The primary objective of businesses is to build a customer base, regardless of the services or products, no business can exist without customers and the primary function of buisnesses is establishing relationships with customers with the aim of fulfilling transactions.
It is well documented that in order to generate a sales lead takes on average 7 to 13+ customer touch points are required and even after all that hard work, it takes additional 25 – 35 touch points to close a sale. The average sale cycle may involve 4.5 decision makers throughout a life span of 6 to 18 months.
You can really start getting the idea of the scale and challenges your sales & marekting teams face. This why defining a customer contact strategy and implementing simple and easy to follow processes and steps for your sales and marketing team to follow is key!
Internet as a sale & marketing tool
Despite the Internet radically transforming the way businesses find and transact with customers and vice versa it has also added further complications the, by altering the sales and marketing landscape. Many consumers are prefering and electing to self educate themselves as much as possible about particular products, before they even engage.
The advent of the blogging, social media, and a myriad of digital communications channels, the path to purchase is not a simple, straight line, but a complex and varied web of twists and turns and touch points. The fact is that most companies lose sales before they have even become aware that an opportunity may exist.
The fundamental questions are;
- How do we convert strangers into a customers?
- How difficult is that process ?
- How many people are involved in that process?
- Is everyone clear on the role they play in getting that customer through the door?
- What activities work and what don’t ?
Consumers are immune to traditional advertising and marketing strategies
Today’s consumers are increasingly developing an immunity to traditional advertising and sales methodologies, this translates to them conducting more independent research and taking more convincing before they’re sold on making a purchase. This results in different buyer journey’s from one consumer to the next; they’re not all tuned into to the same communication channels to learn about your company.
An average customer journey no longer exists, there are now several customer mini journeys with completely different start and end points. Each requiring a different message targeted at their personas with different levels of expectations.
Every organisation needs a strategy and plan for converting interactions to sales leads, with the aim of identifying Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe (BANT) of the customer which will enable the sales team to address these needs during the sales cycle.
It may take several interactions with the customer before they request information or even handed over to the sales team as leads. During the early stages in the buyer’s journey, consumers are often merely gathering information and building thier awareness about your brand, products and services. Often, these interactions are not in-depth enough to provide the information necessary to qualify a lead.
Optimising sales resources
Most organisations have limited or even scarce sales resources. It may not always be possible to despatch a sales person to speak to every new potential customer. To optimise your sales resources you’ll only want them to engage with customers the have the highest possibility of closing sales. All this also has to be achieved with all potential customers demanding attention.
Your contact strategy is designed to obtain answers to the following questions.
- What is the prospect looking for?
- How soon does the prospect plan to make a buying decision?
- What are the budgetary requirements?
- Is the contact the individual with decision-making authority?
It will often require innovative solutions to obtain this information because many will not supply this just via a simple web form. Gathering this information takes multiple, positive interactions where marketing representatives have the opportunity to establish trust and rapport, setting the stage for the sales team to close the deal at the appropriate time.
Your website, blog, social media channels and individual interactions all play a role in collecting this data. There are literally hundreds of data collection points and the challenge is understanding what, when, why and how to collect this data and transform it into actionable information.
Converting a cold piece of data into a paying customer is challenging; no matter what business you’re in regardless of size. Many organisations are in a very tough situation because they don’t know or have the expertise to do this which is unfortunate (and perfectly normal) place to be.
For those businesses, it can feel like they are leaving their Marketing to chance; not really knowing what ingredients to put into the pot to get success.
It’s more important than ever for every business to take control and ensure that any piece of prospect data is maximised, and they have the known formulas in place that will turn that unknown customer into profit. Clearly defining a customer contact strategy and taking into account that you may not even know your customer exists.
Think before your customer does
To really succeed you need to think three steps ahead of your customer. This is a lot like playing chess, you need a great opening strategy but at the same time you need to adaptable and agile enough to counter whenever the need arises. This requires several pre-meditated moves which executed well results in easy victories.
Sticking with the chess anology, despite the thousands of combination of moves that can be made. It is possible to get your openent in check mate in 3 Moves. The secret being, it’s about luring your opponent from the outset.
Your customer contact strategy be similar, in that once you have made contact with your customer, you should have a clearly defined set of processes in place which are designed to get them to the point of sale as quick as possible. In many cases this can be automated, and doesn’t require too much human interaction.
This approach does require a significant amount of pre-emptive thinking and customer profiling to ensure each marketing deliverable is perfectly tailored to that specific customers persona.
The days of capturing an email address and spamming the customer into submission are over. Your process needs to be tailored and personalised to personas. Your customer contact strategy needs to account for each possible journey your typical customers take and try to maximise and eliminate early.
CRM is not enough
Many businesses try to solve this problem by implementing a CRM system, like SalesForce, Zoho and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which to be fair are really good systems but unfortunately are over featured often resulting in underutilisation.
Despite the vendors claims that the systems are easy to use, scalable and adaptable, and for the most part they are, many sales teams often struggle truly taking advantage of them leaving marketing teams frustrated.
Due to the complexity of task configuring CRM systems which often require third party consultancy support, unless the organization has the capacity to employ dedicated resources to configuration and support of systems, many CRM systems are left configured in the original state they were initially deployed in, albeit the sales and marketing processes have changed considerably since then.
Out of frustration many satelite sub systems are created, for instance your sales team may in fact be using their own systems of spreadsheets, evernote and mobile calendars and only intermitently updating your primary CRM system.
Your marketing team, may also be using external services, to manage email marketing campaigns and webinar services which are not always integrated with your CRM system because they required some plugin or integration tool that nobody got round to configuring yet!
These two particular scenarios are two common scenarios we come across on an almost weekly basis. However, the senior management teams still base their decisions on data that is reported directly out of the CRM systems!
Your customer contact strategy will continue to evovle as your customer base evolves which requires continual analysis of data. The validity and the verification of your data is paramount!
Want to know more about Customer Contact Strategy?
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