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Six Types of Personal Communications That Nurture Relationships

Marjorie Clayman is VP of Client Services at her family’s full service marketing firm, Clayman Marketing Communications.

Very probably, due almost exclusively to the density of “content marketing” mentions in the online world, when you think about company communications you think about content like blogs, white papers, or webinars.

This leaves behind, however, a whole category of content or communications that can be extremely effective as you strive to nurture relationships with existing customers. That category, as the title of this blog might have foretold, is personal communication.

While you might feel your customer database is too expansive for this kind of tactic to work, we can guarantee you that good news, especially when it pertains to how you treat your customers, spreads far and fast.

Here are six specific types of personalized content that can go a long way in nurturing your customer relationships.

1. The “Shout-Out”

This was discussed last week in regards to blog content, but highlighting a customer in any sort of content can also be classified as personalized communication. This holds especially true if you are highlight a customer who is marking an important anniversary or perhaps the winning of an award.

2. Birthday Greetings

Facebook and Skype make it particularly easy to “know” someone’s birthday. It only takes a few seconds to acknowledge a customer’s birthday, but taking those few seconds can show that you are taking your connection with them seriously. It also shows that you value them enough to take out a little time to send them good wishes.

These kinds of actions can really make customers feel special, and hence more loyal to you.

3. Holiday Greetings

Inviting customers to a holiday event or party, sending out holiday cards, or making contributions to a charity on behalf of your customers can be a great way to nurture customer relationships throughout the holiday season.

One caution, however. Know your customers well enough to know what holidays they mark. You can do damage by sending, for example, a Christmas card to a devoutly Jewish customer.

4. Sporting Events

Inviting customers to a sporting event is a great way to build relationships. If you want to discover some particularly powerful ways to make the most of these events, check out Lou Imbriano’s book, Winning the Customer. Lou used to work for the New England Patriots, so he knows a lot about how companies can make a single sporting event really memorable and special for customers. Here, the only complexity is hoping that you have a local team worth watching. As a Cleveland fan, this is a constant challenge for our agency, all year long.

5. Rewards for Customer Loyalty

Airlines have become masterful at rewarding loyal customers. Businesses can follow a lot of the same logic to show appreciation for customers who have renewed contracts or who have been long-time, loyal customers.

There are a few important things to consider when approaching the subject of customer rewards. First, it is essential that you handle your strategy with delicacy. If a long-time customer ends up feeling like “chopped liver,” you’ve once again done more harm than good. Make sure your standards for rewards are fair and equally distributed. Also bear in mind that the definition of customer loyalty can now be expanded because of the world of social media. Listen for positive mentions or referrals and show appreciation to those customers, even if it’s just a show of gratitude for the mention.

As a side benefit, rewarding loyal customers can also help you track customers who did not renew their contracts. What differentiates loyal customers from those who fall away?

6. Handwritten Cards

In a world where everything is 140 characters, brief, to the point, and digital, few things can brighten a customer’s day like a handwritten note.

I’ve been the beneficiary of such a deed myself. When I was invited to do a Livefyre chat on Gini Dietrich’s blog Spinsucks.com, Livefyre took the time to send me a postcard thanking Gini and me for using their product in a cool way. This was all the more amazing because Livefyre is a free product. There are a lot of different ways and reasons to send handwritten notes to valued customers.

If you want to really expand on this concept, take a look at John Jantsch’s Referral Engine. He offers a lot of great examples of how to incorporate a handwritten note along with other personalized gifts.

While it’s true that there may not be an immediately measurable ROI to these kinds of personal communications, one could ask what the ROI is of keeping loyal customers versus losing them. Moreover, by keeping your loyal customers happy, you might simultaneously create your own referral network, which could yield increased sales from new customers.

Do not underestimate the importance of personalized, customized communications. It’s not often mentioned as part of the “content marketing” buzz, but it can be just as important.

Need to connect individually with customers? The Vocus Marketing Suite can help: take a demo here!

Image: Fern R (Creative Commons)

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