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The Marketing Retrofit Company For Manufacturers

CREATE CONNECTION –
Bond with your customers,
and keep them

Lest you worry that this installment in our e-series is about hugs and warm fuzzies—which aren’t exactly common in the building products industry—let’s begin with a definition: A connection is a feeling of understanding and ease of communication between two or more people.

Connecting with customers is more about earning their trust than selling them your products. In years past I saw a lot more “selling” than “connecting” taking place in this industry, but that’s all changing. It’s exciting to see that some B2B marketing execs have already embraced this concept and are running with it.

I recently interviewed Michael Williams of Festool, a company competing on quality and value over price. Festool connects with customers through education, training 400 dealer staff and more than 100 end-users a year on the best uses and applications of their products.

“The Festool Training Program, the online Festool Owners Group, and more and more our monthly email newsletter, SysNotes, are our most important means for building strong and lasting relationships with our customers,” Michael said. “Mainly, this is due to the very personal and genuine nature of these programs.” So how can you connect customers with your brand in a meaningful way? Try these ideas:

Host a shindig.

Invite small groups of customers (and prospects) over for lunch, a tour, a product demo. Spend time getting to know each of them and their needs, and follow up to see if there’s a need you can fill.

Show your appreciation.

Thank your regular customers with special perks, exclusive sales or even barbeques in their honor. And don’t forget that a simple, handwritten postcard can make a powerful connection—and it won’t get lost in a sea of email.

Share your expertise.

Offer to do a product knowledge session at a customer’s location; they can invite some of their key customers to attend. Share information you glean from industry conferences or workshops. And pack your e-newsletter with practical tips your customer can use.

Make it personal.

Create a simple database to store information about your customers—what they buy, how they like to be reached, personal interests and other information you can use in future conversations and mailings.

Build a community.

Include on your homepage an invitation to subscribe to your e-newsletter. Use Twitter® and Facebook® to start conversations around a particular product or line. And use social media to create a customer community around their interests (and your products) a la the Festool Owners Group.

Keep in touch.

Communicating with your customers year round—using all the available tools—demonstrates commitment and care.

Go the extra mile.

Look for ways to deliver more value—email alerts on the status of orders, longer business hours for customer service, or another product or service your customers will appreciate. Make resolving issues your first priority, and put price and $$ second; your customers will walk away feeling like they come first.

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Above all, keep in touch. Communicate with your customers year round, using all the available tools. Brands that stay connected cultivate loyalty (but that’s next month’s topic).

Here’s to creating a sensation! Let’s get started.

Allison DeFord, Trailblazer
allison@feltmarketing.com

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