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We’re putting Italian businesses on the map

Yext partners Italiaonline

Yext has partnered with Italiaonline, the country’s largest digital media company. The partnership will bring Yext’s powerful technology to Italian businesses via IOL Connect, Italiaonline’s new service, which allows businesses to manage their location data online. By joining forces with Yext, Italiaonline will help businesses improve their searchability on any of the 100+ maps, apps, search engines and directories in Yext’s PowerListings Network — including Google and Facebook.

“Together with our partner Italiaonline, we’re excited to put hundreds of thousands of Italian small businesses on the map,” said Howard Lerman, CEO of Yext. “Using the Yext Location Cloud, they will be able to manage their location data online easily and in real time, reaching more customers and driving more visits.”

The partnership between Yext and Italiaonline comes at a critical moment in Italy, as mobile search continues to gain dominance throughout the world, and as the country’s ever-growing Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) community increasingly demands a one-stop-shop for making real-time location data updates.

“IOL Connect is an integrated digital location system that, thanks to the partnership with Yext, we are proud to launch exclusively for the Italian market,” said Antonio Converti, CEO of Italiaonline. ”Being found on the web is essential, especially for local businesses. We now have a powerful tool — together with our sales network and local ties — including over a thousand agents and a hundred media consultants specialising in digital marketing.”

Yext is expanding its European integrations and network rapidly, partnering with leading digital platforms and directory services throughout the continent. This latest expansion comes on the heels of several new product launches, including the Healthcare Location Cloud in the US, as well as a partnership with Snapchat to make sponsored Geofilters easy.

Avanti tutta!

For more information, check out Italiaonline’s press release.

4 Ways to Reduce Churn: Exactly Why Customers Bail and How To Keep Them

Reduce churn

You probably know that reducing your customer churn rate — the percentage of customers who stop doing business with your company during a particular time period — can pay dividends. What you might not know is exactly how much you stand to improve your bottom line by your churn rate by different amounts. The size of the impact might surprise you.

Boosting customer retention rates by just 5% increases profits by anywhere from 25% to 95%, according to research from Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company. With percentages like these, “It makes sense to focus efforts and funds to nurture your existing customers who are spending their money on your goods or services time and time again,” writes Forbes. “This is not to say that you shouldn’t market to new consumers, which is a must, of course. But these statistics should be taken into consideration when budgeting how much you spend on acquiring new customers versus taking care of your existing customer base.

The vast majority of marketing budgets may be devoted to attracting new customers, but stats like the one above show why it might be time to reconsider. Reducing churn to retain existing customers is as (or more) essential to your profitability than optimising conversion rate. 

 So, how do you reduce churn?

1. Focus on the “right” customers

 Amy Gallo, a Harvard Business Review editor, promotes targeting specific consumers, arguing that a high churn rate is often the result of poor customer acquisition efforts. Industries that promote price as a differentiator often see this, attracting deal seekers who quickly bail when they find better offers elsewhere. Gallo zeroes in on Groupon’s business model, which relies on enticing new customers with heavy discounts, only to see them disappear once the deals are done.

 Another HBR article recommends pursuing what authors Patrick Spencer and Karen Freeman call “sticky” customers — those “likely to follow through on an intended purchase, buy the product repeatedly, and recommend it to others” — rather than casting a net far and wide for anyone with a pulse. 

 Marketing entrepreneur Seth Godin also warns against trying to engage with just anyone. Attempting to be all things to all people will never get you anywhere. Instead, he advises, commit to your smallest viable audience: “Your opportunity is to connect people who want to be connected."

2. Keep it simple

How do you attract sticky consumers? Keep the decision-making process easy, according to Spencer and Freeman. After considering 40 variables, including price, customers’ perceptions of a brand, and how often consumers interacted with the brand, the authors conclude that the “biggest driver of stickiness, by far, was ‘decision simplicity.’”

