The Business Side: Where Have the Loyal Customers Gone?
Sitting here at my desk with the log burner crackling away and a cup of Yorkshire tea in my hand, I can’t help but feel nostalgic. Remember long ago, back in the days before the Internet, when the summer holidays seemed to go on forever? When you had to tune into “Top of the Pops” to find out who was number one this week? (Or, Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 in the U.S.) When you could build up a loyal, local client base and then keep them for life?
I think we can all agree that the last one is a thing of the past. No longer can surveyors expect to scoop up the customers on their doorstep and count on their loyalty forever. These days, you’re fighting against every man and his dog on the worldwide Web to reach, convince and keep your precious clients.
But while that piles on the pressure, it doesn’t necessarily spell doom and gloom … In fact, if you’re smart about how you handle it, it’s less a problem, and more an opportunity. Let me explain.
Know Whom You’re Talking To
You may remember that I talked in a previous post about market segmentation: dividing up your target audience into groups based on what they need the most, or by a particular buyer persona — i.e., a picture you have in your head of the kind of client you’d like to get more of.
I used the example of “Mike,” the maintenance manager of an airport in Louisiana, but you could base your buyer persona on an existing client you have that represents exactly the kind of customers you’d like to bring in. The point is, you need to know exactly what type of client you’re looking for before you can hook them!
So let’s start with a quick refresher of market segmentation and creating buyer personas.
Imagine that flood control is one of your main markets. Within this, airports situated on floodplains might be a market segment. Within this category, you would then think about specifically which people would need your services, what their roles are, and what they need from you.
This might lead you to maintenance managers of airports situated on flood plains. Is this the kind of customer you’d typically want to attract? Then voila! You have your first buyer persona.
Now that you've identified what you’re looking for, the tricky bit begins: tracking them down.
The Big Picture
Remember: marketing is all about understanding your customer’s needs and showing how you would solve their problem, so that they can see that you’re the expert and want to buy from you. If competitors are nabbing your clients, that’s because they are doing a better job of communicating how they will fix that customer’s problem.
This also means that it’s not about shouting the loudest. It’s about having the most compelling thing to say — and knowing how to get that message across in a way that makes it all about your customer, not all about you.
So before you shoot off and start firing out salesy stuff through LinkedIn, Instagram, Direct Mail or even in person at conferences and the like, I want you to take a step back and start thinking in terms of marketing campaigns.
A campaign isn’t like throwing a load of stuff at the wall to see what sticks. It’s a strategy, a focused communications plan that integrates all your different channels.
In other words, everything you say, you say for a reason, and no matter where you say it, it’s consistent!
Moving from “Marketing Tools” to “Campaign” Mode
Instead of asking yourself, “Hey, should we do a leaflet, a webinar or advertise in the local paper?” you need to start thinking about the complete message you’re putting across.
That’s because each one of these communication methods are marketing tools. You use them to get the job done but they’re not the job itself. Imagine a builder asking you whether you think he should use a power drill, a saw or a trowel today. You’d be like, “Um, that depends … What are you trying to make?”
Marketing is exactly the same. You don’t pick tools for the hell of it; you decide what it is you’re trying to achieve and then you pick the tools that will help you do it best.
Okay, so to get back to our Mike example: in our campaign, we want to show Mike and others just like him that we know what they’re up against, and that we’re the right people to solve their flood issues.
Now that we’re clear on what the campaign is all about, we can start to select the right tools for the job.
Choose Your Weapon(s)
I’m now going to show you how I go about planning a campaign in progress. I’m going to call this campaign Green Surveying.
Before we dive in, I’d like to reiterate that you can try out anything you like to help you spread your message, as long as you follow these rules of thumb:
- Be consistent in your message.
- Be timely when delivering your message.
- Test what works and what doesn’t.
- Refine what you are doing as you go.
Okay! Let’s take a look at my campaign notes:
- Campaign name: Green Surveying
- Market: Flood Management
- Market Segment: Airport personnel who have a need to manage airports that are on a floodplain or at risk of flooding
- Buyer persona: Airport maintenance managers situated on flood plains, looking to learn more about reducing and managing flood risk, and investing in green infrastructure to prevent against it (see buyer persona “Mike”)
As we talked about in the previous article, based on my research and experience, the buyer I’ve called Mike would likely get his information from:
- His local city group on LinkedIn
- The Flood Control Council
- Climate change professional groups and networks
He’s also likely to respond well to getting info through:
- Certain conferences on the topic
- Browsing publications about airport management and flood control articles on the Web
Narrowing Your Focus
This has already made my marketing job a whole lot easier. Instead of publishing content willy-nilly without having a clue if it’s likely to work, I now have a clear picture in my head of the person I’m speaking to, what they want to hear and where to grab their attention.
But there’s one more thing: What do I want them to do when they come into contact with my messaging? Well, in this case, I first want to bring the Mikes of the world onto my website so they can browse the content and get a better idea of what we do (and then, of course, I want them to take action by buying from me, but that’s a step further along the process!)
I’ll talk about this in much more depth in another post, but the action the person takes relates to where they are in the buyer’s journey. For example, Mike has just heard of you, so he’s at the start of his buyer’s journey. He’s highly unlikely to jump in and buy immediately, because he needs to get more information and build confidence in your brand.
That’s why you place different calls to action (CTAs) at the end of different types of content along the way. For example, content targeting people at the start of the buyer’s journey might direct them to a blog post where they can learn more about a topic. From there, you might direct them to signing up for a webinar for which they need to give you their details (turning them into a lead). Later on in their journey, you can become more direct, perhaps suggesting they call you to arrange a meeting.
It’s often a good idea to put multiple CTAs on one piece of content, so that people who have come to this from different stages in their journey can take the next step they need!
Know What Success Looks Like
It’s really, really important that you know exactly what you’re trying to achieve, and how you’re going to measure it. Otherwise, how do you know when you’ve achieved it?
In this case, my overall objective for the campaign is to grow market share in the flood management market. I’m going to measure that by the number of new clients I attract, compared to how many there are in the wider marketplace.
The Tool Kit
I’m going to use the following tools to begin communicating to my buyer persona, Mike. Notice how all of these are linked to one another:
- Write blog posts that focus on surveying and flood management issues, and which lead visitors to sign up for a webinar.
- Run a string of in-depth webinars that address how surveying helps with flood management.
- Promote both blogs and webinars on LinkedIn, because we know our “Mikes” are on there, somewhere!
- Use Instagram to show off awesome photos of us out in the field doing survey work at airports and mentioning how this prevents flooding.
- Start networking by getting involved with LSU Foundation: Coastal Sustainability Studio (adding new contacts on LinkedIn, and messaging them links to relevant content where appropriate).
- Networking at ASFPM Premier Flood Conference (again, adding new contacts on LinkedIn, and messaging them links to relevant content where appropriate).
The Content Strategy
As I explained in my last article, we also need to make sure that all this awesome content we’re creating jumps out to Mike when he’s scrolling through LinkedIn or Google Search results. That means devising some enticing headlines that really speak to him!
Once we have a list of killer titles, we can mix this with the tool kit above, using the content we create in all different ways and adapting it to different platforms. It’s OK to keep reusing the stuff you make — in fact, it’s smart. Don’t let it go to waste!