Noah Fleming – the author of Evergreen – tells us that a good business is like an evergreen tree. It can grow to be a giant over time. It can be unwavering. It can weather most storms. Evergreens remain lush, healthy and green all year round.
How can some companies effortlessly create customer loyalty while others seem to be dropping existing customers and struggling to find new ones? It all comes back to the relationship between the company and the customer. Great companies go above and beyond to nurture their relationship with their customers. This is the kind of company that becomes Evergreen.
Your business can eternally provide life, growth and regeneration. Becoming Evergreen will create a better, richer and more fulfilling experience for your customers. And you’ll gain customers faster.
Part One: Establishing Roots
It is a myth that new customers will save your business. New customers are not inherently bad, but focusing on getting them takes time, effort, energy and money away from areas where it would be much better spent, such as developing deeper relationships with your existing customer base.
In the marketing world, retention is boring. It is the chase that excites us. It is easy to measure results and often provides instant gratification. But it is even more important to show love to your current customers.
The Leaky Bucket Theory is an analogy that suggests that most business operate like a leaky bucket. Your business is the bucket and your customers are the water. The holes in the bucket represent the various areas where you lose your customers. Most businesses tend to focus on adding more water instead of repairing the holes.
The cost of ongoing customer engagement is nothing compared to the cost of acquiring new customers. If you want to experience dramatic growth within your organization, you must truly understand the relationship between profit, growth, longevity, customer relationships, employee empowerment and customer service.
The term customer-centric is a strategy that aligns a company’s development and delivery of its products with the current and future needs of a select set of customers in order to maximize their long-term financial value to the firm. Customer-centricity is crucial to be Evergreen.
Use data to monitor, measure and track customer consumption and usage and estimate likelihood of future profitability. Then market to ensure they receive the most value from the company.
If you can balance your Evergreen Marketing Equilibrium, the balance between customer acquisition and customer retention, your business will experience higher marketing effectiveness, lower customer acquisition costs, more valuable customers and greater success. Look at your rate and deepen relationships with the existing customers that matter.
The Three Cs:
For an organization to thrive in our rapidly changing economy, it must embrace the Three C’s: character, community and content.
Character is the first thing that comes to customers’ minds when they think about your business. The principle of character is about defining, crafting, and presenting the character traits that you want customers to associate with your organisation.
Human beings are prone to seek out others who share similar interests, values and beliefs. People are attracted to brand communities because they help them find others who enjoy the same products or services. Companies that recognise this need for connection and create structures that allow communities to form have significant advantages when it comes to retaining customers, building customer loyalty, and maximising customer value.
Content is the core “thing” the customer receives in exchange for money. It is necessary for a successful business. Without content, there is no business. However, only having excellent content is no guarantee of success.
If you want to be Evergreen, you need all three Cs to be working together.
Most companies believe that what they sell or provide is the most important component to their success, but they also need an effective why and who. The character of your business makes communicating with everyone easier and more effective. When a company is able to match how it sees itself with how it sees the customer, and with how the customer sees the company, an excellent synergy occurs.
To create a compelling company character, you must first develop your origin story and communicate it to your customers. Then, define your superhero. People want to do business with people and companies they like and trust, but also who fascinate them. And superheroes fascinate us. The personality of your character must be perpetuated though every piece of marketing and every bit of customer communication. Step three is to build purpose for your character’s actions. Understand your company’s purpose for doing what it does. Then, create an avatar of your character. Imagine that your company’s character and your ideal customer met today for the first time. Create a fictional conversation between them.
Organisations that successfully build customer communities experience remarkable benefits from their efforts. It will take time and money but it is well worth it. To build a customer community, you must first develop a community strategy. Once you have defined your vision, choose your tools. The Web offers great tools, but look beyond that too. Then, cultivate your community. Put the right tools and systems in place to allow shared interests, values and beliefs to spread from one member of your community to another. Then, take a step back. Let it grow organically.
Your company’s content is only one small part of your customer’s overall experience. Content is valuable, but it is important to provide an excellent customer experience too. Customers want more than just your content. They want to have an emotionally engaging experience that makes them feel good.
The Evergreen Diagnostic
The Evergreen Diagnostic features four quadrants that represent different types of companies:
Deciduous companies lose many customers each year and are constantly trying to gain new customers.
Barren companies have no customer relationship and because of that, no longevity.
Wilting companies can retain its customers, but they do little to establish customer relationships.
Evergreen companies have great relationships with their customers and keep them coming back.
Your goal should be to look at every customer transaction as an opportunity to create a long-term relationship with a lot of value.
Part Two: Fostering Growth
Your customers are all unique. Don’t speak to everyone in the same manner. Divide your customers into segments and communicate with each segment differently based on their needs, wants and values. When you know exactly who your customers are, it will become clear how to market to them. In turn, each customer will feel like you are speaking directly to him or her, which will improve his or her relationship with you.
