The landscape of ecommerce business expanded in a big way in 2020, forcing small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to either get online or get lost. Suddenly they had to choose from hundreds of thousands of digital solutions in order to make a successful ecommerce move and survive. Janessa Yeomans, the director of vendor management at Vendasta, said during a Conquer Local Conference that approximately 77 percent of SMBs are unsuccessful when selecting and implementing a software-as-a-service or SaaS solution on their own. As a result, more and more SMBs are turning to those agencies that have become local experts to help them choose the right solution and strategy.
However, being a trusted local expert in the face of a rapidly changing and intensely competitive business environment can be extremely difficult for many marketing agencies. Read further to learn the Top 6 tips and tactics to follow to help set up your customer for success.
1. Ask questions
The first step in a successful customer relationship is to understand their business model and requirements. It’s what you don’t know about them that often matters. So ask strategic questions to gain insight and consider:
- What are their biggest challenges? Ask your customers what are their short- and long-term goals, and what’s holding them back from addressing their business challenges. Walk in their shoes and look at problems from their perspective. Ask if they have tried to resolve these issues. What did they do and what were the results?
- What are their expectations of you? Every customer has expectations when they hire you as their outsourced chief marketing officer or CMO. But you need to know what these are. Set incremental goals and determine metrics to measure delivered results.
Let your customers know they can approach you anytime they have questions. It will go a long way towards building trust and keeping them as customers for years to come.
2. Integrate workflows
Customers use a variety of computing devices to shop online, including smartphones and tablets. In fact, according to a study, 53.9 percent of total ecommerce retail sales in the United States will come from mobile commerce in 2021. So, if your customer doesn’t have an integrated ecommerce platform that lets customers shop or access products and services through any device of their choice, they could be losing out on a massive chunk of revenue. Here’s what you can do to help your local business customers deliver a seamless buying experience for customers:
- Websites: A website should be quick to load and user-friendly, offer accurate product information, top-notch product images, state-of-art shopping carts, plus safe and secure payment gateways. It should be integrated with a robust enterprise resource management (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM) system that tracks their product inventory, supply chain, shipping orders and manages other back-end processes. The Vendasta Marketplace offers white-labelled, end-to-end tools for any ecommerce store.
- SEO: When 80 percent of major purchases begin with online research, your customer can’t ignore the need for an effective SEO strategy. When done right, your customer gains organic traffic to their website and is able to build a powerful brand. A robust SEO strategy includes quick-loading website pages, high-quality content, optimized images, and much more. SEO keyword research software like SEMrush and Ahrefs can also make this task easier.
- Listings: It’s essential for your customers to maintain consistent business information across the web, mobile apps, voice search, and directories. Make sure to submit your customer’s accurate business information to Google, Facebook, Yelp, and business directories. You can also use the Vendasta white-label local listing services, which lets you directly submit and own business information with Google, Facebook, Yelp, and more.
- Reviews: Good reviews from customers always inspire trust and help build a strong brand. Make sure your customers respond to all online reviews and feedback, whether positive or negative. Run campaigns to showcase happy customers and ask them to share their experiences on Google and other review sites. Display the feedback on a customer’s website to attract more traffic.
- Social: Once your customers have created user-friendly websites and established consistent listings across the board, the next step is to engage with their audiences on social media. If you are running advertisements, have a corresponding campaign on social media. Regularly update your customer’s social-media pages to ensure their business information is current and they can be easily found.
- Advertising: If your customer already has an advertising plan in place, analyze and scrutinize it. Does it include Google Ads? Is there a social-media campaign to complement it? Do they have custom landing pages for the advertisements? Who handles these leads? Help your customers with every detail of their plan.
Vendasta COO George Leith said in a recent Conquer Local Conference, you have to create “ecommerce squared.” His thinking in making this statement was that an agency needs to offer its customers a marketplace of solutions and services, plus safe and secure payment options; design bundles of products and services with detailed information as to when and how to use them; and simplify the process of booking appointments through a website. When you offer an outstanding user experience on your website, it helps you and your customers succeed.
3. Deliver on promises
By keeping promises, you create customers for life. It sounds simple, but most agencies fail to follow this practice. Below are ideas on how to ensure you never miss a deadline or fail to deliver on a promise:
- Don’t overpromise. Never set goals based on lofty and perhaps unrealistic expectations. Instead, focus on what’s reasonable to expect. At the same time, do your best to over-deliver on results. Nothing impresses a customer more when a provider goes above and beyond what was promised.
- Note down each detail. It’s easy to promise something to a customer during a meeting then forget about it once you leave the room. Take notes of all promises made, no matter how small.
- Communication is the key. Always be clear and concise in your communication. Explain in detail what you promise to deliver and capture these commitments in your notes as you plan through the project. When you deliver the project, refer back to these and show how your performance matches with that.
- Follow up. Even after delivering what you promised, always follow up with customers to additionally help them. Most likely, you will find new opportunities to upsell.
4. Listen to your customers
Your customers have high expectations of you, and it only takes one misstep to ruin a relationship forever. Research shows 94 percent of business executives believe that listening to customers is increasingly important to the bottom line. Here are a few ways:
- Regular customer meetings: Some customers need more attention than others. Depending on their requirements, you can adjust the frequency of meetings with them. Always prepare an agenda and share it beforehand, says Janice Christopher, CEO of The Janice Christopher Marketing Agency. Ask questions to understand what they are thinking, discuss marketing ideas and explain the services you are not providing to them that the customer may benefit from. Go through their listings, discuss their customer reviews, and reference Google Analytics to make your point.
- Discuss reports: Though customers often receive regular reports from agency service providers, few take time to read and understand the implications. “There's a big difference between seeing the numbers and understanding the report, and what it means to us, what it means to them, and what you have done for them,” says Andrew Carson, gold growth team lead at Vendasta. So set up customer meetings to review reports. Use Google Analytics to show the value you bring when you provide SEO and digital advertising for them.
- Track your customer’s competitors: One of the ways to assess your customers’ performance is to compare their results to those of direct competitors. If a competitor receives negative feedback regarding a particular feature that your customer offers in a better way, run an advertising campaign to highlight that feature. You can also utilize the Vendasta Snapshot Report to assess where a competitor might be doing a better job online than your customer and use that information to improve your customer’s performance.
5. Choose your specialization
Never put all your eggs in one basket. Look to serve multiple industries so that a drastic shift in one sector won’t cause your entire business to fail. Chris Montgomery, founder and CEO of Social Ordeals, believes every marketing agency should specialize in at least five or six industries to mitigate the business impact risk of another pandemic. Make the time and effort to learn about these industries so that you are able to speak intelligently with prospective customers in those specialized areas. And embrace opportunities to serve other verticals in order to shift and expand your specialization.
6. Collaborate, not compete
Industry peers can contribute to your success. In addition to the word-of-mouth publicity that results from effective networking, you can build a wealth of practical knowledge through the shared experiences of others. Below are other benefits of collaborating with peers:
- Brand awareness: Mingling and collaborating with your peers grows awareness of your brand among others.
- Thought leadership: Sharing your stories and experiences is often helpful to others and can position you as a thought leader.
- Lead generation: Collaborative environments often encourage participants to pass along sales leads, particularly when they know you provide a service that they do not.
You can also join the Vendasta Conquer Local Connect community to share and exchange ideas with agency peers, plus learn actionable tactics and insights into digital marketing and sales to help you become successful.