Before Your Competitors
No matter how much investment you put into to selling your products and services, your customers will only buy when they are ready to buy, not necessarily when you want them to. So in the meantime, how can you ensure they think of you when it comes to the buying stage?
In normal day to day, do you consult your husband when you are buying a new dress? Do you tell your wife when you’re having a flutter at the GGs? Unless one of you has a substantially large thumb (which I’d love to know your secret) I doubt it! Typically it takes just one person to make normal consumer decisions like this.
The decision-making process for technical products however is much longer and often with you trying to convince multiple decision makers or even an entire organisation to buy your products or services.
Because of this, developing a long term relationship with your customers is crucial. No doubt you have often heard the statistics where it costs about 5-7 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to generate new business from an existing customer. Yet even with this in mind, aren’t we are all guilty of neglecting our customers?
Why promoting your brand to your existing customer is so important
Your brand is not your logo, or your website or your packaging colours. Your brand is your customers gut feeling about your product, service and company. In fact a brand is probably more important in an industry environment where decisions are based on strong evidence such as product performance, service offering, expertise and experience rather than the cosmetic look which perhaps is more influential when you go to buy your next pair of runners. Customers want brands they can trust. To build your brand and evoke the correct feeling in your customer, you need to consistently send out the correct message. Regular consistent communication can really make the adoption process much quicker.
How do you build your brand?
1. The Golden Rule: Deliver on time, every time
This seems very obvious but how many of you can admit poor delivery times, designs out of spec, incorrect documentation and so forth? A fundamental way to build on your brand comes down to delivery, getting it right first time, every time! If your operational organisation are not meeting their requirements you need to apply a systematic approach like 6 Sigma concepts and get to the root of the problem – FAST. The real secret to a good brand is reliable and consistent delivery.
2. Customer surveys
Listen to your customers. The most valuable information you will get about your product, service and company is from your customers. Cast aside your own ideas and take the opportunity to ask them… What gets their goat? Why do they keep coming back to you? What can you do better? I have carried out hundreds of surveys on behalf of clients and even those that are annoyed with the company welcome surveys as a means to improve. So get started on your customer surveys and do them at least every 2 years to keep up to date.
3. Don’t just tell them you’re great, show them!
E Newsletters and Blogs are a great way to keep in contact with your customers but are your news items newsworthy to them? You need to give them something that’s relevant to them- provide solutions to their pain points. Demonstrate your expertise, by providing useful tips, hosting a webinar or finding them useful articles to read. Providing solutions to your customer’s challenges is a great way to indirectly promote your products and services while also building your reputation in core areas.
4. Build your credibility
So you tell your customers you are the best. Now prove it! Providing case studies and testimonials give real evidence of your experience and show the breadth of the areas you have tackled. How many times have you engaged in a supplier without looking for evidence of what they have previously done? Make it easy for your customer and have the proof there.
5. Get social
You happily pay thousands to fly your sales team across the world, several times a year to meet and greet. But why not do it from the comfort and time zone of your own desk? Targeting people via Linked in should be met with caution but taking part in group discussions and settings up groups is much less invasive and likely to generate a strong status if you contribute regularly. Things like posting a link to an interesting article or asking a question to get a discussion started.
6. Keep your employees happy
Being an employee myself, I couldn’t stress this enough!! Indeed most of you are not striving to be the world’s greatest employer like Google but it is important to tackle any internal issues that may be indirectly picked up by your customers. While it is impossible to please everybody, try and generate a positive workplace environment where your staff are working together to help you deliver the best possible service to your customers.
7. Generate publicity
Nothing gets people talking like a strong publicity campaign – a good news publicity campaign. (Bad news is an article for another day.) If you have a big announcement such as an acquisition, jobs announcement, substantial investment, merger or award, it’s highly likely, when managed correctly, that you will get extensive coverage and reap lots of attention. Large announcements can double your website traffic and make you stick in the mind of your customer again.
8. Segment your customer list
Is your customer’s Purchasing Buyer interested in the same things as their R&D Engineer? If only they were! Take the time to tailor your message to your relevant audience. Yes, this will take up time that you don’t have but hiring a temp to tidy up your CRM Management system can be hugely beneficial when it comes to effective, strategic communication. With a segmented customer list, you can communicate the message that specifically meets their needs. So if it’s a buyer you can focus on your Lean initiative and how it’s saving you 20% production time and if it’s an engineer you can highlight your latest investment in innovation.
9. If you have the big bucks, Advertising
Advertising is bottom of my list for good reason. Don’t get me wrong, branding through advertising is effective. Anyone in the medical device industry will remember Avail a few years ago who were consistently on the front page of every trade magazine and easily the most prominent sponsors at all the Medtec shows – and it worked. The company had sales of $250 million before it was sold to Flextronics. However, unless you have a massive budget to support a consistent advertising campaign i.e. not taking an advertisement out once a year, you need to explore other options like those I have already listed above.