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MARKETING STRATEGIES: The end game – referrals and repeat sales

feature-finish-line-200You can see from my earlier articles that an approach to marketing and sales which takes the view that ‘getting the sale’ is the end game is misdirected and, ultimately, sub-optimal.

Generally, it is not that difficult to get a sale. The hard part is to get the sale in such a way that you get the next one and the next and the next. That is, the end game is really about building a relationship with a customer where you are the preferred vendor and/or you are the one they recommend to anyone with a similar need or problem. This is the real challenge and it takes a different perspective to marketing and sales to achieve it.

The longer term view

To change our view of marketing away from just closing the deal, we need to take a longer term view of the customer relationship and a more encompassing view of the customer buying experience. We need to see the customer experience from the customer’s viewpoint, not just our own. Our view of the customer experience needs to take into account what happens before the sale, the period of use and what happens when the product use or service consumption is over. We need to put ourselves in the place of the customer when they are asked ‘would I buy from this vendor again?’ Only then can we devise marketing and sales strategies which would result in a positive recommendation for us as the vendor.

Most vendors complain that they have too few leads and that many of the leads they have are of low quality. When you dig a little deeper, you find that this condition is mostly self-inflicted. They generally fail to connect to the customer in language or terms which the customer uses. They talk about features and functions and not problems and solutions. Their messages fail to reach the customers they are seeking or they fail to put themselves in the path of customers looking for solutions. Thus our work on improving our marketing productivity starts with doing a better job of answering the simple questions of, who are we, what do we do, what problems do we solve and who do we solve those problems for?

Our next task must be to make it easier for customers to easily evaluate what we have and what we can do for them. We need to help our customers understand what we do well and who we do it for so that our ideal customers can identify with us. Our objective should be to help them reduce the perceived risks of buying from us. We have to help them with their enquiries and enable them to make a decision efficiently with some reasonable level of confidence.

Lead generation and qualification improve prospects

It greatly helps our productivity if we also ensure that we get the right prospects rather than those where we cannot meet their requirements. Our lead generation and qualification system need to quickly remove the poor prospects from our system so that we can devote our attention to the best prospects. It is not in our interests for us waste time and resources with a prospect where we have a poor fit. Also, we are essentially wasting their time if we are not able to solve their problem, or at least, in the time and at the cost they are seeking. Once we have a qualified sales lead, one with the capacity and capability to buy, we need to progress them efficiently through to a closed sale.

Far too many vendors chase leads without properly assessing the prospects needs early in the process or adequately qualifying them through the sale process. This wastes significant marketing and sales resources and results in a high cost of sales for the ones who eventually do buy.

Overall, we need to see the entire process from need recognition to after use evaluation as one complete customer experience. While we may have a great product or service, the customer does not think of their interaction with a vendor as just solving a problem or need. Their view of the vendor will encompass every step of the buying process and their evaluation of their experience will not be bounded by the product use or service consumption.

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