We are living in unprecedented times. Coronavirus pandemic has hugely affected small businesses and huge enterprises alike some of which would sadly never be able to cope up. For instance, in China alone, half a million companies filed for bankruptcy in the first quarter of 2020 with the onset of Covid-19. In times like these, the traditional marketing channels which B2B businesses typically used to rely on just aren’t going to be effective. Trade shows, events, exhibitions, conferences, etc that used to be the staple of B2B sales guys for collecting leads and building their pipelines of prospects have all been canceled. It doesn’t look like there is going to be any major business event happening in public anytime soon. Attendees would be too wary to assemble in close proximity to other people for some time to come. I hope I am proved wrong here and things turn to normalcy as soon as possible. But I think it won’t be the normal we have always known.
In this post, I am going to discuss some of the ideas for customer acquisition that you can refer to:
Put customer experience at the forefront
In moments of crisis like these, the engagement of a consumer with a business can cause an immediate and lasting impact on their sense of confidence and loyalty. As millions are laid off and furloughed and moved away into isolation, a primary yardstick of their customer experience will be how the business owners they depend on, provide compassion and concern in their service and experiences.
If you are in customer experience, today is also the most opportune time to place yourselves at the forefront of the long-term changes in consumer behavior arising from this pandemic. It will be absolutely crucial to maintain a real-time pulse on changing customer needs and preferences and to swiftly innovate to reconfigure journeys that count.
And we are not talking just about accepting contactless modes of making payment. You need to do more. Companies need to accept and embrace engaging consumers digitally to meet the demands of a post-crisis world. Before the COVID-19 hit, brands across all industries were already moving in this direction, using digital verification to make it easy for consumers to check their eligibility for personalized offers. Now, this is the only way forward if you have to stay relevant.
The preference for contactless operations in the US has increased by 20 percent, with various industries adjusting to this transition. In China, for instance, Meituan was the first company to introduce contactless delivery in Wuhan, starting as a food- and product-delivery service but progressing into a digital ecosystem player later.
Closer home here in the US, Walgreens recently introduced a drive-through buying experience. People buy items, such as household products, medical supplies, and foodstuffs, from a menu. Checkout clerks gather and fill out the order — all from drive-through window ease. Supermarket chains have kept their physical stores open to customers but are adding contactless ways to protect consumers and staff, including recent installations of plexiglass “sneeze guards” at every cash register.
And how to get started:
- Make the online self-service easy for customers and try to replace experiences in person.
- It goes without saying, you must offer cashless transactions including payment by mobile.
- Develop effective user experiences that enable the new customer journeys
- Get rid of paper trail sharing. Use digital and automated verification
Pay heed to feedback from frontline workers
Frontline workers are your biggest assets at this time. They are your eyes and ears on the field. Ask and gather staff feedback: it would be helpful to measure and evaluate how end consumers react and how everyday experiences change.
Unfortunately, this form of feedback is still widely overlooked. While a lot of frontline workers claim that their bosses have made customer experience a top priority, nearly all of them believe that their suggestions for changing the service are often largely ignored.
Try to invest in technologies that would help you quickly collect and aggregate ideas and suggestions from frontline staff. Investing in these will be crucial in the constantly changing business world.
Focus on building a tribe of loyal customers
Simon Sinek in ‘Start With Why’ brilliantly puts it “Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or a better price to continue doing business with you … [they] don’t even bother to research competition to entertain other options.”
Despite rising costs, Apple’s die-hard fans are happily paying for their products. They are willing to stand in massive queues at Apple stores overnight just to be one of the first to get their hands on their products. Tesla too has built a tribe of passionate, tech-forward, like-minded individuals who love electric cars in spite of their recent financial woes and missed production goals for Model 3. They believe in Tesla’s goal — to reduce carbon emissions and develop a greener and sustainable future.
The engagement and development of relationships with your tribe are incredibly important. Pay close attention to what they’ve got to say, what they have been saying recently. Especially get to know what they’ve got to say about your company. Use this knowledge to enhance your company’s strategies.
Create an intimate bond with your tribe or risk losing them to your competition. In a post-COVID world, customer attention is already split in a gazillion directions, your content needs to be directly targeted at their hearts.
Personalization at scale
The technical infrastructure to unlock a scalable customizable functionality is widely available. Most customer data platforms these days have APIs that connect seamlessly with other data systems like MarTech, AdTech, CRMs, Content platforms, e-commerce, and POS that most businesses rely on to deliver offers and services to their customers. So from a technology point of view, it is fairly easy to incorporate and enable data across the software stack. Where it gets challenging is the business and organizational aspect of it all. Business leaders of all functions need to give adequate thought to how these systems could effectively share data to drive more effective engagement across all channels at every interaction.
