Entries Tagged as 'Customer relationship management'

Get in your prospect’s comfort zone: The right offer at the right time

“Will you marry me?”

This offer will get you a chilly reception from someone you’ve just met. You’d sound half-crazy popping the question unless you nurture the relationship at the right pace and offer what the other person is looking for.

Same thing goes for B2B marketing. Sure, a salesperson can get lucky with an occasional prospect, but counting on the magic happening instantly isn’t the way to build a stream of sales-ready leads. Build trust by developing the relationship.

“Will you go out with me?”

Here’s the “first date” of the sales cycle. You’ve just identified a prospective customer and you need to provide background information and answer the questions that are important to that specific customer. Offer educational materials such as case studies, white papers, how-to articles and decision-maker kits until they’re ready to go to the next level.

“Here’s what we’re really like.”

In this “middle date” stage, the interest has been shown and you can move into more details. A self-assessment tool, technical white papers and webinars require more participation from potential customers, but they also target the solutions to each prospect’s situation. Show you’ll be there for them to help build a sales-winning relationship.

“So how about it?”

When the prospect gets comfortable with your company, start to make more serious advances: offers or calls-to-action. Although it’s not time to pop the question, smaller commitments move prospects toward choosing your company. For instance:

  • Invite them to all-day seminars delving into implementation details.
  • Offer demos or low-cost or free needs assessments.
  • Ask whether your salespeople can meet with their decision makers to present customized proposals or quotations.
  • Consider making “buy now” deals offering discounts or additional products or services bundled in for a lower cost.

What if you don’t know where prospects are in their buying cycles? In that case, make offers appropriate for every stage and let people find their own comfort zone.

How to propose

What makes a good offer or call-to-action?

  • They must be genuinely enticing.

  • They must move the buying process forward. Satisfy prospects’ key concerns.

  • They should be “self-qualifying.” Don’t offer something anyone would want. Provide what a qualified prospect is looking for.

How do you put them together?

  • Repackage or update the information you already have.
  • See if your suppliers have white papers, evaluation guides or other materials you may use.
  • Join forces with your suppliers to provide combination sales pieces or newsletters.

Prospects must clearly understand what they’ll gain from choosing your company and its products or services. They need to believe that what you’re marketing will help them achieve their goals, and they must trust your company to deliver on its promises.

Getting to that point requires making the right offers or calls-to-action for each stage of your prospect’s buying process, from awareness and inquiry to consideration to purchase. You’ll build strong, valuable relationships with your customers that will last for many years to come.

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Great reasons to outsource inquiry/response handling

Outsourcing marketingToday’s lead management service companies assist business-to-business marketers by handling routine tasks and much more. If you and your staff are overloaded trying to keep in touch with interested prospects, you may end up missing revenue sources and slowing growth.

Overloaded, or just want to get more efficient?

For starters, you may want to look into outsourcing for their typical functions such as

  • literature fulfillment,
  • lead distribution,
  • response handling,
  • tracking, and
  • reporting.

Beyond that, did you realize response handling services have become quite sophisticated and can help you

  • qualify prospects,
  • get leads into the pipeline sooner,
  • show prospects your company is timely and efficient, and
  • provide the data you need to show marketing ROI?

Some examples that can help your group get ahead of the game

  • Publish different fax numbers or e-mail addresses in your ads. Route the responses to the inquiry handling service. It’s fast and easy for both the prospect and your company.
  • Set up phone response 24 hours a day or during U.S. coast-to-coast business hours. It serves the prospects, plus they also can provide immediate qualification of inquirers and first level technical support.
  • Have the service handle website information forms and “chat” requests. Do periodic check-ins as a prospect to see what the experience is like.
  • Most services can forward sales leads as email attachments that integrate with your salespeople’s existing contact management software or corporate CRM or sales automation systems.
  • Advanced sales lead distribution methods let you get leads to your salespeople, reps, dealers or distributors by email, fax and directly on the Web.
  • Outbound telemarketers can generate sales leads, qualify prospects, perform “Did you buy?” studies, build relationships with longer-term prospects and invite them to seminars. Some can even sell your products or services, when appropriate.
  • Sophisticated reporting capabilities let you measure lead follow-up, can link inquiries to sales and determine return on investment. Reporting can be prepared as statistical analysis or graphs and charts. Reports can be given to you as printed documents, as e-mail file attachments you can view using common programs like Excel(r), or they can be viewed, downloaded or printed on demand on the Web.
  • Does your marketing database need cleanup? These services can develop and manage your sales and marketing databases, clean them up and append data from postal and public databases, enhance them through feedback from salespeople and marketing response handling and direct mail and telemarketing efforts, and let you keep in touch with and convert more prospects to customers.
  • Ongoing broadcast e-mail, broadcast fax and e-mail programs can be implemented to keep in touch and build a sales-winning relationship with your prospects and existing customers.

