “How to” moments that matter to your customers

What are the questions and concerns people have that you can answer with your products? The easiest place to to start for any research is with your customers.

Send them a survey asking them what they would like to know more about, or regular challenges they face in their day to day lives that you can help them with.

Going back to the Getfitfastsupplements.com example above, I would have asked their customers questions along the lines of…

What is preventing you from working out?

What areas of fitness interest you the most?

This may lead to me finding out that time is a big issue, and I would then create a video tailored to maximum results in a short space of time.

Additionally you can ask your website visitors these questions using services such as HotJar’s free account to run a simple poll from your website.

Other sources of information include:

  • Industry forums – What are the most read threads/topics?
  • Existing YouTube videos – Which are the most watched videos?
  • Yahoo Answers/ Quora – Which are the most viewed/liked Q&A’s?

Step 3: Producing your content

Video

If you decide to create a video series, the first few seconds of your video are the most important.

Clearly explain the problem you are solving in the video before you begin. Do not waste this valuable time with a sales pitch for your business!

There are some great articles on how to create effective YouTube videos here:

Step 4:  Promote, promote, promote

Having great content is one thing, getting people to read/watch and share it is another matter.

To help drive views and shares, consider…

  • Add a dedicated “Helpful resources” section to your website, linked to from your main navigation
  • Email your customer base inviting them to view and share
  • Actively advertise your YouTube account/ resources via paid media
  • Integrate your content with social media

I personally would put your content right at the centre of all your marketing, and even at the heart of your brand.

In summary

Interruption marketing is slowly decaying. Consumers not expect to be invited to consume content, rather than having it forced in front of them.

You are in a unique position to understand your customers, and be their primary source of information to help make their lives better.

There aren’t many ways of developing brand loyalty and repeat business that are more effective than that!

Digital Ocean’s community strategy is awesome [Review]

Web hosting is not the sexiest of products. For most people it is just another commodity (like gas or water), with price being the primary differentiator.

The truth is, web hosts are wildly different, with varying degrees of support, page load speeds, reliability and security.

The problem is the large majority of web hosts have done a terrible job in communicating their brand values, and have failed to develop strong brand loyalty.

There are a few exceptions, and one of the most notable is Digital Ocean.

Digital Ocean have been able to come out of nowhere and become on the the best known (and loved) companies in the industry.

Digital Ocean spend very little money on traditional advertising (compared to the likes of GoDaddy).

Instead they are investing heavily in educational content and community building for their customers.

How you can follow Digital Ocean’s community strategy

In this post I am going to give a breakdown of how they have been able to develop such a loyal following amongst their customers.

The great thing is, you can apply all this to your business, no matter who your customers are or what you sell.

In-depth technical tutorials

Their ever growing technical tutorial library covers a huge range of topics related to server management. At the time of writing they have over 1,200 articles to read.

In depth tutorials

 

These types of articles are a huge investment, and require specialist copywriters to do them well.

Readers can also comment on these articles to ask questions and even suggest alternative ways of achieving the same goal.

Staying on top of so many comments is a task in itself, and you’ll see many examples where brands have all but walked away from the community management aspect of a project.

Digital Ocean are clearly invested in engaging with people and are quick to reply to comments and questions.

Community driven Q&A support

One of the biggest drains on any service led company is customer support. This is especially true with technical products.

Digital Ocean have created an online Q&A area for their customers to ask for help from their peers.

Questions and answers

This has two benefits for Digital Ocean:

  1. It directs customers to look for support away from the telephone or traditional support ticket.
  2. It builds a self-supporting community that feels responsible to help each other.

User written technical tutorials

No one knows a product like your customers, so why not have them write the support articles?

Get paid to write

Digital Ocean pay up to $200 for a published article on their support database. This is a great deal for them and their customers.

The benefits of opening this up include:

  1. It would cost far more than that to get a professional technical copywriter to produce the same content.
  2. Their customers get to feel like they are contributing to the business’ success
  3. They get a lot more articles quicker than if they tried to write them all in-house

Full time community management team

Digital Ocean are investing big in this area, building a dedicated team to drive their community building.

At the time of writing, they are recruiting for three key roles…

National Outreach Manager

“The National Outreach Manager will be responsible for developing local partnerships with, and assisting sponsorship requests from, US-based tech organizations, Meetup groups, conferences, and individual developers. The National Outreach Manager will be responsible for producing high-quality events for DigitalOcean.”

Director of Online Community

“The Director of Online Community will drive the online community efforts both on the DigitalOcean platform and across various external sites. They will both manage – and help grow – DO’s talented team of writers and editors, and develop a cohesive content strategy that ensures our community and tutorials remain a relevant, flourishing online destination for developers.”

University Program Manager

“Join DigitalOcean as our University Program Manager so that you can lead our educational outreach to students across the United States.”

In conclusion…

Digital Ocean have changed the game for the web hosting industry. They have shown that web hosts can be powerful brands with emotional resonance.

They have done this through simple products that do exactly what they promise they will do, backed by a huge investment in turning their customer base into a community.

The best of the internet this month – January 2016

This is where I share my favourite customer marketing related posts, resources and tools I have discovered in the past month.

Not all of the content was written this month, but it is when I came across it and I think you’ll find it interesting/useful too.

This month’s reading

How loyal are customers?

Not very if you believe The shocking truth about brand loyalty by Help Scout. However, all is not lost. Of the consumers in a study by Harvard Business Review who said they have a brand relationship, 64% cited shared values as the primary reason.

Brand loyalty is one of the most difficult assets for a business to attain. Here are KissMetrics’ 10 tactics for increasing customer lifetime value and loyalty.

We talk a lot about customer loyalty, but how do you actually measure it? Exact Target is here to help.

Sour grapes

Coglode delve in to the ‘sour grapes effect’, looking at why customers justify a purchase by overlooking any faults, and how you can use this in your customer marketing.

Using CRO to retain customers

CRO is often focused on how to acquire more customers. But what about your current customers? ConversionXL have some great advice on Retention Optimisation, and how to increase the value of  a customer.

Is user-generated content the future?

With the rise of micro-moments, and the content challenges that brings, is user-generated content the way forward? Econsultancy’s interview with Tom Malleschitz, Chief Marketing Officer at Three UK, looks at how to get the most out of user-generated content.

Happier customers

Vero’s ultimate lifecycle email marketing guide is packed full of really useful and practical content. You may have to read it in more than one sitting, but it is worth it.

Baremterics have been kind enough to share the 17 emails they send to engage customers, reduce churn and increase revenue.

If you are using (or planning to use) social media as a customer service tool, have a read of Buffer’s Complete guide to using social media for customer service.

We all hate it when customers leave, but how do you systematically prevent churn? Sixteen Ventures’ SaaS Customer Success Experts Resource Guide is a great place to start.

Thanks for reading

If you have written any posts or created any amazing content related to customer marketing, and you’d like to see it added to a future best of the internet post, get in touch with me here.