I help manage marketing vendors for one of my clients. Using external resources is often a way to get things done quickly without having to develop the skills internally. Some of these resources are significant with expenditures of over $100K, and some are smaller services such as design, email software, and web conferencing systems with costs in the $10-$25K range. All of these vendors have the opportunity to increase business with this client long term.
About four months ago, the management team of the client, myself included, decided to invest in an infrastructure part of the business to increase efficiency for the growing business. As a consequence, I postponed most of the external marketing resource projects for a period. In a related situation, a PR agency had given me the fraternity rush pitch for a $75K engagement about six months previously, and I turned them down, saying we weren’t quite ready, and to call us back in three months. An interesting thing happened.
I haven’t heard from any of these vendors. Not one peep. Not a, “Hi, how are you? Just thought I would check in?” Or a, “I saw something interesting that might help you bridge this postponement.” Nothing, nada, zilch. Four months is not a long time, but was it something I said? Is it the old, “It’s not you, honey… it’s me?”
No. It’s not me. It’s them.
We all know that it’s a critical mistake in marketing and sales to ignore your current clients much less your prospects. We’ve all heard, and maybe know from experience, that it’s much harder and more expensive to gain a new customer than to retain an existing one. So why do we do it? Why do we take our clients and customers for granted?
I could say that it’s because we are always focused on the new, the next best thing, that our attention spans are limited, that we are calculating the risk/cost ratios all the time for how much energy we need to put into existing relationships. It really doesn’t matter. Don’t stop talking to your customers and clients.
I know many organizations may say, “Well, that doesn’t apply to me… we have a customer care department.” Or, “Our NPR score is over 8.” Or, “Our customer retention is over 95%.” But here are a couple of questions:
- If you are in marketing, how many customer/client visits have you actually been on in the last month?
- For marketing, how many real value touches in terms of newsletters, webinars, user group meetings, emails have you had with your current customers in the last month?
- If you are in “new account” sales (not account management), how many of your clients have you visited or called in the last month? Not for golf, but to actually understand what their issues are and to try and add value?
- For both sales and marketing, who else have you talked to at the customer other than your usual buyer? Who else has issues you might be able to help with?
You know the drill. If you’re not doing these things, then perhaps a competitor is. Customers go through buying phases. They are not always ready to buy, but they are always appreciative of those that want to help them save money, solve a problem, or make them better.
The irony is that with the internet and new technologies, communication is a lot easier than it used to be. Of course we are all busy, we all get too much email, too many calls. The call we do take and the email we do read has three characteristics. It is relevant, it is useful and it is timely. And maybe it’s appreciated as well. One of the most successful campaigns I’ve run was a simple hand written thank you note from an executive saying ‘thanks for your business’.
In part 2 of this blog post, the subject of how to nurture your current clients will be addressed.