To communicate effectively with your customers, first you must understand what it is like to be each archetype. Describe a “day in the life” of each archetype. Now, think about their voice. This is how you should approach your messaging – you want to converse with them, like them. Match your communication plan to each group. Now, think about how and where you are going to communicate. Be only where your customers will be.
The feeling your customer gets from doing business with you generates loyalty. Loyal customers lead to Evergreen companies. One way to accomplish this is with loyalty programs, but you must be careful to do it effectively. Loyalty programs are intended to give your customers a reason to do business with you and not others so are sure your program develops a relationship that goes beyond the transactional one.
There are three distinct objectives of your loyalty program:
To increase customer retention and increase the frequency of purchases and the size of each transaction
To gain a better understanding of your customers, including actionable insights
To generate authentic, segmented and individualised communication and messaging
Design your loyalty program so there is a ladder that customers can climb. There should be multiple rungs that your customers can climb. This will keep your customer coming back and increase his or her emotional commitment to your brand.
Customer loyalty is created not just through a single program, but also through consistent marketing and actions. However, a good loyalty program can increase the revenues from your best customers and increase loyalty from your less-profitable customers.
To build an Evergreen Ladder of Loyalty, you’ll need to follow six steps.
Step One: Define your objectives.
Step Two: Determine what you want to learn about your customers.
Step Three: Design your loyalty program.
Step Four: Identify how you will measure success.
Step Five: Construct your program.
Step Six: Constantly surprise your customers with added perks.
If you want your company to become Evergreen, you must meet your customers’ needs and exceed their expectations. Diminish your focus on growth and increase your focus on value. If you want to improve your customer service, take a good look at your company’s weak spots. Then, set goals for improvement.
Be authentic – love your customers, treat them honestly and with respect, and allow them to grow with your organisation. Doing so will set you on your way to becoming Evergreen.
A customer database will allow you to better understand your customers. You can learn helpful things such as how often they shop with you, when they last visited your business, and how much they spent.
Data collection can happen a variety of ways. You can use a point of sale item, which could be as simple as a computer that records details about each transaction. You can use automation software for collecting and managing the information. The easiest way is to simply ask for it.
You want to collect three types of data: demographic, purchase behaviour and psychographic data. Every business is different in terms of specifics. The more actionable information you can gather about your customers, the better.
Once you understand your customers’ behaviour, you can work to change it. Look at purchase patterns to establish who your best and most valuable customers are. From there, you can personalise your marketing plan towards them. Determine your optimal purchase frequency and follow up with your customers to encourage that behaviour.
You can lose customers for a variety of reasons. Maybe you or a staff member did something to offend them. Maybe there were external circumstances that caused the customer to stop buying your services or products. Maybe your customers’ needs or habits changed. The mostly likely cause is that the customer simply fell out of habit of doing business with you. When these things happen, don’t just let your customer go. Do what you can to get them back.
If you are losing customers because of inactivity, it is likely because you are not communicating enough with them. Stay in touch with your customers. Communication is key. Call your inactive customers. Tell them you miss them. But know how much contact is too much. Usually eight to ten contacts over a three-month period is okay. Don’t go beyond that.
Use your customer database and tracking efforts to provide better customer service. When you see warning signs of attrition, reach out to your customers and ask them if they are experiencing any problems.
Once customers leave, a good reactivation system can drastically increase your business. Reactivation is much easier if you’ve already built an Evergreen relationship. Establish trust and rapport and your ability to bring back customers will rapidly increase. Write and deliver a message that matches your corporate character and resonates in a friendly way with your ideal customer archetype. Deliver it effectively with multiple communications. Track the results and continuously monitor your efforts. Build this system and keep it running alongside your normal daily operations.
Of course, businesses need new customers to grow. Make your new customers’ experience the best it can be and build Evergreen relationships from the start. Make a “new customer welcome plan,” or a “correspondence procedure.” Thank your customer and guide them through the next action steps. The sooner they start consuming your content, the better.
Focus on building an ongoing and strategic communication plan for your customer. Strengthen the bond between your customer and your company and follow up effectively.
To prepare a successful promotion, you must first understand what the promotion means in a broader context. Then, carefully plan the promotion. Set realistic expectations and goals. Use the promotion to capture new customer information. Prepare your staff for the influx of new customers.
Remember that the goal is to get customers you can build long-term Evergreen relationships with. Do everything you can to make the new customers’ first experience spectacular. And don’t forget to take care of your existing customers too.
If you take one thing away from this summary, it should be that you need to rid yourself of the new customer addiction and focus more on your existing customers. Recognise the value of who is already with you. Focus on becoming Evergreen and treating every customer as the most important.