Sales

MARKETING STRATEGIES: Communications, cross-selling and strategic partnerships to boost your customer engagement

Tom McKaskill /

feature-sales-200In the last article, I looked at how we could continue to engage the customer post-sale, particularly by using the method of holding events such as conferences, webinars and the like.

This week we’ll look at three other ways to engage your customer so they become repeat and regular customers.

Communications

It is a widely held and supported maxim that your current customer is easier to sell to than a new customer. However, if you lose touch with your customer, they have to find you or have a reason to reconnect with you. It is far better that you are proactive and stay in touch with your customers where you can.

There are numerous ways in which you can communicate with your customers, each method having its own advantages and disadvantages. In an era of web 2.0 where interactions via social networking are growing ever more popular, those methods have greatly expanded. Even so, the tried and true methods still work.

Whether the communication is by letter, email, newsletter, product update, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube or other social networking facility, it is important that each has a purpose for contacting the customer.

Throwing content at the customer in the hope that some of it will stick is more likely to annoy the customer than encourage them to rebuy or recommend. Also, it is important in an age of legislation on privacy and nuisance marketing spam, telemarketing and SMS marketing that customers can opt in or opt out of the different forms of communications.

Each method of communication has to have a purpose which is designed to add value to the customer relationship. That means you first need to ascertain what your customers want from you.

You don’t have to think this up all by yourself; you can solicit information from current customers and do some trials to find out what works with different customers and different media. There are lots of possibilities: product updates, articles, industry reports, event announcements and reviews, new hires, case studies, educational material, special offers, product releases and so on.

By providing multiple forms of communication and multiple types of content, you can find the right one(s) for each customer. The key is to stay in touch and give them a reason to stay in touch with you.

Cross-selling

Most customers prefer to deal with as few suppliers as possible. It is not that they don’t like dealing with many suppliers, it is just that it keeps their lives simpler. Most shop at supermarkets, category killers and shopping malls because the amount of effort they need to expend is greatly reduced by going to one location for many purchases.

The same logic applies with product and service suppliers. If they have developed a positive relationship with a vendor, they would much rather use that relationship to acquire other products and services than shop around and develop another supplier relationship. All other things being equal, the vendor who can satisfy a number of product and service requests will get the business.

This ‘one stop shop’ explains the growth of large professional services firms in accounting and legal services. It is certainly why supermarkets and category killers overtook the corner store. It is also why the large software application providers such as Oracle and SAP dominate the market for enterprise wide systems.

This being the case, it suggests that vendors need to look at the complementary problems which customers are solving to see if they can offer solutions to those problems as well. Let us not forget that the door is already open and there is a willing customer waiting. This is not a situation where we have to beat a path to a new customer or persuade them that we can satisfy their requirements, we have already demonstrated that. What we are faced with is an opportunity: an opportunity to add additional value to an existing relationship.

What we have to ensure is that the additional products and services live up to our brand image. That is, they need to fit with our desired image of ourselves and the way in which our customers see us. Our task is to reinforce our image and reputation rather than to undermine it. If there are products and services which logically fit together and we can provide the right level of sales and after sales support to create a good customer experience, we should seriously examine the opportunity.

Continued next page.

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