Steps for an effective customer retention strategy for distributors

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If there's one thing distributors depend on, it's predictability. Understanding customer behavior, having the right products, and using data to reduce risk are crucial for a company's success.

Distributors can't control the volatile nature of the market. Supply and demand fluxations are out of a distributor's sphere of influence. But there is an element worth investing a measure of predictability in - customer retention.

Customer retention and the customer experience are areas in which practical and actionable strategies create results.

A distributor of any worth must adopt a customer experience and retention philosophy. What is your brand's relationship and promise to your customers? Let's look at the building blocks that nearly all successful customer experience and customer retention strategies contain.

Customer retention starts within

Two important steps: Know your core values and write them down to get your whole team on board.

This sounds simple, and you might say, "I know what my company is all about," but does the entire company buy in? Have you documented your core principles and mission and trained your team?

Assuming your team clearly understands your core values is not enough. Having your team committed to your distribution company's values will reflect in their response to customers. An internal marketing strategy with outlined milestones and tactics is where to start.

Your team can't deliver a great customer experience if they don't understand the core principles that anchor it. This will cause little customer retention. 

Create a workgroup within your team to define and document your core principles, mission, and vision. Implement training to ensure team buy-in. From there, layer your customer retention strategy with this solid foundation.

An outstanding customer retention strategy understands personas

An outstanding customer retention strategy is deeply rooted in understanding and embracing personas. These personas encapsulate the diverse characteristics, preferences, and behaviors of your customer base.

By profiling your customers, including their demographics, psychographics, and purchasing habits, you gain invaluable insights into their needs and desires. However, training opportunities will arise and can serve as a reminder to them about the significance of personas.

Make sure to inform and educate everyone about your customers' attributes. This will keep your brand message. Here are key points to remember as you move through the customer and persona process:

  • Take institutional customer knowledge and document it for a powerful customer retention approach.
  • Build and write down sets of customer personas. Customer personas are characterizations of customer types built in an ideal world. Anecdotal evidence, primary research, and customer input (through surveys) form the basis for them. 
  • To truly excel and win the customer retention battle, your staff must understand the company's identity and core values. Combining these two knowledge bases is crucial for understanding and solving customer problems effectively.

Creating personas takes hard work. You must gather input from all your departments and team members. Then, for critical data points. Elicit feedback from your clients/customers and collaborate internally to organize and codify what you discovered.

A customer retention strategy focused on personas creates happy customers and builds long-term relationships for business success.

By consistently aligning your products, services, and brand messaging with these personas, you cultivate strong emotional connections. Predictability comes from fostering loyalty and creating a compelling reason for customers to stay committed to your brand.

It's challenging, but it's worth it.

The value of mapping the customer experience journey for customer retention

To do well in higher-level math and science, you need to understand the basic principles more than any other subject. You need to master the foundations of algebra to have any chance of surviving calculus.

Mastering customer retention and customer experience is the same. You understand what makes your distribution business tick. Learn about what different customer archetypes do and what they need. Map out in fine detail what their journey with you needs to look like.

Before we jump in, let's differentiate between a customer experience map and a customer journey map.

A customer experience map is a bigger picture of how customers interact with a company. It includes all the interactions a specific buyer has from the first meeting to after they become loyal customers. On the other hand, journey maps are more focused and show the interactions of a specific buyer persona. They can also show when customers stop using a company's services.

It's a subtle but essential difference. Customer experience mapping tracks the customer experience across all marketing channels, products, functions, and interactions. The customer journey map might follow a specific product or departmental pathway. In other words, the customer experience map tracks the macro while the journey map is more micro and focused.

The goal is to create a seamless, consistent, and positive customer experience. This should occur across all points where a customer encounters your brand. A great experience should lead to opportunities for customer retention.

Creating a customer experience map helps your business identify strengths. Review how your customer retention measures in comparison to the journey. Empower your team to capitalize on what it does well and improve where it falls short. 

Track, assess, and adjust with Key Performance Indicators

The customer infrastructure you're building-codified core values, highly developed personas, and detailed cross-functional customer retention mapping. Include a portfolio of tracking benchmarks. Tracking customer touchpoints, whether it's an in-store experience or on social media, is the first step.

The next and possibly more important step is identifying the most critical indicators of customer retention success - key performance indicators (KPIs). You need KPIs to form results from your customer data."

A customer retention strategy, by its nature, is broad and wide-ranging. With the right system you should have a number of qualitative and quantitative data to consider. If you don't define what's most important, you may to get overwhelmed in what to consider.

How is a KPI different from a simple metric? Here are common characteristics of effective KPIs:

  • They're Quantitative, not qualitative, means that we can attribute a number to them.
  • They prioritize pragmatism over excessive. This means they connect to company processes and standards rather than focusing solely on metrics.
  • They're focused, not generalized, meaning that they assess if performance is improving, stagnant, or failing.
  • They drive action, meaning they can propel change.

To summarize, a strong customer retention strategy for your distribution business requires certain foundational steps to occur before implementation.

  1. You must clearly document your company's core principles, values, and mission. Train your team and encourage buy-in to this vision.
  2. You must develop and document customer archetypes by creating detailed customer personas your team must understand and utilize.
  3. You must create a holistic, detailed customer experience map. The map should addresses all customer touch points across a multi-channel marketing landscape.
  4. You must identify the most important data. Create KPIs that empower your team to assess and adjust its approach for optimal results.

Your anchor and your compass

In the world of distribution, where predictability reigns supreme, the uncertainties of market fluctuations often pose formidable challenges. Yet, amidst this unpredictability, lies a steadfast anchor that holds immense value: customer retention.

If you're ready to reshape your customer retention approach, we can help you. Illumine8 helps distributors create, maintain, and tweak their branding and customer experience platforms. We aim to maximize customer loyalty, increase repeat business, and amplify brand reach to generate new high-converting leads for your distribution company.

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