Create effective communications
Staying in regular contact with established clients and customers allows businesses to monitor customer needs and so develop better products and services.
Are your customers just targets? Customer contact is an invaluable resource, but the ways in which you communicate with customers can range from friendly and helpful to intrusive and aggravating, depending on how the customer perceives it. That’s why understanding your customers, and using the right marketing techniques at the right time is vital. It is possible, using different marketing techniques, to find a balance and get the messages you want to deliver across in a way which works for your customers too. And choosing the correct communication medium is critical to achieving this.
Email is the least intrusive way to contact customers, who can read marketing messages in their own time and when they are least busy. Consider when this slack time might be for groups of clients and schedule marketing email campaigns to correspond with periods when customers will be most receptive. Consider seasonal trends, such as Christmas, Easter, summer holidays and so on because, as unread mail accumulates, your message will drop to the bottom of the list and its impact will be lost.
Email is cheap to send, making it an ideal way to spread a marketing message far and wide. But while individual email messages can be customised for each recipient, much like a traditional mailshot, it remains a fairly impersonal communication method that provides little (if any) immediate feedback about the perception of your company to the sender. Of course, you can immediately count things like click through – but not every marketing campaign stresses click through as a measurement.
One significant problem with email is that it may be viewed by some people and computer systems as unsolicited commercial email, otherwise known as spam. If so, the best you can hope for is that the message fails to reach the right person, which is hardly ideal; at worst, the client will take exception to the company sending this ‘junk’ email. Be careful not to send marketing messages to people who have not opted to receive them, or you risk breaking the law.
Email is also ideal for inviting existing customers to participate in surveys, benefit from special offers and for sending alerts to website updates that may be of interest.
Five tips for effective emails
Contacting customers by telephone is more expensive than email, but provides a fast and personal touch point. However, voicemail systems enable busy clients to screen calls so, although not every cold-call will be accepted, you can leave them a message which will at least get through.
Phone calls can be used to follow up email messages or faxed documents, providing an unobtrusive way of drawing attention to a communication that might easily have been overlooked.
However, one thing to remember is that if you are cold-calling potential customers, you may need to check with the Telephone Preference Service whether they have elected not to receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls.
Five top tips for telephone:
- You have about five seconds to gain the customer’s interest. This is the point at which you need to clearly state who you are and why you’re calling.
- Ask a question, rather than making a statement. “Would you be interested in a way to make 5% better margin on your product?” is better than “We can tell you how to make 5% better margin on your product”. Remember that you’re engaging people in conversation, not reading them a speech.
- Avoid insulting the customer. It sounds obvious, but don’t ask things like “did you understand that?” which make you sound at best patronising and at worst insulting.
- Don’t treat a call as the end product. If your business includes field sales, try and make scheduling a visit the last point of your call. Even if you don’t get a lot of interest initially, you may be able to get an opening for later.
Nothing beats a face-to-face meeting for gauging a client’s needs and for closing a deal. It may be time-consuming and involve expensive travel, but the immediate feedback available can be invaluable - it’s impossible to judge body language over the phone or using email.
The main obstacle to setting up such meetings is resistance by busy clients, as well as your own tight schedule. Preparation is incredibly important if the client is to feel valued. Do this right and it is possible to establish close, personal relationships with customers that can last for years. Alternatively, alienate someone forever with an unprofessional approach.
Personal meetings are ideal for judging a new client’s requirements, closing deals or even persuading a restless customer to retain your services.
Five tips for face-to-face
Make sure there’s a point to the meeting – for the customer, as well as you. Obviously, you want to sell something, but don’t make that the initial focus of the meeting – instead, that should be about listening to the client’s needs and working out ways in which you can help them.
If you want to sell, ask for the sale. It sounds obvious, but one of the most common mistakes in sales meetings is simply not asking someone at the end if they want to buy your product or service. Even after the best demo, a customer is unlikely to be so enthralled that they are asking you to sell them the product – so ask them if they want to buy as the conclusion of the meeting.
Some meetings are more about networking than sales. Getting to know the client or customer is vital to building a long-term relationship, but don’t overdo it – if you’re asking a customer to come out for lunch too often, your networking will be less effective.
Don’t focus immediately on objections. If you’re talking through something with a customer, and they raise an objection, the temptation is to try and answer it immediately. Instead, note the objection, and come back to it later – when you’ve had a chance to digest and work out an in-depth answer.
Pre-empt the obvious. If, for example, your product costs much more than your competitors, don’t try and hide it – refer to it early on, and immediately tell the customer why it’s worth the money.