How To Turn Seasonal Shoppers Into Lifelong Customers [Guest: Susan Mees, Customer Success Expert]
We’ve spent a ton of time collecting new customers over the holiday so the question remains, how do we turn those “seasonal shoppers” into lifelong customers? To help generate some effective ideas, we sat down with Susan Mees, a digital marketer with a deep background in community management who loves analytics, measurable goals, and testing new methods of reaching people. As a freelancer, Susan’s most recent experience is in healthcare, consumer products, early education, and financial services working primarily on customer success and community initiatives. Susan is also the co-founder of the freelance collective Co Conspirators Agency. Today's the day to think more about your customer success strategy - take a listen for all the tips.
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 How To Turn Seasonal Shoppers Into Lifelong Customers [Guest: Susan Mees, Customer Success Expert]
Welcome back to episode 44. We have spent a ton of time collecting new customers over the holiday. The question remains, “How do we turn those holiday shoppers into lifelong customers?” To help generate some effective ideas, I sat down with Susan Mees, a digital marketer with a deep background in community management who loves analytics, a measurable goal, and testing new methods of reaching people.
As a freelancer, her most experience is in healthcare, consumer products, and early education in financial services working primarily on customer success in community initiatives. Susan is also the Cofounder of the freelance collective Co Conspirators Agency. It's a great conversation with Susan and me because she reminds us how important it is to focus our time on our customers regardless. We have gotten new customers, so why not start the new year right? Let's jump into the show with Susan.
Susan, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me, Amy.
How's your 2022 going so far?
I don't know if everyone else is going through this as well but I feel like everyone is coming in hat with some right-back-ats-it energy in 2022. There have been lots of meetings and deliverables but that's a good thing because it sets up the rest of the year. It feels like there's going to be a lot of work and stuff to get done. Better than the alternative, I suppose.
It's about responding more to what your customer is looking for rather than what's important to you.
It is so great to have you. Most of our audience has collected a ton of new email addresses in customers in the holiday season, which is the best news ever but we typically find that those customers can be a bit seasonal and one-time. We are excited to pick your brain to understand how to create a community that customers want to be an advocate in versus that one-time seller. To get started, when you think of a first-time customer, what types of tactics should be in place to build that LTV or retention?
A lot of folks get focused on making that purchase or getting that sale out there. There are a little shortsighted about all of the additional foundational work that goes into building a relationship with someone and keeping them in the fold. Especially when we are thinking about eCommerce or products, it is very transactional but when you think about it as a human, anytime that you feel loyalty to something or you come back to something, it's usually based on relationships.
You can't always be pushing your own messaging, promotion or coupon out to folks. You have to think about what their needs are, what they are looking for, what their motivations are, and how do you help them do more of what's important to them. Not only buy your product but whatever the reason they came to you in the first place. If you are selling a service, they are coming to you because they need that service, not because you sent them a coupon code. There were probably underlying things that you can get at by offering them additional resources.
It's important to put things in place before you make a sale so that you don't come to this place where you are like, “We have all of these people. What do we do with them?” Though I do have some tips on that as well. If possible, get things in place so that you have regular communications. You are staying top of mind. You have nurturing sequences in place so that folks aren't one and done. You are giving them the tools they need to deepen the relationship with your brand or product so that they do come back.
I also think it's important to think through. When we think about LTV, a lot of folks think that getting more products in one order is the way to go but every consumer is a little bit different. You have to pay attention to what your consumer naturally does and not try to force them into a box that makes sense for you. If you find that your customer likes small orders all the time, go for that and try to get them to purchase more frequently rather than increasing the AOV. It's about responding more to what your customer is looking for rather than what's important to you.
You could have started any better. I always feel with email, in particular, everybody is so focused on constantly driving more people in and the customers sit. They haven't done a special discount. There's no loyalty program in place. You are like, “You have treated the folks that have bought from you so much worse than those that have never bought from you.” I find it to be shocking a lot of times. I appreciate you bringing up the point about relationships because it's important.
I'm not going to name them but we all know those brands where you never buy anything full price. You are constantly waiting for a coupon. You don't want to train your customers that your only value is in coupons. You want to give them the actual value of resources, education, and engagement, so that it's not just them waiting for the next 20% off, and you have trained them to do that.
It's easy to get into that flow, especially with eCommerce. The only engagement you have with people is sending them a coupon or discount. That's not necessarily the relationship you want to build with someone. “What's in it for me?” You want to think about how to deepen and nurture that connection that you have with them.
In particular, there are quite a few eCommerce clients that are migrating away from Amazon trying to build their databases on their stores. Amazon and the holidays bring that discount culture. We are in a new year and shortly off of the holidays. We could immerse a customer into a non-discount environment where we can get them to repurchase and interact with us. Do you have any tips on that?