 To keep things simple, the article recommends that brands:

  • Aid navigation by not sending consumers down unnecessarily confusing purchase paths
  • Build trust by providing clear information 
  • Make it easier for customers to weigh options with buying guides containing side-by-side brand or product comparisons

3. Deliver excellent customer service

 Forbes points to a study showing that customers favour “fast shipping, easy and fast returns, expertise, knowledge and personalisation, among the top reasons to make repeat purchases from retailers.” In other words, they like good customer service.

 One significant component to good customer service in the digital age, of course, is about creating an exceptional experience on your website. With customers increasingly turning to online self-service offerings, elevated site search functionality is particularly crucial, especially in light of a Forrester report showing that 68% of people would not return to a site that provided a poor search experience. Invest in exceptional site search and reap the benefits in repeat business from valuable customers: the 15% of customers who use site search account for an estimated 45% of e-commerce revenue.

4. Respond to reviews

Finally, if you solicit customer reviews, pay attention to them. The way you engage with customers after a frustrating experience is often the make-or-break moment that determines whether or not they return. 

Yext research shows that businesses that respond to 60% of reviews see an average .28 increase in their star rating. And as noted in a previous post, “This elevates your reputation online — particularly in search results. Listening and responding to reviews helps you retain more customers, raise your star rating and showcase your business to potential new customers.”

 In the end, an increase in your churn rate is a sign that something needs to be addressed. As HBR’s Gallo writes, “The idea is that when you know that more customers or subscribers are cutting ties with your firm, you can work to adjust your marketing strategy or customer service approach.

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5 Ways to Convert Customers Into Advocates for Your Brand

Reduce churn

Truly engaged customer advocates can be a brand’s most influential marketing force. The best part? They don’t cost a penny.

The payoffs of customer advocacy come in the form of lowered acquisition costs, increased demand for your product or service, multiplied social capital and a sustainable marketing model. Indeed, fan engagement platform SocialToaster reports that the average social media user is connected to 400+ friends and family. (Do the math and you’ll see that 10 advocates gives you a reach of 4,000, 100 advocates gives you a reach of 40,000, and so on.) Simply put, as the number of advocates in your corner climbs, “so too does your potential organic reach.”

What’s more, 92% of individuals trust word-of-mouth recommendations, making this one of the most trust-rich forms of advertising — and 76% of individuals surveyed say they’re more likely to trust content shared by “normal” people than content shared by brands.

That’s all great, but what drives this kind of devotion to a brand? What turns customers into often-fanatical advocates willing to promote products or services to their networks without “any incentive other than their love for the brand?” Even more — assuming you already have a top-quality product or service to offer — what should you do to attract those advocates and essentially put them to work?

1. Establish an emotional connection

According to Milwaukee’s BizTimes, companies with a cult-like following such as Harley-Davidson — which sells a lifestyle as much as a form of transportation — are most successful at creating highly engaged brand communities. A big part of Harley-Davidson’s appeal grows from the emotional attachment customers feel to that lifestyle, with messaging “reinforced by group rides, branded jackets and the brand’s association with values like freedom, independence and self-expression.”

All of which creates brand advocacy. As Felicia Miller, associate professor of marketing at Marquette University, tells the publication, “‘It’s about a shared experience and it’s on a Harley.’” 

Even if you don’t sell a biker lifestyle, you can still lean into the existing emotional appeal of your brand. Who is your audience? What kind of attachment do they feel to you — and how can you use tactics like events, online groups and extended branding initiatives to start building a community? 

