I read an article published on LinkedIn by Appreciation Marketing, and it struck me as a timely reminder of how we can take our customers for granted.
“Do you know the #1 reason why your customers do not return to do business with you again, or refer you business? The #1 reason is because of perceived indifference! Do you know what perceived indifference means? It’s a fancy way of saying they think you DO NOT CARE.”
“Obviously you care, but if the perception is that you don’t, guess what the reality is? You do not care. Perception is reality.”
Ouch! That started me thinking about how I can better show my customers appreciation–how about you? And while the focus in this article is on customers, I believe this same truth can apply to our strategic partners, upon whose referrals us B2B marketers base much of our business. So the challenge is: What can we do to show our customers and referral partners how much we care about them?
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Send a hand-written thank you note thanking them for business earned or referred
- Offer to promote their events, sales, etc. in your own communications and to your other customers
- Ask “Who can I refer to you right now?” Maybe they are looking for a specific referral at that moment for a targeted product/service/event
- Give away copies of a business book that you found particularly interesting or helpful
- Host a customer appreciation/partner appreciation party
- Send them some goodies (cookies, chocolates, etc.) from a local business
Hope these ideas help you “show the love” to your customers and partners. Let us know if you have some other unique suggestions!
It’s summertime, and what better time to heat up your referrals?
If we’re honest about it, most of us don’t really have a strategy for encouraging referrals. We sort of take them as they come, and hope more are on the way soon!
While we can’t necessarily forecast referrals, the truth is that we can encourage a consistent stream of referrals if we stay top-of-mind with our clients and partners.
How to do that? Here are three suggestions:
1.) Ask your clients:
- After every project/engagement with a client is successfully completed, be sure to ask for two things: a testimonial about your services, and referrals to people they know that could benefit from the same services you just provided.
- Run a referrals campaign at least twice a year to request referrals from clients (and previous clients). We’ve even done this as a contest, where each client that submits a (qualified) referral is entered into a drawing for a desirable prize. Winning motivates!
2.) Take stock of existing referral partner relationships: Take the time to evaluate each of your referral partner relationship at least once per quarter. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does it still make sense to be partners? How has that company treated your referrals to date? It may be time to make some changes.
- How often do you meet in person or on the phone to discuss potential referrals? Is it often enough?
- Are your partners receiving your newsletter, tip of the month, case studies, etc. so they can stay up-to-date with how you are serving clients? (If not, we know someone who can help with that 🙂 )
- Do you have enough partners? Make a list of all the services your clients may need, and fill each slot with names of service providers you know and trust enough to refer to clients. Be a valuable resource of quality professionals for your clients.
3.) Go forth and visit: Visit B2B referral networking groups in your area that meet at a convenient day and time for you. Yes, I know it’s out of the comfort zone for many of us, but it’s a great way to get to meet potential referral partners. Get a sense of who in the group might complement your services and arrange a coffee date to learn more. You don’t have to necessarily join every group you visit—you’ll find what works for you and in the meantime, you will likely meet some worthwhile contacts. Yes, it’s not a short-term strategy, but the quality of your referrals as group members grow to know, like and trust you will be worth it in the long run.
There are many fantastic networking groups in the metro Atlanta area, but if you need a suggestion, you are invited to visit the one that I facilitate: the Professional Services Alliance. (Click here to request more info.)
Any other recommendations of what has worked for you to encourage referrals? Let us know!
That’s right, you heard me. Do you touch your customers on a consistent basis? Are you touching them in the right ways? When it comes to marketing communications (not sure what you were thinking about), we often focus on prospects and neglect our treasure trove of past and present clients.
Recently, I was conducting an interview with one of my client’s clients in order to write up a testimonial. When I came to the all-important question of “How did you learn about this service and choose to buy it from [ABC Company]?” the answer not only warmed this marketing consultant’s heart, but also pointed out an important lesson for all of us:
“I had done a small project a few years ago with [ABC Company], and I’ve received their newsletter every month since then. I always appreciated the educational approach and had seen info on [ABC service offering] over and over. Finally, one day I just picked up the phone and said ‘Sign me up!’”
Depending on your type of business, you may see some of your clients every week or month, or at least with some regular consistency over the course of the year. These clients should have a good idea of what your company does, and you have likely established a meaningful relationship. However, you also have clients who are less active: ones who may have bought from you in the past, but are not currently buying or ones who may only think of you for one particular service instead of the variety you offer.
The old Bell Telephone advertisement reminder to “Reach Out and Touch Someone” still applies today. You should reach out and touch your customers (and this applies equally well to strategic referral partners) often because you are accomplishing multiple objectives when you send that email, letter, or postcard, including:
- Providing valuable information that helps their business. Carefully consider what you’re sending. Your goal is education first, sales second.
