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The “Marshall Plan” for Customer Aftercare: How to Spend Less & Sell More

Posted on 04 August 2015 by cradmin

by Ernest Nicastro

My wife likes to shop at the local Safeway. Is it because of the competitive prices? Yes, that’s part of it. Is it because of the convenient location? Yes, that’s part of it too. She also likes their produce department. But the biggest reason she likes to shop at the local Safeway is “Marshall.”

Now Marshall is very good checkout person. He’s fast, efficient and seldom makes a mistake. But his job competency is not the reason why my wife keeps going back. She keeps going back because Marshall always has a warm and friendly smile. And because when Marshall asks, “How are you today?” well, by golly, you just know he’s sincere about it.

You see, for those few minutes while she’s a customer in his checkout line Marshall makes my wife feel genuinely valued and appreciated. And week after week she buys our groceries at “Marshall’s” Safeway.

As salespeople and business owners very few of us will have the same weekly, face-to-face opportunity as Marshall to make our customers feel valued and appreciated. And yet, if we’re smart we’ll make sure we have our very own “Marshall Plan” in effect. We’ll make sure – once we’ve rescued our customer from the grips of our competitor – that we have a Customer Aftercare Program in place to maintain the health and increase the profitability of that relationship.

This makes perfect marketing sense. And, with studies showing that the total cost of getting a new customer to be 10 times that of simply holding onto an existing one it can also make you plenty of dollars and cents, particularly when you consider that a five percent improvement in customer retention can lead to an 85 percent increase in profits. You don’t have to be King Solomon to see the wisdom in those numbers.

A One-Time Sale or a Lifetime Sale?

John and Judy First-Time Homebuyer purchase their first home and come to you for a kitchen remodel. Assuming that John and Judy are upwardly mobile professionals, they’ll probably want kitchen remodels 4 to 5 times during their lifetimes.

If you’re in the countertop business, that’s another 4 to 5 jobs at a minimum. John and Judy alone – even if they never send you a single referral – are conceivably worth many thousands of dollars to you during their lifetimes.

But if you’re actively working on this relationship, if you’re putting forth a consistent and concentrated effort to make John and Judy feel valued and appreciated, then they’ll send you lots of referrals. I GUARANTEE IT.

Now, stop a moment and multiply the above example by 40, 50, 500 or 1,000 and you’ll understand why today’s savviest marketers are placing more emphasis on “Share of Customer” and “Lifetime Value” and less on “Share of Market.”

But without proper planning and execution, you won’t come close to realizing John and Judy’s full lifetime value. The same thing holds true for any other industry as well.

Good Communication Is the Key

The key to increasing your Share of Customer and maximizing Lifetime Value lies in continually strengthening the bond between you and your customer. It should come as no surprise to anyone that good communication plays a major role in this bonding process.

An organized and consistent communications program will keep you in touch with your customers on a regular basis – and increase your Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA) with them. Plus, by welcoming and encouraging their feedback, you’ll be reminding them how very important and very special they are to you. And, we all like to feel special, valued and appreciated. We all like to feel loved.

Marketing consultant and Direct Marketing columnist James Rosenfield, in one of his magazine articles, wrote, “Every customer relationship begins with something that looks like love.” Your objective as a business owner or sales executive is to move your new customer beyond “something that looks like love” to the real deal.

Ideally, you want to turn each new customer into a walking, talking, word-of-mouth advertisement for you, your products and your services. And a proactive Customer Aftercare communications program can go a long way toward achieving this ideal. But most of us in the sales profession, unlike Marshall, don’t usually have the opportunity for weekly personal contact. In that case, direct mail is an efficient and effective customer retention tool.

And here are a few examples of the type of communications that should be in any good Customer Aftercare program:

Thank You Letter – To be mailed the very day the sale is closed. Sure, this is something we all do – right? Well maybe all of us do it, but I know from experience that a number of those other folks don’t.

True story: Last year I purchased a top-of-the-line computer system from a very well known, very large computer manufacturer that sells direct to consumers and businesses. Within minutes of closing on the transaction, I received an email from them. I must’ve gotten 10 to 12 pages of literature in the email, including at least 2 or 3 pages on all the awards they’ve won. But the one piece of literature that I didn’t get from them was a simple thank you letter.

