Experts Share Secrets for Finding, Keeping Customers

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CHICAGO -- Four direct marketing experts shared their secrets for finding customers and keeping them happy at the Chicago Direct Marketing Days & Expo here yesterday.

The four experts were Shonnie Billin, CEO of; Susan Henricks, president of RRD Direct; M. Catherine Jaros, president/CEO of M. Catherine Jaros Consulting; and Janet Rubio, president of Direct Impact and Alistia.

The group gave a lively discussion titled "The Top 10 Ways to Do Right By Your Customers." The tips included:

• Look in the mirror. Ask yourself, "Do you fundamentally believe that the customer is more important than the product?" If you do not, you should not be a marketer.

• The intelligent schmooze. Before signing direct marketing clients, make sure they are the right fit and that you are acquiring the right customer for your business.

• Find the passion -- write the story. Find out what is unique about your customers, products and services, and make sure you know what they want to say about their products. Then provide them with the services they need to get the right message to their customers.

• Focus attention, don't spread it thin. Your customers do not have a lot of money to spend. Make sure you are focusing on a direct marketing campaign for them that is targeted to the right customers.

• R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Direct marketers have to let their employees know they must attend to their clients' every goal and objective. Also, make sure employees listen to the clients and understand what they need, and respond in the best way possible. The clients want to be taken seriously and to know they are appreciated. Make sure employees respect the client both internally and externally.

• Never let the duchess down. Pamper the customers, and make them feel special.

• Build it around the customer. Always keep in mind your customers' view of you as a direct marketer, and make sure you are doing what they would like, not just what you would like.

• Recognize success. While you are in business to make money, do not measure success purely by whether you or your client has made money from a particular program. Measure it by whether your client is happy with the program you have done.

• Speak in one voice. Make sure everyone in your company, from the sales force to the marketing department to the customer service team, has the same message and offers the same information to your clients.

• Make sure you have a vision that inspires. Make sure it balances what your customers want, what your shareholders want, and what needs to be done for the company and its employees. It also must be consistent and continually improving.
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