Old-fashioned ideas revisited for best customer loyalty
A businessman who owns three restaurants sat down recently and hand-wrote a postcard to everyone on his customer list, inviting them to join his rewards programme. He had a 20% sign-up rate from that mailing alone, according to customer retention expert Michael Kaselnak of Hoard.
By contrast, during the previous six months, the same restaurateur has sent out two other postcard-based mailings that were printed (rather than hand-written) and had seen a response rate of only 5%.
The rare personal touch According to Kaselnak, receiving a genuinely hand-written note is such an unusual, novel, or even exciting event for today's consumer that it completely eclipses all other marketing messages it happens to be competing with when it arrives.
Kaselnak told The Wise Marketer: "There is no magic pill for attracting and retaining clients. It takes work, and it's a job that many businesses today still fail to invest in. Nobody spends time writing personalised handwritten notes or making personal phone calls - it takes too long. Most say it's quicker, easier, and cheaper to just send an email. But when you're trying to create loyalty and increase customer retention, easier is not always better."
The extra mile The things that catch Kaselnak's eye about any service provider is not the easy things they do - the hygiene factors like good service and reliable products or services - but the things they do that he perceives as "going the extra mile": Going out of their way to do something extra for him.
Kaselnak's favourite example of the conversion of an at-risk customer who was likely to defect into a loyal advocate comes from his own experience: "After successive price increases and poor service from my local cable service, I had come to detest them. I would have sworn my prejudice was so ingrained it would be impossible for them to overcome. Yet, I melted with just one personal gesture on their part. My cable box died, and the company sent someone over two days later and replaced the box. So far so good, but the next day I got a handwritten note from the cable repairman, thanking me for being a customer."
Six notes to change minds As a result, Kaselnak suggests that any retailer, customer account manager, or business owner can help turn customers into advocates by writing notes, start with six loyalty-winners:
- Always have a stack of Thank You notes ready on your desk Write at least one a day for anything or anyone that takes your fancy. Just get it written and in the mail. Even if they're not a client (yet) - you would be surprised how writing a thank you note can sometimes work its way back to you in very strange and positive ways.
- To promote your latest idea, send some personal invitations Send out a handful of notes asking people to lunch or breakfast to run an idea by them. Ten of these a month is a good number to start with.
- Birthday and holiday cards Don't send a pre-printed one, or a card with just a signature. Most people will ignore them (at best) or even take them as an impersonal slap in the face (at worst). Take the time to write a brief message, and then sign it personally. Press hard with the pen so they can see it's hand-written - you'd be amazed how many people actually check the back of the paper or card.
- Attach a note to an article of interest Nothing makes a person feel more important than when you send an article to them about an interest of theirs with a personal note attached. People like to work with other people that take an interest, and do extra little things like this.
- Send a "haven't seen you in a while" note Sending a note to check in with someone can result in business you never dreamed of. A lot of people have problems to solve, and the company offering the solution that presents itself at the right time is often the most likely to get the business.
- Send something to make people smile A joke, a funny news story, or personal anecdote can change your whole relationship to that of a friend rather than just being a supplier or an acquaintance - and that's a much stronger foundation for lasting loyalty. But one word of warning: don't send too many - and don't send your clients religious-themed notes, as business and religion seldom mix well.
Writing a note is one of the simplest, easiest and most cost-effective ways to build loyalty and retain your most important clients - even if it's only your top 500 clients segmented from the whole database. The handwritten note is arguably the most under-used marketing tool in business today.