Where do you find service companies to assist you with marketing response handling and sales lead management?

  • Ask your peers at other companies.
  • Ask the folks at your advertising agency.
  • Check the display and classified ads in industry publications like B2B, Direct, DM News, Sales & Marketing Management, Target Marketing and Exhibitor or the directories they publish.
  • Do searches on the Internet using key words like “response handling,” “inquiry handling,” “sales lead management,” “response management” or “literature fulfillment.”
  • Check with marketing associations like the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org).

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Remind Your Customers You’re Around

Remind customersI had a client whose marketing was not delivering the same level of sales it had in the past. The company had no direct sales force and no distributors, so their prices were about half their competitors. It sounds like it would be easy to grow your customer base when you can quote such low prices. Even if your company has a sales team or distributors, what they learned can improve your marketing too.

The problem was that their marketing was narrow. They would send out a catalog to anyone who inquired as a response to ads in trade magazines. After years of advertising, you reach a saturation point. The conversion rate was flat, as you can imagine.

They started a new initiative to distribute products by other companies. But how to get their target customers, primarily small businesses, to notice? To improve their marketing, they didn’t want to add cost or layers of labor. They were focused on effiency to keep their costs lower than competitors, after all.

Boost existing customer orders

You can keep the direct-to-client approach simply by reminding customers that you’re there for them. For example, expand existing accounts, do alternative mailings and schedule reminders about new products. It meets a customer’s needs better than just sending a catalog every year as well. And if you don’t keep in touch, customers may go to someone else that does stay top-of-mind.

These tactics can jump-start product sales that would’ve otherwise had to wait for new catalogs to get promoted:

  • Track existing customers for their product preferences
  • Regularly remind them about new products that might interest them
  • Send quarterly communications/newsletters
  • How about periodic free samples of new products?

What’s in it for you?

  • Significantly increase your company’s conversion of prospects to customers
  • Increase sales from existing customers
  • Save money in many areas
  • Then re-invest in additional marketing, boosting results even further
 

Gaps In Your Sales Lead Management Process?

Sales Lead GapsIDC sent out a press release yesterday about its latest study, from its CMO Advisory Practice, of IT vendor’s best practices in sales lead management.

Some key findings, summarized in the press release, include:

– Fifty percent of these tech vendors’ marketing investment is allocated to demand generation and a third of that is targeted to directly support the sales force.

– A majority of tech vendors fail to provide for even the most basic need of establishing a consistent global definition of a lead.

– Other failure points include data collection, lead qualification, sales hand-off, lead nurturing, and performance measurement.

– Only a few of the companies surveyed were able to demonstrate their impact on the sales pipeline.

None of this surprises me. Why? Because business-to-business sales leads are my consulting speciality. So I’m wrestling with these issues on behalf of my clients every day.

But as competitive as the IT industry is, and with half of their marketing investments focused on demand generation, wouldn’t you think that these tech vendors would have addressed these problems and have them licked by now?

And these sales lead problems aren’t limited to IT vendors. Far too many companies in the B2B space do a poor job of generating, nurturing, qualifying and converting leads into sales-ready opportunities and closed sales.

I guess I’ll stay busy for a while, helping all these companies to fix their sales lead programs!

