By Jake Meador | 09 Jun 2020
When I worked at a neighborhood grocery store after college, we had a few loyal customers that would walk to the store several days a week. One worked at a restaurant a couple blocks down the road. Another lived a few blocks away from us.
But they didn’t come to us just because we were close. They came because we noticed them and made sure we always had what they wanted to buy.
One customer would come in just to buy a 12 pack of Killian’s Irish Red beer in bottles. No one else bought that from us. But we kept a spot in the cooler in the back of the store open and would order enough cases from the distributor that the economics worked for us.
When the customer came in, we didn’t even need him to say anything: One of us would walk to the back, grab a 12 pack, and bring it out to him. Five minutes later he’d be on his way. The arrangement suited everyone. He got to see people he had come to like and got the beer he wanted without needing to drive a long way. We got consistent, reliable business.
That kind of attentiveness is something that people notice precisely because most businesses do not offer that. And while the primary way you can provide it is via the kind of genuine in-person touches that happen in-store, you can also use SMS messaging to provide something a little like that in-person care.
The best way to reward loyal customers is with prompt, personalized, attentiveness—and SMS is one way (of many) that you can show that kind of care. Let’s talk a bit more about each of these three traits.
Much of the time when a person needs a good or service, what they are really needing is a good or service at a particular time.
Your restaurant customers likely don’t need your help at 4am. They will at 12pm.
Providing the right good at the right time is the path to successful customer service and to a successful business.
What is valuable about SMS messaging is that it is very easy to make sure your customers get what they need when they need it. You can do this in a couple ways.
First, if you are able to anticipate when a person will need to come in—as you might if you are a dentist, for example, or a barber shop—then you can schedule messages ahead of time to remind people to come in for a cleaning or a haircut.
Second, if a person has ordered something from you and is waiting for it to arrive, you can use SMS to quickly let them know when the good has arrived in your store.
By being quick to serve when a customer needs your help, you can show customers that you care about them and value their time.
Nobody wants to feel like they’re just a faceless customer. Yet in many larger American businesses, that is often how both employees and customers are made to feel.
The experience is alienating. So one of the best ways to stand out and make people feel valued is to provide personalized care.
At minimum this means that your marketing messages and personal conversations with them reflect some degree of knowledge about them as a person.
But it is even better if you are anticipating their needs before they arise and offering to help. We did this for the customer that came in for the 12-pack of beer at the store I worked for. We knew he would be in a couple times a week usually. So we kept the beer he wanted on-hand and when we saw him, we immediately went to get the beer for him. We had a relationship with him and knew what he wanted.
With SMS, it is easy to text a specific person or a small group of people with similar interests or needs. Unlike broadcasting a message via Facebook or even sending a big email blast to a huge list, SMS messaging allows you to easily reach highly defined groups with messages especially tailored to them.
There’s a final point to keep in mind: Thanks to various marketing technologies, you can offer prompt, seemingly personalized content to an enormous number of people. But mostly people see through this.
If your brand has a pattern of interacting with people as if they are faceless drones, then it won’t matter that you can send them an email that uses their first name in the greeting and reminds them that they still have a couple items in their cart.
The trick is that trying to provide personal attention to people over the phone or email can be good. But if you don’t use it the right way, it can feel as alienating as shopping in a big box store.
So the final goal for rewarding loyal customers via your SMS marketing strategy is that you would actually be attentive to them as an individual person. Obviously this needs to happen when the person is actually in your store. But you can do it with your messaging to them as well.
To take one example, at an old company I worked for we once had a salesperson have to cancel a trip because the regional manager they were set to meet with had a death in the family and was out of the office for a few days. Our salesperson, on their own, arranged to have flowers sent to the office.
This is a good example of how to provide actual attentiveness in your relationship with customers. It didn’t take a long time to do. All my coworker had to do was find a local florist and place the order. But it meant a great deal to that prospect.
In this post we’re talking about how to serve your most loyal customers. So if they’re a loyal customer, that presumably means you know a bit about them and about their life. Given that, one valuable way to use SMS with them is to simply send them texts to let them know you appreciate them, to ask about how something going on in their life went, to congratulate them when they have good news, and so on.
Technology, like SMS messaging tech, is a tool. It will be what you make of it. One good thing you can do with it is communicate your interest and care for a person who has been visiting your store for a long time.
Is there a business value to doing this? Probably. But it is also simply a kind thing to do. It is a way to take something that can often feel very rote and impersonal--marketing messaging--and turn it into something that shows genuine care for another person.