Whether you’re a business offering a particular service or a professional working in a professional practice, regular communication with your customers or clients can go a long way to keep your appointments book filled up. Merely relying on clients to contact you when they need your service or product is not nearly enough to turn your business or service into a household name.
While large businesses understand this, it’s not often that smaller enterprises contact customers they have dealt with previously. We all receive communication from our banks about new products but when last did you hear from your plumber or the roofing firm that you used five years ago?
There are numerous reasons why it makes good business sense to build relationships with customers. Reducing customer churn, lowering the costs of acquiring customers, and creating a differentiator for your business are just some examples of why ongoing communication makes sense.
In most businesses, there’s every reason for customers to make multiple purchases. Take roof repair, for instance. It shouldn’t be a once-off contact just when the roof actually leaks – the roof needs to be checked regularly and there may be a need to repaint the roof with waterproof paint every five or 10 years. The roofing contractor should make contact with the client at an appropriate time to remind them of the need for the next service. Otherwise, the roof won’t be checked and maintained – and the next time it leaks it’s quite possible that the customer will call in another service provider to do the repair.
The upcoming shift in seasons represents a great opportunity for small businesses to contact people who have previously interacted with them. For handymen, the message could be about it being a perfect time for painting or repairing broken gutters because the rain is now largely over. Gardening services have myriad potential offers to make with the move into summer, while sports clothing and equipment stores could be promoting their stock for summer sports.
According to Greg Chen, the founder and CEO of mobile communication tool Mobiz, “The benefits of ongoing customer communication makes it a no-brainer. But, what’s less obvious is the way in which that communication could take place for it to be most effective. And importantly, how one can start to collect customer data with minimal friction.”
Traditional methods include outbound calls from call centres, emails and SMSs.
“However, while these are established methods of making contact with customers, it’s also important to analyse their success rate,” explains Chen. “After all, it makes no sense to make a thousand calls if you achieve only one sale.”
Chen advises that the best bet is to opt for a communication tool that will promote more engagement between the business and its customers. “You want to be sure that significant numbers of recipients of your communication respond positively to the contact you’ve made – be it through opening your email, replying, or ideally actually making a purchase,” he says.
Chen favours the channel of Smart SMS. “Firstly, research shows that people will open an SMS 98% of the time, compared with 22% of emails, 29% of tweets and 12% of Facebook posts. So, this already shows that using SMS as a communication tool makes great sense.”
Then, if you are able to personalise the SMS – by including the individual customer’s name, for example – your response rate is immediately likely to be higher. Plus, if you include a response mechanism via the SMS, you’re much more likely to get a response. So you can use the SMS as the first stage to get the customer interested; then add a clickthrough to a web page with more details and with a response mechanism like making a booking or purchasing online.
“We have seen a 400% improvement in engagement rates for these sorts of Smart SMSs as opposed to other forms of communication,” Chen says. “That means that the investment in the service more than pays its way.”
This method of communicating with customers is particularly easy to carry out – and it needn’t cost very much either. For around R200 one can be set up with mobile marketing automation to start growing their customer data organically and reach hundreds of these customers via SmartSMS.
As a small business owner, you can make your business stand out from your competitors. Good service is definitely a differentiator and communicating with customers is one element of good service.