Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Put the Customer First

How to create and sustain customer loyalty
One of the goals of your position is to create customer loyalty — to make a customer happy enough with your product and service that they will continue to do business with you.

In order to be a successful newspaper sales representative, it’s incredibly important to be aware of your relationship with your customers. Are they happy? Are they dissatisfied? Why or why not? It’s essential to create a strong foundation to build from, and then continue to develop it as long as they’re doing business with your ad department. Even if a customer decides to part ways, it’s critical that you learn why, and then take that knowledge to strengthen relationships with future clients.

One of the goals of your position is to create customer loyalty — to make a customer happy enough with your product and service that they will continue to do business with you. By placing importance on building and maintaining customer relationships and loyalty, you increase the likelihood of new leads and clients. On the other hand, if customers are left unattended, it will instead give your ad department a bad reputation that will follow you everywhere you go.

Below, we break down the important elements of creating healthy relationships with customers in order to build and then maintain their loyalty to your newspaper.

Offer a Strong Product

If you want your customers to become loyal advertisers for you department, first and foremost you need to offer a strong, reliable product with proven results. In this case, you are selling ad space and advertising opportunities to businesses and individuals in your community. So, how do you make sure they are happy with your service? Measure the success of their advertisements by gathering metrics on response rates and growth from their advertising. For instance, if you sold a customer an online advertisement, find out how many clicks it acquired. Monitor revenue rates before and after the publication of ads.

In order to ensure that your service is a step above the rest, you should go above and beyond selling advertisements. Suggest new and innovative advertising opportunities beyond print and online to your clients (go to our Business Building Calendar for some ideas). Offer your knowledge of the industry and their competition while selling and planning their advertising. By going the extra mile, advertisers will know you are invested in every aspect of their advertising needs.

It’s key to make sure that the monetary value of your ads match their worth to your clients. Even if your job is to sign new customers, don’t walk away afterward. Take initiative and accountability for what you sold them by checking in to see if they are satisfied with the finished product. Or, make sure there is someone else on staff that will work specifically toward retaining clients by monitoring their satisfaction. Customers want to know they are cared for, so make sure their needs are attended to beyond the publication of their ads. If you sell them something that has proven results and continue to ask their feedback on the product, they will continue to do business with you. If your customers see results, so will you — in the shape of customer loyalty.

Reliable Customer Service

Another integral part of building customer loyalty is providing thorough and dedicated customer service. Therefore, you and your co-workers need to be more than just sales representatives. You need to be an expert communicator, with strong problem-solving skills and well equipped with knowledge of the industry. That way, when a customer comes to you with an issue or even just wants to discuss their advertising, you will be ready and able to respond.

Keep in contact with clients all the way through the ad implementation phase and even afterward. You should always be an outlet for constructive and helpful information for clients who want to be involved in their advertising. For example, you could give new customers an in-depth walkthrough of the entire process. Give them a lot of information up front, so they know they are well looked after. Customer service is a key way to show appreciation for your clients, which is crucial in building loyalty to your product and service.

Ask for Feedback

In addition to customer service, make sure you are continually asking for feedback from customers. If you don’t ask, customers won’t tell you if something is wrong. Instead, they will just leave, and you will be down an advertiser. By taking the time to catch up on their progress incrementally throughout the process, they will know that you care about their advertising needs and are invested in their company’s success.

First you must define what makes a customer happy or unhappy, and then create a customer “health care system” that will monitor their satisfaction with your department regularly. Consider sending out check-up surveys to clients to see how they are feeling about your service. Surveys could include questions like, “How likely would you recommend us to a friend on a scale of 1 to 10,” or, “How pleased were you with the customer service on a scale of 1 to 10?” Make sure you offer plenty of opportunities for clients to write in feedback as well.

However, there is a delicate balance between asking for feedback and bombarding customers with constant questions. Customers don’t want to feel pestered by your department, it may make them reconsider the service altogether. Instead, try to schedule your “check-ups” regularly, but space them out enough so that it doesn’t feel like a nuisance to customers. Moreover, if customers are hesitating to offer feedback, consider offering an incentive for their input, like a discount on their next advertisement.

You need an in-depth understanding of your customer’s happiness, or lack thereof, in order to gauge and monitor customer satisfaction. If you want to build and maintain customer loyalty, you need their input to know where you are succeeding and where you need improvement.

Not All Customers Are the Same

Customers should not all be treated the same, instead, you should differentiate between happy and unhappy customers. Dissatisfied customers need more time and attention so you can rebuild that relationship and prove that your newspaper is worth the time and the investment. When a customer is unhappy, offer them anecdotes and success stories from happy customers. As previously mentioned, make sure you’re also asking their feedback. Ask them why they are dissatisfied with their advertising or the service in general. You may improve the relationship just by asking and taking the initiative to ensure they have a better experience with your ad department.

However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore customers that are happy with your service. They need attention too. Just because you have signed a client and they are happy with the service, doesn’t mean you should stop selling it to them. Continually prove to them why your service is worthwhile. Call and check up on customers. If ignored, you may lose clients.

Ask, “Why?”

If customers do become dissatisfied to the point of ending the business arrangement, don’t just let them go. Make sure to ask, “Why?” Ask them to fill out a departure or termination of service survey. Record how long you did business together and ask the reasons why they decided to leave. You could then ask what they liked about the service, what they disliked and what they believe could be improved.

Acquiring this tangible data will help you recognize trends in customer behavior, and thus detect when a customer is beginning to feel dissatisfied. Then you will have the information and knowledge to respond quickly and appropriately, so in the future you will hopefully catch them before they decide to leave due to dissatisfaction. Gathering information from clients that have decided to leave is also something you can take with you to improve your relationships with remaining and new customers. If you don’t ask why a client is saying goodbye, you will continue to have business deals go sour, rather than preventing future departures.