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Building business relationships has never been easier
The internet has been hailed as a medium that allows small businesses to market themselves to a worldwide audience, but very little is ever said about its power for communicating with people who live just around the corner.
Even if you never sell a product online or get a number one ranking on Google, the internet could still hold considerable marketing potential for your business.
By collecting the email addresses and marketing preferences of customers and prospects and putting them in an online database, you can effectively open up a direct communication channel to your market.
This channel can then be used to build relationships and increase repeat business, both of which are key drivers of profitability and business value.
A simple formula defines the steps involved in this process of online relationship building: Data Capture + Personalised Communication + Dialogue = Repeat Business.
Take the example of Shoe Clinic, the country’s leading sports footwear and apparel retail chain.
Shoe Clinic has built an impressive reputation over the past decade for innovation in its industry, but what is not as well known is that the company is also a leader in the use of database e-marketing.
The first element of any successful database e-marketing programme, as outlined in our formula, is an effective Data Capture strategy. There must be a strong incentive for the customer to join the database if they are going to be comfortable parting with their email address and some key marketing data.
In Shoe Clinic’s case, its e-marketing database revolves around the company’s loyalty programme, which rewards customers with a $50 voucher for every $500 spent.
Unlike most loyalty programmes, Shoe Clinic’s members don’t need to carry membership cards, because the company keeps all records and sends points updates, reminders and reward vouchers by email.
Armed with data on the customers’ preferences and purchasing history, together with the permission to send emails, Shoe Clinic is able to target different database segments easily and cost effectively with personalised communications.
Personalisation, the second part of our formula, casts a powerful spell which can greatly improve the persuasiveness and intimacy of any communication that takes advantage of it.
For example, before the start of the winter sports season emails are targeted at members from different sports - like netball, rugby and hockey - promoting the latest footwear options for each sport.
Or when a new model of running shoe is released, all customers who have bought that model in the past are sent an email to let them know that latest version is now in store.
To increase the personalisation and relevance for individual members, every email includes the member’s latest loyalty points balance and updates them on any other promotions or news from their local store.
Whenever members visit the company’s website, they are addressed by name and presented with content that relates to their sporting interests as recorded on their database record.
Another way of strengthening the relationships that underpin modern day business success is to move beyond one-way communication with customers and encourage feedback and Dialogue.
In any human interaction, meaningful Dialogue allows each party to influence the other, providing the mutual understanding that underpins enduring relationships. This is the third part of our formula for increasing repeat business.
In Shoe Clinic’s case, all emails sent out as part of its loyalty rewards programme encourage the member to visit the Shoe Clinic website and provide feedback via a series of web forms.
On another web page, members are encouraged to “Ask the Expert” an athletics-related question. All relevant questions and answers are then added to a growing online knowledge base, effectively creating a dialogue with customers at the same time as including them in the creation of the website’s content.
Through this online process of data capture, personalised communication, dialogue and rewards, Shoe Clinic is able to significantly boost its level of repeat business.
The internet has changed the marketing landscape for modern businesses and has created many new opportunities along the way.
One the most fundamental of these is to emulate Shoe Clinic and engage an online community in a meaningful dialogue with the goal of increasing customer loyalty and, in turn, profitability and company value.
Posted by Richard on 25th January, 2007 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Tags: Online Relationship Marketing