No matter the industry or size, if there's one thing that ensures sustainable success, it is the ability of a business to engage its customers. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, let us find out why businesses are overwhelmingly turning to customer outreach. Here is a detailed analysis into customer outreach strategies, their making, and some best practices for success.
Elements of a successful outreach strategy
Customer outreach strategies are a set of practices that help a business grow by engaging potential, active, and passive customers. Although their origins can be traced to being revenue and sales-focused, many organizations have recalibrated their efforts to focus on customer satisfaction, brand credibility, and user experience in the past decade.
Over time, the methods and processes of customer outreach have evolved as well. From physical mail to emails, and today, to digital marketing, the concept and principle have stood the test of time. That is one of the reasons why businesses all over the world turned to the tried and the tested in times of uncertainty and volatility.
Customer outreach varies drastically across industries and geographies. However, there are a few common fundamental tenets of the practice. Here are some elements that make up a successful outreach strategy:
Clear outreach goals
While it might seem like an obvious step, but considering the number of campaigns that miss it, it is worth reiterating. Spend some time to list what exactly are the goals of the entire campaign and what will be the subsequent focus areas? Is it to just get more links, visibility, media coverage, brand mention, getting positive reviews, or all of these? Then break them down into sub-goals, the action, the tools, and the timeline.
Setting clear goals helps segment the prospect and audience lists effectively and makes engagement with them much more manageable. It will also help build and segment sets of audiences in the absence of face-to-face engagement in today's world. Depending on which stage of the customer cycle they are in, a segregated approach that aims to achieve varied goals with different customers can do wonders. Segmentation also makes it easier to run email marketing and remarketing campaigns with remarkable accuracy and ease.
Unique and authentic offering
All outreach efforts must present a demonstrably valuable offer that is unique and helps stand out from the competition. Always engage customers with the intention to delight them by going one step further than they expect. In practice this means, giving them something of value even if they've just read your blog or discovered your website, or extending their free trial, or providing complimentary discounts. The goal is to make the customer feel valued and build trust.
Thankfully, there are a variety of interesting mediums and formats to establish such a sense of connection with the customers. Traditionally, live events, like discussions, interviews, fireside chats, and chat shows have been used to communicate authentically with audiences. These formats, although still popular, have given way to virtual events, like webinars, round table discussions, and digital conferences over the past year.
As stated above, different channels and mediums have been used for outreach over the decades. Many organizations tend to stick to one platform (say email or social media) for customer engagement. However, today's business landscape demands a multi-channel approach that involves visual, audio-visual, textual and other forms of experiences. Building a multi-channel approach provides more stability and reduces vulnerabilities.
Trust is the foundation of customer outreach, and the first step to building trust is to make the audience feel safe and understood. This is usually done by small yet extremely significant steps, like personalized and thoughtful communication. Focusing on building a one-on-one connection with the most valuable customers will increase loyalty and may even turn them into brand advocates.
Following-up the right way
Following-up with customers is a crucial part of customer outreach, but if overdone, the entire exercise can backfire horrendously. On average, people receive 121 emails every day, and the last thing they want to see is another reminder or follow-up. Trying too hard to get their attention might even lead to un-subscription or negative brand association. Thus, following up at the right frequency and in the right manner is indispensable for the success of the campaign.
There are a variety of outreach automation tools that boost productivity and help manage the execution. Jobs that require repetitive tasks, like sending follow-up emails or reminders about soon-expiring discounts, can be outsourced to AI-driven tools that come equipped with a variety of features. Tools that help with customer relationship management, lead management, and email marketing are particularly helpful.
Automating parts of the customer outreach process using smart tools integrates digital engagement with lead and prospecting objectives as well. Targeting and connecting with the right prospect in the digital world has never been easier. A variety of lead generation and sales prospecting tools, alongside the increasing influence of social media and content marketing, has made customer outreach an innovative and creative process.
To assess which parts of the campaign are working and which ones require improvement, tracking the response and engagement of different tactics is crucial. While many automation tools offer monitoring features as well, there are specialized tracking solutions that provide comprehensive insights into customer behavior and interaction.
Sophisticated tools and processes have been devised using modern technology to serve pointed analytical functions. Some of these are:
Sales intelligence: Pooling and using the data of prospects and customers through different channels to bolster marketing, lead generation, and conversion.
Technographic segmentation: Set of tools and practices to identify and analyze customer characteristic and preferences using marketing segmentation.
Firmographics: Segmentation of prospect organizations; akin to the concept of demographics of people, but for organizations.
Successful customer outreach strategies: Things to keep in mind.
Learn from the audience
All outreach programs begin with a set of assumptions about the potential buyers and how they behave. However, as the campaign progresses, pick up on cues about whether those assumptions stand true or not. Keep learning about how the target audience behaves, and remember that what may work for one target group might not work for others. Audience segmentation by pooling them in the most relevant subsets is the most effective way to verify assumptions, test new tactics, and optimize the customer outreach process for maximum impact.
Test, test, test
Keep making small and big variations in all customer outreach collaterals to gauge which set of elements, visuals, content, tone, and style appeals the most to the audience. While many automation tools and social media platforms offer A/B testing, the entire campaign must be designed to conduct such tests.
Set a consistent brand tone
There are very few things as off-putting as inconsistencies in how a brand communicates with its customers and audiences. All social media profiles, emails, videos, and blogs must have a similar, and if possible easily-distinguishable tone. This will undoubtedly require some trial and error, but do not make radical changes to them once the best results have been achieved.
Use modern engagement assets
The use of GIFs, emojis, stickers, and memes is catching up quickly. Whether it is email subject lines or social media captions, use these assets creatively to attract attention. Similarly, keep an eye out for trending and viral content to participate and obtain organic visibility.
Don't forget referrals
It is important to remember that customer outreach strategies are built on the foundation of traditional marketing tactics. So deploy well-proven campaigns like referrals to tap into the networks of the existing customer base. Use monetary rewards, free products, or other value-added services to incentivize customers to recommend others.
Don't be annoying
Finally, learn the difference between being persistent and being annoying. The implementation of all the steps of the outreach strategy must be undertaken in regard to time. Bombarding customers and users with content, promotional or otherwise, will eventually lead to customer fatigue and a decrease in loyally.
At a time when many small and medium businesses are struggling, customer outreach programs can attract new customers, rejuvenate the existing customer base, improve brand reputation, boost local presence, enhance the customer experience, generate positive word-of-mouth publicity on social media platforms, and help the marketing function gain momentum.
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