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Retain your customers by talking to a human

Marketing people worry developers can be a tough audience to communicate with, but that doesn’t have to be the case. For us at Pusher developer relations is crucial: we literally can’t just “sell” a product and be done with it.

What follows is a guest post from Dominic Hung, from Pusher, an Intercom customer that provides scalable, real-time functionality for web and mobile apps. Here’s how Pusher engages in conversation with its customers, ensuring they are satisfied.

We’re often told that the best way to cultivate a loyal customer base is to engage and interact with them, cultivating relationships and conversations to improve customer retention. If you’re a startup founder or involved in marketing, you probably also know that this can often be more like interacting with a brick wall, whereby the interaction takes the form of “bash head repeatedly against wall”.

Why is it so hard? At least part of the reason is this: sometimes we fail to treat customers like people. We think about them and talk to them by profile and segment, as glorified wallets, not as individuals.

At Pusher we’ve come up with three important traits that’ll not only help you engage with your audience, but also keep them coming back. If you can get your customers to apply these three descriptors to your company, you’ll know you’ve made it.

1. Be Authentic

“If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face.” – Hugh MacLeod, cartoonist.

Consider this: how many times have you been put off by a business loaded with corporate-speak and marketing buzzwords? Conversely, how many times have you cringed at a business trying to act like your best friend, while asking for your money anyway?

Consumers are eternally and increasingly vigilant about being marketed and advertised at and filter out branded-content and advertising. This is more than a bit problematic for content marketers. This trend, captured by a Gallup poll that suggests social media has no influence on the purchasing decisions of 62% of polled consumers, seems to be a significant cause for concern.

Here’s the trick, though: drop the act.

Much of being authentic is really about what not to do. It means avoiding ridiculous statements and phrases like “revolutionary” or “game-changer” to describe your product: if it really is, someone else can and will say it for you.

It means acknowledging that, yes, we’d like you to purchase our product/services. We’re a business, you’re a customer, we’d like to do business with you but we’re not going to try and convince you with puffery and vague statements.

Authenticity comes from following the KISS principle: you don’t have to be completely modest (we are marketers, after all), but be sensible and down to earth. There are ways to be creative without needing to resort to unnecessary hyperbole.

2. Be straightforward

Marketing is becoming more analytical and data-driven – we know that already. We fuss over how to scrape every last bit of information and use all kinds of tools to analyze customer progress through our landing pages, but when we forget that our customers are human we forget the most basic and effective data-gathering tool we have.
Just ask in the simplest way possible.

Here’s an example. When new users sign up for Pusher, they receive an in-app message with the help of Intercom:

Pusher's auto message for new customers

One question. One reply box. Completely optional.

If there’s one thing developers don’t like, even more so than a general audience, it’s time wasting. They want condensed, straightforward information. This simple sign-up question took all of 5 minutes to implement and received a 16% reply rate. That’s a pretty good result for an open-ended question which even with the quantitative tools of data analytics would be a struggle to achieve.

Sometimes, simple just works. The problem is with how we see our customers: an inanimate mine of data, not an organic individual who will, under normal circumstances, quite happily respond if you were to ask a simple, human question.

3. Be Helpful

Content marketers constantly obsess over how to initiate the conversation in order to improve customer retention. But here’s the thing: sometimes we forget that our customers initiate conversations too, and they’re called support requests.

Instead of thinking of them as amateur programming questions to be “closed” as soon as possible, think of them as the beginnings of conversations.

What does this mean? It means that, once you solve a customer’s issue, you can use that first interaction as a springboard to further discussion or conversation. There’s no reason why you can’t follow up a fulfilled request with a simple question like “how’s your project going” or “is everything else working well”.

Don’t just support your developers: wow them. When you do, they’ll be more than happy to talk to you and about you.

Stop yelling, start talking

Data-driven marketing has become the norm, but amidst all our tools and analytics we need to keep in mind that our customers are human. By engaging in normal conversation with them, we can often gain valuable insights into their buying patterns, their motivations and even encourage them to stick with your brand.

Be authentic: talk and write like you would to the next person, not yell in their face how great your product is.
Be straightforward: if you need to find something out, sometimes the best way is to ask in one simple question.
Be helpful: keep the conversation going after you’ve helped developers – wow them to stick in their minds.

Be human, because that’s who customers want to talk to.

Dominic Hung works with Pusher, the service which enables developers to easily build real-time apps.

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