- Letting them see through case studies or testimonials that other businesses just like theirs share similar challenges (no one likes feeling alone), and how you’ve helped to solve those.
- Reminding them of all your company’s offerings, not just the ones they already know.
- For active clients, you are showing them you really do value their business.
- For dormant clients, you are rekindling that warm fuzzy feeling from when you worked together in the past, and prompting them to think of you again.
Need some ideas to get started? Beyond a basic e-newsletter (which still works!), here are some other noteworthy “reasons to send”:
- Business building tips
- Recommend a business book or article (can also be shared via LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)
- “Did You Know?” Share a quick tip about your services, or debunk a common myth.
- Share company updates that affect the customer, such as a redesigned, easier-to-use Website, a new service offering, a contest, a new social media presence, etc.
- “Thank you for your business”
- “What can we do to improve our service to you?”
- “What new service offerings would you like to see from us?”
- Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
- Invite to an event: Customer appreciation lunch, Webinar, conference or trade show you are sponsoring, etc.
With all of these ideas, keep in mind the critical question the customer is asking him/herself: “What’s in it for me?” Always focus on what the customer would care about, not just what your company wants to broadcast.
If you’re still not convinced, one more example should do the trick: Years ago, as an inside sales rep for a software company, I was handed a list of 3,000 “customers” to whom I was to introduce myself as their new account manager. As I worked through the list, I found that only about 10% of those could truly be considered “active” customers. The rest were people who might recognize the company name, having bought something from us at one point in time, but as one man told me “You’re the first person to contact me from [Company] in 10 years. I wasn’t even sure y’all were still in business!” Yikes. Don’t let this become your company’s relationship with your clients!
By the way, the irony has not escaped me that you are probably reading these words and thinking “Hmmm. . . it seems like a while since I’ve heard from REV Demand. . .” We (sheepishly) agree! You can look forward to seeing these types of business development tips coming from us every month from now on. Scout’s honor.
Let me know your thoughts on touching customers!
P.S. Did you find this info valuable today? Great! Please share with a friend or colleague.
by Richard Kirby, Executive Impact
When I joined LinkedIn (LI) in 2003, there were less than half a million subscribers. As of January 2013, they now boast over 200 million. LI has become, without question, THE online social network for business.
Are you and your business leveraging the phenomenal potential of LI? In this article, you will learn four key strategies that will gain you new customers and revenues you never knew were possible.
Strategy 1: Attract new prospects by increasing your online visibility. Similar to SEO for your company web site, a more “findable” LI profile will insure that more prospects find your offerings 24/7/365. With 90%+ of buyers researching online before making purchases, it is critical they find you in their LI search results.
So, what can you do to improve your “rank” in LI searches? First, broaden your network by inviting desirable contacts to connect and accepting such invitations when offered. Second, follow the recommendations LI offers when you log on and add information to complete your profile. Third, add to your profile keywords that prospects are likely to use when searching for your products and services (see my profile as an example).
Strategy 2: Encourage prospects to contact you by increasing your LI credibility. Once you have increased your visibility, it is critical that you create an attractive first impression. Major sources of credibility are endorsements and recommendations. Endorsements are likely to come organically from satisfied customers and positive business relationships. Recommendations, on the other hand, will require focused action.
Here is an action plan for increasing your credibility: Start by making a list of your most satisfied customers and asking them to provide you a recommendation. Better yet, write a brief two- or three-sentence suggested recommendation, send it to them, and ask that they modify it or use it as provided. As you receive recommendations, elect to show them on your profile so visitors can view them.
Strategy 3: Establish and/or improve your LI company page. The previous strategies referred to your individual LI profile. If you are a solo entrepreneur or the principle in a very small company, this may be sufficient. If you are not, then you should create and fully populate a separate company page. You can find information to guide you through the creation of a company page by clicking on Help Center at the bottom of LI pages and entering “company page” in the search bar of the subsequent Help Center page.
Strategy 4: Identify prospective clients and reach out to engage them. You can find prospects on the Advanced People Search page utilizing keywords, company names, job titles, etc. With over 200 million users, you can find many people you desire to engage through these searches.
Don’t have the time or need some help to enact a more effective implementation of these or other business development strategies? Check with REV Demand to see how they may be able to assist you. Good luck and happy selling!
Since 2002, Richard Kirby, CMC, CPC, has been a full time career consultant (coach) to C-level and mid-level managers seeking improvements in their careers. Richard’s expertise includes career assessments, goals definition, self-marketing strategies, business networking, strategic interviewing, and compensation negotiations. Richard is a member of the Georgia Career Development Association, the Society for Human Resource Management, and the Institute of Management Consultants. You can learn more about Executive Impact at http://www.executive-impact.com.
