Basic Business Cents: Nurturing customer network is key marketing tool
By Lou Schultz / For the Enterprise
To start any marketing activity it is well to understand the aim of the organization and how this marketing activity will help to achieve that organizational aim. Taking a step down, it is then important to understand the aim of the total marketing effort and how this activity helps to achieve that marketing aim.
There are three basic elements in marketing of goods and services - prospecting, nurturing, and closing - and not necessarily in that order. In fact they are not serial activities, but parallel.
Prospecting is finding people who might be interested in the offerings of your organization. No organization can be all things to all people because of limitations of time, finances, and/or talent. Therefore it is important to identify the market niche where you can dominate. Studies have shown that usually there is room in any niche for two organizations to succeed and one to barely get by. Others eventually fall by the wayside.
Then determine whether you need many customers and you need to “shotgun” your efforts toward a multitude of prospects or “rifle shoot” to a select few who are needed to ensure success of your organization.
Shotgun marketing usually involves the media, newspapers, radio, television, magazines and broadcast emails. This can take the form of advertisements, press releases and announcements. A careful accounting of return versus investment is important in these activities. Start with small projects and learn what works for you and your organization.
Rifle shot marketing involves carefully identifying targets and using a personal approach to reach them such as personal emails, direct mail, sales calls, telephone calls and working through your network.
SCORE, a national organization dedicated to providing free mentoring to small business, provides a booklet titled “10 Simple Steps to Finding Customers…and Delivering the Goods.” It can be obtained by going to score.org on the web or by stopping by the local office at Room 101 of the Hubbard County Courthouse.
They stress knowing the characteristics of your prospects, their needs and wants, what they have in common and how they can be reached.
Nurturing prospects and customers means continuing contact and development of a loyal cadre of people to your products/ services, to your organization, and to the people in it.
Marketing Sherpa conducted a survey on what worked in nurturing the prospect list. They found three top activities that worked best - email newsletters, sales calls and informational papers and articles. Steady personal contact of some sort is necessary to build relationships.
Closing the sale is not a final event but a continuous effort throughout the marketing activity. Every effort should be designed to make it easier for the customer to say yes.
First and foremost, listen. The prospect will tell you what he/she wants to hear in order to buy if you give them a chance and listen to what they are telling you.
When you do talk, speak in terms of benefits, not features of your products/ services. Think of your prospects as selfish individuals; they care not for the history or features of your product/service, they only care what it will do for them.
And always, always follow up after the sale because you want to add each customer to your network of loyal customers. Satisfied customers are like money in the bank and you want to protect and grow that network because they will become your best source of leads and recommendations.
Remember, the biggest asset of your organization is your network of loyal customers
Louis Schultz, managing director of Process Management LLC, has assisted organizations worldwide with performance improvement. He currently works wit h area business owners as a SCORE counselor. E-mail him with questions or comments at lou@process