There are a couple of ways around that, too. A lot of people believe that a community only exists when you build an actual platform for it. You have to have a walled garden essentially that someone has to sign into, so you are keeping folks out of also. That's a little bit shortsighted around what happens when you build a community. I like to think about where folks already are, whether it's your social media, an email list or people on your site. All of these places are opportunities to engage folks. Think about the goals of any content that you are putting out there and make sure that you do have pieces of content that aren't specifically focused on trying to drive sales.
I like asking questions, putting out a poll, showing that you are interested in hearing what your customer has to say and what their perspective is, then following through on it. Putting out a question and never doing anything with it is almost worse than not asking, honestly. Try to repurpose that into the content. On a lot of social channels, you can do polls. Asking a poll and resurfacing the answers back. It isn't exactly a one-to-one conversation but you are asking for an opinion and telling people what you heard. That reinforces the idea that you are not an observer brand but a listener brand, and you want to engage with people.
Not everyone's going to be your best friend. You can have lots of friends, lots of acquaintances, lots of colleagues and the same is true of a brand.
Building on that, there are a lot of opportunities as well to ask for feedback. This is one thing that we overlook a lot as a product. You are constantly thinking about pushing out your product but one thing you can do, especially with folks that maybe are new to your brand that has signed up because of a discount, is you can make it automated in a way that doesn't feel robotic.
An automated nurturing flow that asked them, “It has been 14 days, 30 days,” whatever the right period is for your product, “How is it going? What do you think? What we could have done better? Are you excited about it? Can you refer someone?” There's a lot you can do with that by asking the people what they think about your product and not assuming that everything went well. I also think that reinforces that you are building a relationship with someone because you are asking them what they think, not just selling something to them.
It goes back to the point of putting a little bit more TLC into the folks that have invested in your brand instead of leaving them there for the next email campaign that might promote a discount again. It’s a good point for sure.
It sounds silly to say it like this but if you think about it as a human, any of your relationships, not everyone is going to be your best friend. You can have lots of friends, acquaintances and colleagues. The same is true of a brand. You might have your super users who are your best friends, and you have a different relationship with them than you have with folks who maybe you know casually but it doesn't mean that you treat those folks that you know casually badly. It doesn't mean you only ask them to help you move.
You send them links that they might like and things like that. The same is true as a brand that you want to think about the different tiers of your customers and what might mean the most to them. Maybe you give a special item or discount to your best friends but that doesn't mean that you disregard everyone else.
I'm so glad you said that. Every audience will be like, “I get it. I need to take a little bit of time to take the lead and the customer strategy a little bit different.”
We all had that friend that only asks you for help and never gives anything back. You don't want to be that friend.
From an eCommerce perspective, what are the key components of building a community? How does somebody get started? What are some of the low-hanging fruit to build a community?
A lot of folks can get started in ways they haven't. What they only think about is community. I do see social email and sites as easy ways to start building a community around the folks that are interested in you. Another miscommunication around the community is following does not equal community. You can build a big following with your content on social or with email but that doesn't mean that those folks are engaged. It’s thinking about how to quantify the engaged members of your followers and try to build more engagement like asking questions and giving feedback.
It's also important to run specific campaigns that are community-based. We have our promotion campaigns, new product campaigns, discounts, all of that. In the same vein, having campaigns that are specifically focused on engagement or even content creation by the community with the goal, not of purchases but engagement or referrals. It's important to remember that those are valuable as a foundation, especially for eCommerce. You end up in this hamster wheel of like, “What's the next thing we are doing to get more purchases?”
Building a community takes a little bit of onus off of constantly having to push people to purchase because you are building that long-term loyalty. Loyalty comes from relationships and meaningful interactions, not only discount codes. Thinking about the channels you've already got in place and how you can work in some additional engagement campaigns.
It doesn't mean creating a whole separate platform. If you are not on Instagram and Instagram doesn't make sense, don't join Instagram to build a community. Figure out where your customers are, where you are already active, and how to engage those folks where they are, rather than trying to build a thing and push them towards it.
I had a client that was so upset by my recommendation to leverage a few of their emails for the month to drive to their Instagram Live. They have such a wonderful value-oriented Instagram Live. I said, “Why not invite some of your email lists to go there?” She was very focused on the fact that there was going to be fewer sales because of it. What happened was that we finally did do that thing. You can see the cascading effect of more people sharing the email with their friends.
It's important to remember as we try to engage our customer base that you're not trying to be everything to everyone. You're trying to find the people that are a good fit for your brand.
They are excited about Instagram Live. They were invited and shared it with their friends. There's more site traffic in those two hours and purchases from a non-purchasing email inviting them to a community event. That's important to remember that we don't always have to use our email real estate for promotions. That is constantly we have in our brains to do.