For example, in effect, it could mean personalizations extended to customers post-purchase. Offering personalized discounts on the basis of their specific user journey is a great way of delighting customers.
A study by SheerID found that 59 percent of users felt appreciated by a customized deal and 69 percent said it would make them feel grateful.
Examples of companies doing so are industry-wide. FabFitFun now gives a free Healthcare Heroes bundle to nurses and doctors. Headspace helps educators and healthcare professionals handle this crisis by providing them full access to their digital mediation app completely free. And Tuft & Needle is giving away first responders a 15 % discount on mattresses.
Shift your focus on retention
I know this post is about customer acquisition strategies, but I have always been a proponent of retention as a customer acquisition tool. Truth be told, it was never really a question of acquisition vs retention. It’s not a secret anymore: selling to happy, current customers is much easier (and affordable) than seeking out new ones. If you win over a current client’s loyalty, you not only receive the benefits of that individual’s continued purchases; you also get his enthusiastic support when he endorses your brand with his friends and social networks. Each “like” on Facebook may be seen by the entire social network of that individual as a digital show of appreciation.
Whilst companies spend the bulk of their marketing budgets on customer acquisition strategies, they tend to languish once acquired. Marketers are spending their hard work and valuable resources in ads and digital coupons in a desperate attempt to get consumers to make their first buy, but once those consumers are in, they ‘re mostly left on their own devices. It is particularly true for businesses selling directly to end customers. But it doesn’t have to continue like that.
So how to get started, if you haven’t already. E-mail is the best platform to retain and foster relationships. With the right tools in the right hands, email marketing helps to create personalized content. Content that can answer customer queries and resolve their concerns in real time. It can provide each individual customer with information on the products and services he is interested in that particular moment. E-mail continues to remain the tried and tested medium via which marketers can reach consumers when it’s most convenient for them.
Do giveaways but be protective of the offer
Customers need more than just marketing assurances to convince them to pay for your products. Many of the users may not even be affected by word of mouth marketing.
How should we win them over then?
You should think about offering customized offers or gifts to win over these buyers and turn them into long term loyal customers. Giving someone a first-hand opportunity to test your product is a great way to give them the extra push they need to take you seriously as an option. And this holds true for a wide range of industries and product categories, be it a retail product or a SaaS product.
The best way to execute these campaigns is to run a social media gift/giveaway/offer sort of campaigns.
But it can also lead to discount exploit that can bring down your earnings. So don’t go overboard with this approach.
Collaboration with your competition
I know how crazy it sounds!
But look all around you, maybe it is not that crazy. Apple and Samsung are two fierce competitors and yet they work together closely. Samsung happens to be the biggest supplier of electronic components for Apple. Pfizer and Merck worked together to create new drugs for cancer treatment. In the IT industry, Microsoft and Intel collaborated on the development of software and hardware platforms and brought their technology almost to every household in the world.
The below image demonstrates that the competitive attitude loses its effectiveness as time goes by and it’s cooperation that has a long-lasting impact.
How to go about it:
- Strike a deal with a complimentary business. Make it a win-win proposition for both parties concerned. A technology company may collaborate with an accounting firm to recommend each other’s services during new onboarding. A web dev company can collaborate with a UI UX design agency to share customers. But you can’t just relax, even though you’re working together. Businesses working together are still ‘enemies.’ You must always be attentive to your actions and the knowledge you share.
- Enter a new market segment together. You can bring down the risk dramatically by collaborating with another business who is willing to eat the other half of the pie. Deliveroo and Uber is also a good example of a successful collaboration.
- Integration with other businesses for better customer experience. Consider Stripe’s Shopify integration. Many business owners choose Shopify because they have already been a customer of Stripe for long and likewise it works other way round too. PayPal integrated directly with eBay and both saw a huge growth spurt. Vimeo works closely with YouTube now, one of its key rivals, to allow creators to publish their videos on YouTube and other video platforms.
Competitive cooperation will help you increase your earnings, raise brand recognition, and draw in your target market.
The fact is these are desperate uncertain times. The ways of doing business might feel like they are going to go for a complete overhaul. At its core, it still is the same. We need humane ways to engage and connect with humans. Moving forward, a safe and secure contactless interaction with customers and data-driven customer insights should be your key priorities for customer acquisition.