2. Determine the 4 Ds of difference

Although the cult of Harley developed at least somewhat organically, there are steps companies can take to create cult-like cache. Speaking at The Gathering, an annual Canadian business conference held in February, Douglas Atkins, former head of community at Airbnb and author of the book The Culting of Brands, outlined four methods that beloved brands use to attract and deploy advocates. As reported in The Globe and Mail, Atkins pointed to Harley-Davidson and other cult brands such as Apple and Starbucks as being especially good at engaging in what he calls the “four Ds of difference” — tactics that create a sense of community and belonging: 

  1. Determine your franchise’s sense of difference: for brands to truly know who they are, they need to define what they aren’t and not try to please everyone. 
  2. Declare your cult’s difference with doctrine and language. Once you’ve figured out your purpose, you need to actively declare it so that people recognise it and join.
  3. Demarcate your cult from the outside world: logos, values, sounds. People can tell one brand from the other through visual and aural cues.
  4. Demonise the other: “Us versus them.” This kind of stance (think Apple versus Microsoft) creates solidarity in the community. The “other” becomes a threat and bands the followers together in opposition.

Business Insider seconds the idea of establishing a sense of community and of belonging, noting that Apple has been exceptional at creating “hype around its release days not by pushing exclusivity, but inclusiveness.”

3. Give your customers exactly what they expect

To elaborate on the third “D”, demarcating your “cult” from the outside world: walk into any Apple store from London to Tokyo to New York and you’ll see that everything is pretty much the same. In fact, Apple trademarked its store layout in 2013. Everything from the sleek, open floor plan to the long wooden tables and the phones and watches arranged around the periphery is “a clue,” as Atlas Obscura observes, “that this is not supposed to be an individual experience.”

SoulCycle delivers a similar cult-like experience in that fans know what to expect the second they walk through the door. That’s all by design, co-founder Elizabeth Cutler explains in Entrepreneur, “From the grapefruit smell, to the mantras on the wall and the upbeat positive energy you feel when you walk in,” every detail is intentional and consistent.

According to Entrepreneur, “If your brand is offering mixed messaging, customers tend to get confused and it prevents them from relating. Everything you put out there should have a consistent personality, design and aesthetic.”

Do it right, and the result is a “perfect branding storm,” writes the author. “I went in wanting to hate it but, after the first song, I knew I was hooked. I drank the SoulCycle Kool-Aid and there was no going back.”

4. Respond to feedback

It seems obvious, but don’t ignore the ABCs of good customer service — think of it as a low-hanging fruit whose nutrients are essential to survival. A great customer experience engenders positive feelings, which in turn drives brand advocacy. Plus, an emotional connection combined with a good consumer experience builds trust, which drives business

Bottom line: If you solicit feedback from customers (and every business technically does in the era of online reviews) then you need to respond to that feedback. If a customer leaves a bad review, take action. As noted in a previous post, responding to reviews gives you the benefit of publicly demonstrating your brand’s responsiveness and customer service. Even so, Yext research reveals that just 40% of businesses respond to reviews — proof that there’s significant opportunity in providing an exceptional customer experience.

5. Reward loyal customers… or maybe don’t

The jury is still out on whether or not giving loyal customers rewards, discounts or other forms of payment is a winning strategy. Pointing to studies showing that referred customers are more valuable than those acquired through other means, Huffington Post suggests developing a referral programme. Another proponent of rewards is Fenty Beauty, which for Mother’s Day last year solicited via Twitter photos and stories of customers’ moms wearing the brand’s makeup.

Arguing against the practice is Bill Lee, author of the book The Hidden Wealth of Customers: Realising the Untapped Value of Your Most Important Asset and this Harvard Business Review article, in which he recommends not heading down the giveaway “slippery slope.” (“It’s not good for them, or for your business”). Instead, Lee favours other customer-engagement opportunities, including offering key consumers positions on your advisory boards or executive forums.

In the end, it’s a matter of reading your audience and making a judgement call. If giving away free makeup or tickets to a sporting event consistently delivers advocates, have at it! Either way, keep your eye fixed on Lee’s starting point when it comes to fostering advocacy and preserve the integrity of that advocacy — product and service excellence. “Deliver what you promise and promptly fix what goes wrong,” he says. “You can’t create or enlist a customer advocate or build a customer-based sales force without the solid foundation of an ongoing, responsive delivery and service relationship."

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