A customer contact strategy defines how, when, why and what you will communicate to your customers at each stage of the customer journey.
It is vitally important to ensure you have a clearly defined customer contact strategy as it enables your organization to concentrate on the needs and pains of your customers and that your communications with them are relevant at specific points in the customer journey.
No business can exist without customers!
The primary function of business is to seek and establish relationships with customers to fulfil transactions.
For an average Business to Business transaction (B2B), to generate a sales lead it takes on average 7 to 13+ customer touch-points.
Even after all that hard work, it takes additional 25 – 35 touch points to close a sale.
To further knock the wind the out of your
sales, did you know that the average sale cycle may involve 4.5 decision makers and typically has a lifespan of 6 to 18 months.
You really start to appreciate the scale and enormity of the challenge faced by your sales & marketing teams!
Defining a customer contact strategy for your sales and marketing team is key! It should consist of simple & easy to follow processes and procedures.
Internet as a sales & marketing tool
The Internet has radically transformed the way businesses find and transact with customers and vice versa. Unfortunately, it has also added further complicated and transformed sales & marketing landscape.
Many consumers are preferring to self-educate as much as possible about products before they even engage with vendors.
60% of sales are lost before companies become aware of the opportunitiesUnselling – Scott Stratten
The availability of a number of varying digital communications channels makes it difficult to reach your ideal customers on the channels to their choice.
The customer journey on the path to purchase is not a simple, straight line, but has morphed into a complex web of twists & turns with multiple touch points.
The fact is that most companies lose sales before they are even aware of opportunities.
What is customer contact
Customer Contact is loosely defined as the process of handling customer queries before, during and after the purchase of products and services, helping companies enhance growth and improve customer relationships.
Customer contact points are points of contact where businesses interact directly with their customers. Including:
- in-person communications
- Telephone conversations
- Internet-based interactions
- direct marketing
- Trade Booths
- Customer Support
The primary goal of Customer Contact is to create a desired level of customer experience, by focusing on what is best for customers, creating great customer experiences, advocating for them, and helping them resolve problems and providing customers with all the relevant, insightful, meaningful and useful information they need regarding your Brand, products and services.
Defining a customer contact strategy
A Customer Contact Strategy is a pre-planned sequence of integrated, targeted communications with clearly defined goals.
In order to define a customer contact strategy, your organization needs to answer these fundamental questions;
- How do we convert strangers into 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 strategiesJoe Pulizzi – Epic Content Marketing
Consumers are increasingly developing an immunity to traditional advertising and sales methodologies. Consumers are conducting more independent research and take more convincing before they’re sold on making a purchase.
The are multiple different buyer journeys from one consumer to the next; they’re not all tuned into the same communication channels to learn about your brand, product, service and even 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 messages and information crafted to suit personas and differing levels of expectations.
Every organization 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 to assist the sales team to address needs during the sales cycle.
It may take several interactions with the customer before they request information or even contact the sales team.
During the early stages of the buyer’s journey, consumers are often merely gathering information and building their awareness about your brand, products, and services.
Often, these interactions are not in-depth enough to provide the information necessary to qualify them as a lead. It is the function of the marketing team to ensure they extract and verify as much customer information as possible.
These leads are defined as Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)
Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) strategy can help improve the efficiency and productivity of your Sales organization by feeding them fewer, higher quality leads.
Optimising sales resources
Most organizations have limited or even scarce sales resources. It may not always be possible to despatch a salesperson to speak to every new potential customer.
To optimise your sales resources you’ll only want them to engage with customers that have the highest possibility of closing sales.
All this also has to be achieved with all potential customers demanding attention. Not all customers necessarily warrant your attention and this is where your marketing activities should be designed to filter the time wasters.
Your customer 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?
cut through the noise, commotion, and bad information that is right now cluttering up your customers’ digital space
It will often require innovative solutions to obtain information because many will not supply this via a simple web form. Gathering 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 digital communication channels and individual interactions all play a role in collecting data. There are literally hundreds of data collection points and the challenge is understanding what, when, why and how to collect to data and transform it into actionable information.
How to build a Customer Contact Strategy
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 have known formulas in place to convert turn unknown customers into profit.
A contact strategy should be a core part of your marketing planning process – it’s where you build and specify your
Customer Contact Strategy A plan for delivering relevant communications to customers, defining measures of success and harness your data and resources to implement
To really succeed you need to think three steps ahead of your customer. It’s 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 when executed well results in easy victories.
Sticking with the chess analogy, despite the thousands of combination of moves that can be made. It is possible to get your opponent in checkmate in 3 Moves.
The secret, anticipating your opponents moves and luring to yours from the outset.
Your customer contact strategy should be similar, in that once you have made contact with your customer, you should have a clearly defined set of processes in place designed to get them to the point of sale as quick as possible. In many cases, these can be automated, and don’t require 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 customer’s 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 and complicated which often results in under-utilisation.
The truth is, for most organisations the CRM system is a cash burner as opposed to a cash earner
Despite the vendors claims that the systems are easy to use, scalable and adaptable, many sales teams often struggle 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 satellite subsystems are created, for instance, your sales team may, in fact, be using their own systems of spreadsheets, Evernote and mobile calendars and only intermittently updating your primary CRM system.
Your marketing team may be using external services, to manage email marketing campaigns and webinar services which are not always integrated with your CRM system because they require plugins or integration tools that nobody got round to configuring yet!
These are common scenarios we come across on a 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 evolve as your customer base evolves which requires continual analysis of data. The validity and the verification of your data are paramount!