For most of us as business owners or revenue generators, the frustrating part of sales is not the moments we spend in front of interested parties uncovering needs and explaining our services. That’s the fun part! It’s getting to those moments—you know, prospecting—that we really don’t want to do.
Why is prospecting such a dreaded activity? In talking with clients about this, our consensus is that prospecting can seem 1.) time-consuming, b.) unfocused, c.) too “cheesy,” or d.) all of the above! For most of us, prospecting takes place when we have a few extra minutes (and need some new business). We make a few calls or send some emails, resulting in some hits and some misses. Then we’re on to the next piece of “real work” we need to do.
Are there more systematic, efficient and effective ways to prospect? We think so. Use our top 5 prospecting tips below to get started on the path to learning to love prospecting:
- Redefine prospecting. One of our clients told us he “hates” to cold call, but he’s “happy to ‘warm call.’ ” Although prospecting can and should involve calls, expand your definition of prospecting to activities such as sending a newsletter, setting up a meeting, writing a “nice to meet you” note, inviting to an event, posting a comment on a blog or LinkedIn group discussion, or sending an article you think will interest the prospect.
- Make a list of your top 25 prospects, your top 5 clients, and your top 10 referral partners. (If these numbers don’t quite fit your business, they can be tweaked.) This is where you should spend 80% of your available prospecting time, as this is likely where you will get 80% of your business.
- Narrow the field. Analyze your top 5-10 clients; what do they have in common? Define the characteristics that make them a top client (size, industry, buying cycles, type of decision maker, etc.). Now, list the top 3 problems or pains your business solves for them. Build your prospecting efforts around solving these issues for this type of client.
- Qualify, qualify, qualify. This is the most important thing you can do to increase your closing ratio and maximize your prospecting time. Qualify by using broad appeal approaches such as Webinars, white papers/reports, free newsletters, and/or email campaigns to separate the wheat (prospects) from the chaff (suspects). Once you’ve figured out who’s interested in what you have to offer, now you can nurture them with more time-consuming strategies such as calls, personal emails, and meetings. (Again, 80% of your business will come from 20% of your database.) Work with your go-to marketing resource (need one?) to develop a plan for different levels of prospecting efforts.
- Automate the follow-up process. “I’ll shoot you an email with that information.” We have all the best intentions in the world to follow up as promised with our prospects. However, we are human, and our attention is constantly diverted. To get started with automating, look at your 3-5 most-often sent emails (such as a follow-up email after a meeting) and decide if they can be setup as templates that automatically generate, merge in specific contact info, and send to your prospect (known as auto-responders). Once sent, this activity then sets off a series of subsequent emails or other sales activities.
There are marketing automation systems such as Infusionsoft, Hubspot, etc. that can automate content marketing and integrate contact management, email tracking, Web forms, and other functions as well. However, developing a simple workflow on paper and building out templates in Word to support it can go a long way toward automating your sales process.
Have questions? Contact us, and we’re glad to help. Happy Prospecting!
One mistake we see many business owners and executives make is to hire a salesperson and expect that person to also handle marketing, or hire a marketing person and ask them to carry a quota.
First and foremost, business owners, please hear this: Salespeople are not marketers, and marketers are not salespeople. You do not want to hire one or the other to do both jobs. Why?
[As you read below, please keep in mind that the author has served on both sides of the house, and has no compunction about picking on either side!]
1. Salespeople are typically not great writers (or graphic designers). Marketers ensure that any communications, promotions, advertising, etc. is consistent with the company brand. Salespeople just want to “get ‘er done,” whether or not it reflects the brand. Never entrust a salesperson with articulating your hard-earned brand in his/her own words!
2. Marketers are typically not persistent types that don’t mind rejection. Sales is all about keeping polite pressure on prospects or clients until they buy, die, or tell you to go away.
3. Salespeople are driven by immediate results. Their minds are on the end of the month/quarter because that is how their job performance is evaluated and compensated. Don’t expect them to think long-term about advancing the company’s brand and market position, as a marketer can and should.
4. Salespeople are not motivated to perform marketing functions. If you want a commissioned salesperson to take on marketing tasks such as writing newsletter articles, Web design, social media management, etc., you will have to change the compensation structure to reflect this or it will not get done. Again, a salesperson’s job performance is usually compensated based on the sales he/she makes, not on how pretty that new brochure looks.
5. Marketers are task-oriented, salespeople are people-oriented. This is not to say that marketers don’t like people, and salespeople can’t accomplish tasks. However, marketing is all about managing multiple tasks, tracking project timelines, and analyzing results. Sales is about two things: building relationships and closing deals with prospects. That’s it. (And, really, it’s all about the second thing.)
Can’t afford to hire both sales and marketing? We have a solution for that.