When you think about selling your products online do you think about acquiring sales or do you think about acquiring customers? For many online retailers, in fact many business owners, the focus is on sales, not customers. This wrong-headed thinking can actually cost you money. Here are some ways this mentality gets you into trouble:
1. Short-Sighted Customer Service Policies
The number one rule of customer service: treat your customers the way you’d want to be treated if you were in their situation. Sometimes this means losing a little money in order to preserve a long term relationship. Most of us dread dealing with customer service at any business. We expect to be put on hold. We expect to hear “no”, even if the mistake was on the company’s part. It’s a nightmare. So when we have a great customer service experience, we not only have positive feelings about the business in question, we tend to recommend them to other people.
Examples of customer service gone awry that loses you customers:
I bought a ticket to go to Japan earlier this year, then a tsunami struck, causing me to change my vacation plans. What did United Airlines do? They charged me a $600.00 change fee and made me spend an hour on the phone with their customer service people. They made changing my plans expensive and inconvenient. I hope they really enjoyed that $600.00, because this frequent traveler will NEVER fly them again. That 1 hour of my time and frivolous $600 charge (after I’d already spend $2000 on tickets), cost them a customer for life, a customer who would have spent tens of thousands of dollars with their business over the next few years. All that to get $600.00!
My husband bought a case for his new iphone 4. The company sent him the wrong case. They insisted he send back the wrong case, in order to get the correct case. Even if they reimburse for the shipping, they are forcing their customer to pay for the shipping initially, further delaying the arrival of the product he ordered several weeks ago and giving him an errand to run. Guess where we won’t be shopping next time we need an electronics case?
(By contrast, on the rare occasions that we send the wrong item to a customer at Ex-Boyfriend, we just tell the customer to keep the item and pass it on to a friend, and we send the correct item right away. As a result, we get happy customers, positive word of mouth and maybe our product ends up in an additional customer’s hands that we hadn’t planned for.)
2. Weak Attribution Management
Attribution management is one of the most widely misunderstood concepts among inexperienced business owners. First of all, let’s define the term. Attribution management, means tracking the source of your sales, with the understanding that sales often come from more than one source. For example, let’s say you run an ad on a blog. A customer clicks your ad, sees your stuff but doesn’t buy. Let’s imagine they clicked your Facebook “like” button, and a few weeks later they click a link from your Facebook page to your site and make a purchase. Which source resulted in the sale? Was it Facebook? Was it the ad? The answer is both, and this is where attribution management comes in. Attribution management looks at the first click that delivered a sale, the last click and interim clicks that served as assists.
Currently, attribution management can be tough to track without sophisticated tools or some programming skills. (I personally created my own attribution management system for my website using cookies and IP addresses.) The good news is Google Analytics is releasing attribution management capabilities pretty soon. The feature is currently in beta testing.
Why does this matter?
If you think of acquisitions in terms of sales instead of customers, you may cut off a productive marketing channel that is providing valuable assists, even if it is not contributing to direct sales. It may be effectively nurturing customer leads, even if it’s rarely the impetus to get people to buy. It may be keeping your brand name in the forefront of the customer’s thoughts, so when they Google your brand name and make a purchase, that isn’t just by luck, it’s those tools you used to foster customer relationships that put your brand name in their heads.
Examples of these marketing tools might include blogging, advertising, social media and email marketing. Just because you don’t see direct sales from them each day, doesn’t mean they aren’t turning people into customers.
3. Lack of Customer Relationship Management
If you think of customer transactions as a one-and-done deal, you lose your chances of bringing them back for subsequent purchases. Once you’ve had someone buy something from you, the goal is to keep in touch with them, so they buy again in the future. Even if you don’t sell the kind of product people buy over and over, maintaining a relationship with past customers encourages them to recommend your business.
Now when I say keep in touch with customers I DO NOT mean sending them constant annoying sales emails. No one likes that. You need to employ a little gentle persuasion. Think about things you can do to keep them interested in you without selling to them constantly.
Here are some things that have worked for us at Ex-Boyfriend:
- Free Downloads
By offering our fans fun free products like drink markers, notecards, etc., we give our customers a fun reason to re-visit our website. Free gifts are a great way to engender a positive experience with the brand and keep our branding in front of our audience.
- A Good Blog
Notice I didn’t say blog, I said a good blog. A good blog is one with content that’s genuinely interesting for your customers. It’s not filled with sales content or boring details about your personal life and photos of your kids. It’s fine to include some personal elements and some sales copy, but if that’s the focus of your blog, no one is going to read it. At Ex-Boyfriend we share funny videos, cocktail recipes, comic strips, etc. Our primary goal is to keep our fans entertained and connect on a personal level, not sell them stuff. Getting them to shop with us is a natural by-product of having fun content.
- Social Media
Like a good blog, a good social media presence doesn’t contain non-stop sales copy. A little sales copy is okay, but the focus should be on content your audience finds interesting. This can include sharing your entertaining blog posts, asking a question that prompts conversation, sharing fun stuff you’ve found online, etc.
- Email Marketing
There are lots of schools of thought on email marketing. Some people advocate frequent contact, some people advocate regular, but not constant, contact. I think 1 or 2 mailings per month is a nice amount for retail businesses. It’s not so frequent that people will unsub because you’re spamming their inbox, but it’s often enough that they don’t forget about you.
Like social media and blogging, make sure your email content provides some value above and beyond sales messaging. You want to give people a reason to open those messages, and if they expect nothing but sales talk, they are less likely to open.