It's easy to get caught in that when you think about average order value, LTV, and things like that but when you think about what makes a brand or product truly successful, it's not because they figured out how to sell the most cans of soda. They built a following and have people that identify with their brand. They build that loyalty because of long-term engagement, not because they are constantly sending them emails.
Email is important because you want to stay in front of the customer and top of mind. Thinking about newsletters in addition to promotional emails and how does your nurturing help them go deeper into the funnel rather than, “Are they buying or not?” Thinking about how do you get them to be more ingrained in the brand.
One of my favorite ways to end is your expert to-do lists. If our audience was going to get your five top to-do items on how they might be able to get these holiday shoppers they gathered to make them long-term customers and check these off their list, what to-do's do you have for them?
Setting things up in advance is great. We are a little late in the game for that for this holiday season. For 2022, don't wait. Get an email out to them immediately. Even if you are not pushing them to something, this is a great opportunity to say, “Thank you for the purchase,” to reinforce that you appreciated that they were part of your holiday season. We all know how it is during the holidays when you are buying everything. You get all those confirmations, and things leave your brain. This is a great time to resurface to them and say, “We hope the rest of your holidays went well. Thank you so much for being a part of our customer base. We value you.”
If you have a chance to tell them to follow you on social or something like that, this is a great opportunity. Also, put those nurturing campaigns in place. Even if you didn't have them in place before, add them so that you can encourage them to reorder. If it's a reorder situation, introduce them to new products. There's also the possibility of introducing a short-term discount, especially for your newest customers when they are saying, “We are so excited to see you the first time. Here's 10% off but it's only good for the next 30 days.” Those are some things that you can try as well.
We mentioned asking for feedback. This is incorporating at this point to say, “How did it go? What do you think?” The thing that's also key on feedback is while you can automate the first email, if they reply, you have to make sure that someone is monitoring those replies. You ask for feedback, someone replies, and never gets an answer, that is very bad. Don't do that. I'm going to plug the idea of loyalty programs because this is a great opportunity, especially for new customers. Maybe they don't even know you had a loyalty program or you are launching it by bringing them in that way.
I'm going to add. I always like to level-set expectations. We need to remember that not everyone is going to be a repeat customer. Put your efforts on the folks that you think will be repeat customers or add in a lower level nurturing for folks that haven't purchased after six months or things like that. The goal is not 100% repeat purchasers. There are going to be folks that come by. Maybe it isn't the right fit but all of that is fine. It's important to remember as we try to engage our customer base that you are not trying to be everything to everyone. You are trying to find the people that are a good fit for your brand.
Take care of those best friends in your database.
Like you would in real life, text them but not too much. Keep them closed.
Thank you, Susan, for taking the time to chat. You have provided a ton of great tips. This is a good episode to have right at the beginning of 2022 to get everybody's foundations set, and their customers are taken care of. Where can the readers get in contact with you?
Thank you for having me, Amy. I love talking about this stuff but not in the context of an actual project. It's fun to talk about what's the best way to handle this. My website is very creative. It is SusanMees.com. My email address, even more creative, is Susan@SusanMees.com. I'm super hard to find. I like to put it all out there. I am a digital marketing freelancer myself but I also have started a freelance collective with women freelancers who are looking for work. I have an international collection of resources to bring if I'm not the right fit because not every marketer is the same, as we know.
Thank you so much, Susan. It has been great chatting with you.
Thanks so much, Amy. Have a good rest of your day.
Every time I sit down with an expert, I'm always blown away by the reminders that we get. Focusing on the customer side of things is a whole different strategy. We can have so many different programs in place, foundational elements that can continue to help us do this nurturing ahead of the game, not worrying about when we get a new customer for the holidays, for instance. What do we do? Things like new customer welcome, where we welcome them, introduce them to our loyalty program and have them connect with us on social. All of those foundational programs post-purchase flows are so important.
The other thing that Susan mentioned that stuck with me was about asking for feedback. A lot of times, we are so timid to ask for feedback. We either don't want to use the email real estate for it or we feel like we are asking too much. The truth of the matter is, you look like you care a little bit more by asking for feedback, and also, your customers want to give it to you.
If you do anything, sit down and try to think about how you can make a customer program that you are proud of and create this community that Susan talked about. You already have so many of the pieces right there where you need them. Any questions, please send them my way at Conversations@EmailGrowthSociety.com. Until next time. Happy emailing, everyone.
- Co Conspirators Agency
About Susan Mees
Susan Mees, a digital marketer with a deep background in community management who loves analytics, a measurable goal, and testing new methods of reaching people. As a freelancer, her most recent experience is in healthcare, consumer products, early education, and financial services working primarily on customer success and community initiatives. Susan is also the co-founder of the freelance collective Co Conspirators Agency.