It’s a simple concept, really. Increase the number and frequency of high-quality touch points with your customers, and you stand a better chance of being top-of-mind when it’s their time to buy. Touch points are a way of sending “I care” or “Here when you need us” messages to your customers.

While the touch points serve marketing’s self-interests, the smart marketer knows the touch points must place a kernel of “happy” in the customer’s minds and hearts, too. Otherwise, it’s a waste of resources, both time and budget.

Use the right touch, or don’t do it at all

Done well, touch points can keep customers feeling good about their decision to go with your brand or company. And everyone wants to feel as though they made the best decision, the right choice. Executed poorly, however, touch points can insult customers and weaken the ties linking them to your brand. No one wants to feel duped, misunderstood, or like a numeric record in your CRM database.

You’re not kidding anybody with faux customization

The jig is up. The Average Joe knows all 45 people in your office didn’t hand sign that last holiday card. It was likely modern technology (say it with me: variable printing) at its finest. Personally, I’d rather have the one or two persons I deal with most frequently actually sign the card. Or, better yet, I’d rather receive one of a bazillion inexpensively made postcards (or email) that inform me the company donated $5,000 to a local charity for Christmas and saved 25 trees by eschewing envelopes.

Fact is, consumers (and business customers) seen and heard just about everything marketers can conceivably whip up in an effort to keep our policies, subscriptions, retail trade, dining out dollars, and auto maintenance investments.

The tried and trite

Very few tactics surprise me anymore. So when I saw the envelope from our insurance agent sitting on the counter along with Wednesday’s mail, I knew what it was.

Happy Birthday Customer

Wednesday was my husband’s 40th birthday. And – you guessed it! – the envelope contained a special birthday card from our agent.

Only the card, well, wasn’t so special. Actually it was decidedly not special. It was a touch point gone wrong.

Happy Birthday, Customer - Inside

You see, my husband’s name isn’t Rob. It’s Scott. Legally, it’s Robert, but he’s been known as Scott (his middle name) since he was a toddler. And the agent knows this. I’ve told him on at least 3 separate occasions.

Our agent called my husband Bob during one of our first meetings together. As if being called by the wrong name wasn’t weird enough, we hadn’t invited the agent to use a nickname – any nickname. And I’m sure I introduced Scott as Scott (because, well, that’s his name). So the agent went from calling him Bob in person to addressing him as Rob on paper. Whaaa?

Adding a sneer to this eyeroll-worthy situation is the fact that upon choosing this agent six months ago, I was very clear that we were leaving our 12-year relationship with a big national brand because our last agent sold his firm with two weeks’ notice, without a personal heads’ up call, and to a new owner who, a year later, still had not contacted us to thank us for remaining with the firm and trusting him with our insurance needs.

See, we wanted to do business with someone who cared about us as a customer. You can’t just take money from me each month and never give me a meaningful boo about it. So you can bet that this Bob/Rob thing kinda rubs the wrong way, made more irritating because our new agent knew we didn’t want to be mass marketed to or overlooked as customer number 427.

Customer touch points done right

It’s really not that hard to take a cheesy, totally expected “Happy Birthday” customer card a couple of steps better:

  • Call your customer by their preferred name (make a note in the file – I know you have one)
  • Recognize a milestone so they know you’re paying attention (again, DOB is in the file)
  • Use the card as an opportunity to spur the customer into action by including gentle, appropriate life stage/life style messaging (surely 40 is a good time to increase our life insurance coverage while we’re still relatively young and healthy)
  • Include a certificate for a complimentary assessment at a local health facility (the theme is in line with a 40 milestone and the strategic partnership is an easy deal to work out between companies)
  • Send a clipping of current events from 1971 (always fun to gaze into the way-back-when ball and hey, useful for a whole years’ worth of client birthdays)

With this story in mind, think about your company’s seemingly “customized” touch points. What kind of improvements can you make so that they’re more accurate, meaningful, and effective? Are you really listening to what customers say they want from you in terms of service and communication? Because if you’re not doing it right, you could be doing the relationship much more harm than you know.

After all, I certainly can’t recommend our agent to a friend who wants someone who’s detail-oriented, can I?

 

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About Heather Rast

Heather Rast

Heather is Principal of a boutique Cedar Rapids digital marketing company. She develops brand positioning strategy and marketing communications plans to distinguish small businesses from the competition and attract their ideal customers. Her content planning, writing, and online community-building work helps larger businesses better serve their audiences with useful information that solves problems as it builds affinity for the brand.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.twitter.com/kmartone Kevin Martone

    Great points. These lessons are important for nonprofit orgs, too. I find that many nonprofits either don’t keep their database up to date or manage it consistently to make sure a nickname is used, for example, OR they rely solely on their database and don’t think of the simple personal touches that could truly build a connection.

    • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

      I don’t have much experience working with nonprofits, but as a consumer I agree with you. I still receive email and mail pieces from groups I haven’t supported in a very long time, with the language referencing “…thank you for your previous donation. We hope…” I wonder how much money is wasted (that could go back into programs) because smart filters aren’t in place for donation programs? Good points.

  • Madison Bushell

    Thanks for sharing! I’m sharing this with my team; I think there’ some really valuable information here.

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

    Hi Heather,

    Thank for the

  • http://www.neverstopmarketing.com jer979

    Great job on this. You are so right on.

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