Building Customer Relationships Through Online Content

What's more valuable, a current customer or a prospect?

Seems easy to answer, right? A customer is more valuable. Done deal.

Even though most contractors know that to be true, we don't market that way. We spend lots of money on search engine keywords and yellow page ads/listings to try to attract new customers. We think about figuring out social media like Facebook and Twitter to try to attract new customers.

Sure, we send postcards and make "happy calls" to our current customers, but what else? Whatever you may be doing, it's probably not enough.

The #1 goal for the majority of web marketing for contractors focuses on lead generation, even though all the while we don't do much to cater to our current customers. According to Marketing Metrics, selling to an existing customer is three to twelve times more likely than selling to a new customer. In addition, Bain and Company also found that a mere 10% increase in customer retention can translate in 30% more value for the company.

The point is, a little more attention given to customers goes a long way. Sure, I believe that a fantastic web presence can attract new customers, but the majority of the focus should go toward existing customers.

Here's why:

1. Great customer service includes sending customers content that solves their pain points. It's amazing, but most contractors don’t send regular information to customers in the form of informational content, like what you'd see in a newsletter or blog posts. Instead of just telling customers it's time for a service call, send them monthly emails containing the best information on how they can save energy, or be more efficient with their HVAC technology. This keeps you top of mind with customers and clearly positions you as the leading home comfort expert in your region.

2. I'm sure you've heard that the new word of mouth is online. But how do you give your customers incentive to talk about you? Regular, helpful content is like word-of-mouth steroids. If one of your customers likes a blog post or article you've sent them, they’re likely to share it, say on Facebook. Those people who are friends with them are probably possible customers of yours...so by focusing on retention, that can lead to new customers.

But how do you do this?

Ahava Leibtag from the Content Marketing Institute shared this post on what you have to do when creating online content to make it work for your customers and your business.

Your online content must be:

1. Findable - Can your customers access it in some way, or is the content somewhere deep in your website that’s too hard to find?

2. Readable - Are you writing like a human being would be speaking? Do you use lists or bullet points?

3. Understandable - Do you make sense? Are you leaving out complicated jargon? This is not the time to speak like an engineer or a technician. Talk to customers so they understand.

4. Actionable - Are you clearly asking the customers to do something? What's the behavior you want to see take place?

5. Sharable - Can the content be easily shared with other customers or prospects? (like on Facebook or Twitter)

Now, most contractors don't think this way naturally, but this is something we all need to start paying attention to. The content we develop today is critically important to our customers. It makes up our online retail storefront. The easier and more helpful you make it, the more likely you can influence current customers to do something that’ll positively impact your business.

So next time, instead of focusing some of those marketing dollars on lead generation, think about developing something that will make an impact on current customers, and really provide value to your HVAC business.

Joe Pulizzi is the CEO of SocialTract, the leading blogging service for HVACR contractors. Joe is also the founder of the Content Marketing Institute and co-author of Get Content Get Customers. Joe can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @juntajoe.

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