If your company:

– doesn’t have a clear, agreed-to definition of a “lead”
– needs a better way to qualify leads
– has a gap handing off leads to sales for follow up
– can’t show how sales leads affect the sales pipeline
– is not doing a good job nurturing leads, collecting data or measuring performance

…then you’re in luck. Get some help now and you’ll soon see benefits in your bottom line.

– Link: IDC CMO Research Study Reveals Significant Gaps in the Lead Management Process, Though Best Practices Are Emerging
– Link: You can purchase the study itself here.

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How Long Should You Keep People In Your Marketing Database?

Database marketing‘Tis the season to send out holiday cards to relatives, friends, and business contacts. Maybe you have some friends on your list that you haven’t spoken to or heard from in ages. How long do you keep sending them cards at holidays?

The practical folks would probably cut them off after a year or two of no contact or response. Some of us probably can’t bear to ever drop people off our list—just in case…

A similar thought occurs to us marketers when we think of doing a direct mail or other marketing campaign. One important difference, though, is that we’re spending money out of our precious marketing budget. We expect not only a response, but also sales and revenue far and above what we spent. So let’s cut these slackers off our list, shall we?

Hold on a minute. I’ve found that companies often remove people from their databases far too soon–especially considering the potential lifetime value of the prospect and her company.

Sure, if they can only buy your product once, take them out when they do. But for the rest, consider keeping contacts in your database forever, or at least as long as it’s still cost-effective to contact them. My clients frequently tell me they are closing sales from prospects that have been in their database for two, three, four or more years.

How about running some numbers? If it costs $250 to get a new inquiry and $25 to keep in touch with a prospect, you can afford to keep a prospect for up to 10 years at the same cost.

If you do want to trim your lists, ask the contacts if they’re still interested in hearing from you. Keep the “yeses,” and I recommend keeping the rest in the database but flagging them so they are not included in campaigns. That way you can still use the information for later analysis.

And how about those friends you don’t keep up with? You may get a warm response from a hand-written personal note instead of the cookie-cutter photo greeting card. Or keep in touch online through one of the new social networking websites like LinkedIn. Or just keep doing the same thing…just in case.

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Persona-Based Marketing: Getting Started

Persona-based marketing goes beyond simple demographic data

B2B marketing: Persona-based marketing: Powerful tools for connecting with prospects and customersPersona-based marketing describes who a prospect or customer is, by also answering questions about their behavior such as: what keeps this person awake at night? How does he spend his time? How does she like to be sold to?

This concept can help you, as a business-to-business marketer, by creating a vivid, tangible picture of your best prospects or customers, and then sculpting a marketing message that’s pertinent to their concerns, and move them to inquire and buy.

How to get started:

  1. Convene a group of employees who interact with your customers and prospects. Bring in lunch and a white board and ask them to help you build a persona for each of your target customers.
  2. Start by describing the customer’s role in their company: CEO, CIO, CFO, COO, sales manager, purchasing agent, user, and any other important influencers.
  3. Next describe the kind of company they work for. What industry is it in? How big is it? How up-to-date is it? Does it have a lot of competition?
  4. Then describe the person and their behavior: Give each persona a name, a title, an age, and describe how he or she looks. How does he dress? What kind of car does she drive? What does he do in his free time? What kind of educational background does she have?
  5. Flesh out as many attributes as you need to give a full, rounded picture of who this person is. Then, turn to your persona’s problems and goals.
  6. Think about what does this person’s daily calendar look like? What are his or her most pressing concerns? What product or service attributes would be most helpful in solving this person’s problems? Is he or she looking to roll up 20 databases into one, getting ready for an IPO, dealing with a new competitor who has just entered the market?
  7. Then, when formulating your marketing messages, think about what path this prospect or customer might pursue to solve this problem. Will he or she turn to white papers or articles in trade publications or Web sites? Would this customer or prospect seek input from a speaker at a networking group of their peers? Let the personas steer the route, which you can pave with information that can help your prospect and customers move forward in their consideration and buying process.

Read the full article at my website: Persona-based marketing: Powerful tools for connecting with prospects and customers

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Need help with B2B lead generation, marketing and sales?
For more information, please call Mac McIntosh at +1-401-294-7730, send him email at or visit www.sales-lead-experts.com