Letter from “Mr. Big” – To be mailed 10 days to 2 weeks after the account is opened. In a smaller company, it should come from the president. In a larger company, a senior manager. This letter is a warm ownership/senior management welcome and also informs the new customer that, ultimately, “the buck stops here.”

Sample wording. “If the product or products you’ve purchased, or anyone in my organization fails to meet with your complete approval – now or in the future – I would like to know about it.”

How Did We Do Letter – Mailed a week after the sale. It’s a friendly letter explaining how important honest feedback is to you because it’s the only way you can improve. Attached to the letter is a brief customer satisfaction survey and stamped return envelope. The feedback you receive from this survey will be of tremendous value to you in your ongoing marketing efforts. This feedback will help you make more sales and generate increased profits.

Happy Anniversary Letter – Sample opening: “It’s been a year (__ years) since you opened your account/made a purchase with us, and I just wanted to say Happy Anniversary and thanks again. We look forward to working with you for many years to come.”

Random, Customer Appreciation Letter – Sample opening: “Do you ever get so caught up in the mundane everyday responsibilities of your job that you sometimes overlook things? I know I do. And that’s why I’m writing you.” From that point, you go on to tell your customers how much you value and appreciate them and their business.

Don’t do any selling in this letter. Helpful hint: Mail this letter right before you know your customer will be in contact with a large number of people. For example, right before Thanksgiving or before a trade convention or industry gathering. This way, you’ll get maximum mileage from the positive word-of-mouth this letter creates.

How Did We Do Survey Cover Letter – You should regularly survey your customers, and some suggest doing so at least once a year. Just the act of sending out the survey sends them a message that they are important to you.

But the greatest value and benefit to you and your business is the feedback you’ll get on how you can improve. So, word your cover letter in such a way that it will encourage response.

Sample copy: “At ABC Countertops we’re committed to offering you affordable, quality products backed up by a level of service that sets the standard for the industry. And your feedback is of tremendous help to us in measuring how well we’re meeting that commitment.”

The survey, whether or not your customer returns it to you, is yet one more indication that he or she is important to you.

Birthday Cards – Visit any Petco store and you’ll find forms to fill out with your pet’s name, address and birthday. Complete one and during the month of your pet’s birthday Petco will send your “Fido” or “Fifi” a birthday card and an invitation to come to the store and get a 10 percent discount.

Shouldn’t we treat our human customers with similar care and thoughtfulness? I think you know the answer.

Hand-Written Congratulations Cards – Whenever you or your assistant read or hear about awards, appointments, promotions and other forms of recognition earned by your clients or their children, acknowledge this with a letter or card. This is a small thing to do, but it is greatly appreciated and will pay big dividends.

In addition to the above communications, you’ll also be sending out your normal promotional mailings and regular reminders of the benefits of doing business with you and your company. Plus, you’ll also want to send an annual newsletter.

With the inexpensive database and sales automation technology available today, there’s little reason for any company not to have a well thought out, consistent and clearly defined Customer Aftercare Program. There’s only one drawback. It’s not a quick fix for low sales. But the benefits are many, including maximized customer retention and loyalty, reduced marketing costs and higher profits.

Most important, your Customer Aftercare program will set you apart from the vast majority of your competition and give you the competitive edge that leads to higher sales and profits.

About the Author

Ernest Nicastro is the President of Positive Response, a direct response advertising and marketing consulting company. Positive Response specializes in compelling, response-producing sales letters, ads and lead-generation programs and services . . . based on proven principles and strategies. A versatile professional, Ernest has experience in both the consumer and b2b markets. He has created ads, sales letters, lead-generation programs, marketing plans and marketing communications . . . for such diverse industries as computer software and hardware, financial services, health-care, printing, furniture retailing, autobody collision repair and many more. His clients include Colonial Life & Accident, Information Technology Association of America, Output Technologies, Timberland Custom Homes, Rocky Mountain Natural Laboratories and others.

Copyright© 2015, Ernest Nicastro. All rights reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at [email protected].

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