Customers are one of your most valuable link building resources, because they're already sold on your product or service.
Cultivating positive relations with clients is the key to getting them to help with link development and word-of-mouth marketing. Businesses that have developed positive customer relationships and taken the lifetime value of a customer into account have the advantage. Their customers will be most eager to assist.
My last column about link building with customers was picked-up by a B2B print publication Internet Marketing Report. Today, I'll expand on the topic of utilizing customers to build links and create word-of-mouth marketing.
Businesses that provide "exceptional" customer service often get positive feedback. This applies to all kinds of local businesses, such as day spas and e-commerce shoe stores. All types of businesses have the opportunity to excel in customer service and open the doors to positive feedback.
The golden opportunity comes when customers provide this positive feedback to your staff. Instead of the usual response of, "Thank You! We appreciate your business" -- invite them to help spread the word and grow your business. Empower your staff to encourage customers to write the feedback on review sites, social sites, blogs, and forums. Many times, this turns into a link that drives traffic and sales. At the very least, it's building brand awareness.
You never know what publications, blogs, social sites, or other types of sites your customers are associated with. It only takes one person to get a great editorial link from a major publication. The exposure from that link will lead to other links being created.
Want to improve the results? Offer customers an incentive such as discounts, free shipping, upgrades, or even products. This is just a little "thank you" for helping to grow your business.
Data Mining Customer URLs
Another strategy is to data mine your customer records. Many businesses ask customers to provide their URLs -- especially in the B2B sector. This data can be found in several places, e.g., registrations, forum profiles, and newsletter sign-ups. Have a blog? Data mine comments and registration.
It can be more difficult to gain this data in the consumer sector. One solution: offer an exclusive sales newsletter to those who sign up with their URL. Remember, consumers will give up a great deal of personal information for a discount. Think of how many discount/membership cards people carry around that range from grocery stores to DVD rentals.
There are many ways to make use of this data. One strategy is to prioritize the list to find the most valuable sites to obtain links from. More time, attention, and resources will go into further developing a relationship with a journalist in your industry than someone with a one-month-old personal blog.
Customer Relations Calls
We all get these calls to check up on us. It's an effective retention program many companies employ -- especially those with a high customer acquisition cost or high profit margins.
What happens when the representative reaches a customer who is very happy and has positive comments? Follow my advice about customer feedback. Train employees to invite customers to mention the positive things online.
This all comes down to building relationships with your customers and using it to your advantage. That's one reason I often suggest moving the link building out of IT and into the marketing department. The marketing people might not know the technical aspects or link techniques to avoid -- but that can be taught.
What's important is they're connected with one of your most valuable link development resources -- your clients. These are the very people who already use and appreciate your product.
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