Companies routinely spend much time and money marketing to cold prospects, when a wealth of warmth resides nearby in the form of existing referral networks and customers.
Much is written about the importance of customer upselling and retention, and the myriad opportunities that exist because of those who already know and like you. Yet, we keep looking for that next whizbang way to ramp up revenues by reaching out to new contacts.
Nowhere is this more apparent than large telecommunications companies that bombard us with direct mail, email and broadcast advertising aimed at getting new signups. They would benefit greatly from re-allocating some advertising revenues to customer retention and revving up referral programs further.
Consider it in the context of a joke about prospects versus clients: Given the choice of heaven or hell, a deceased person decides to visit both before choosing. Heaven is resplendent; hell features a raucous party addressing every hedonistic desire one could imagine. The person decides to go to hell. When he goes back, hell is the stench-filled, fiery horror we generally envision. The person protests, “When I was here yesterday, I was treated to an incredible party. What happened?” Comes the reply, “Yesterday you were a prospect. Today you’re a client.”
Following are steps any size business can take to reel in additional revenues via those you already know:
1. Engage existing contacts. Casually asking people you already know for leads generally won’t cut it. People get busy and forget, regardless of intentions. Instead, enlist new business through existing contacts using “what’s in it for me” and “wine and dine” measures.
Think about persuasive ways to reward those sending you leads. If the reward is weighty enough, you will more quickly rise to the top of their mind.
Also think about substantive ways to get attention in the moment. Breaking bread together, in turn affording the opportunity to address your request in-depth, can be much more effective than informal invitations to send business your way. Try to get specific prospect information and/or establish a formal process for continuing the discussion while engaged over dinner, drinks, et al.
2. Make retention a passionate priority. Will Rogers once said, “If advertisers spent the same amount of money on improving their products as they do on advertising, then they wouldn’t have to advertise them.” The same can be said of customer retention efforts. Treat existing buyers right and you won’t have to spend as much money advertising for new ones.
Consider reaching out periodically via phone/email (and not just to get people to complete surveys). When possible, connect in-person via the aforementioned meal or cup of coffee just to say “thank you” and to determine if there’s anything further you can do presently to help them. If you’re willing and able, use this opportunity to inform them of value-added benefits that don’t require additional money or commitment on their part (e.g., faster turnaround times, online ordering options/upgrades).
To clarify, retention is different than upselling. Retention is all about encouraging loyalty and longevity by providing excellent support, services and/or products. If a customer is happy, the upselling will follow. Too often today, companies try to couple the two by deluging customers with offers to get more of their money. This can backfire. Most of us are tired of endless upselling pitches.
3. Leverage existing “likes.” Do this through the media, both social and traditional, via testimonials, endorsements, et al. LinkedIn does this on steroids, encouraging existing contacts to endorse a variety of skills. Traditional use of endorsements and testimonials also works effectively.
When a stakeholder – customer, employee, vendor, partner – is willing to say nice things about you, capture/excerpt the comments and leverage them everywhere you can. Add them to your website, include in press releases, reinforce in e-blasts and direct mail. Likewise, an award or favorable media report are endorsements of sorts. Spread the word far and wide, being sure to provide full attribution.
As you consider all the marketing avenues that can help build your business, don’t forget that the simplest and most time-tested ways are often the best.
Tammie MacLachlan, Lightning Labels customer service manager, contributed to this report.
Tammie MacLachlan is the customer service manager of Lightning Labels, a Denver-based all-digital custom label printer providing full-color labels and stickers of all shapes and sizes, and custom packaging products. She has been in the printing industry for 19 years and with Lightning Labels for over seven years. Find Lightning Labels on Facebook for special offers and label and printing news. Mark Lusky is a marketing communications professional who has worked with Lightning Labels since 2008.