Tuesday 10 February 2009

How To Stay Close To Your Customers In Difficult Economic Times

Ouch. Watching your sales revenue plunge, but your operating costs remain stubbornly high, is causing you immense stress. Your margins have evaporated and you need to do something fast or go bankrupt. The natural tendency is to slash anything that you feel is not important, like that marketing budget. But you know that your brand will simply disappear, as your competitors continue to shout their brands from the rooftops. The alternative, if you keep spending on marketing that does not definitively lead to sales, you will be sunk. Does this sound like your dilemma? If it doesn't then you are clearly in a recession proof industry.

Of course you cannot slash your marketing. The key is to concentrate on marketing that builds repeat business, and do it fast.

Most businesses concentrate on attracting new clients and do very little to look after their existing clients after the transaction is complete.

I mean as a consumer yourself, when last were you "Thanked" for your business, or even better, when last were you contacted by a vendor that hadn't seen you for awhile, worrying that you may have defected? I will guess probably never.

Marketing is not directly correlated to sales, unless you are holding a blowout sale, where you are basically discounting your product to make the revenue. A lot of good that is going to do when your margins are already waffer thin. So the key is to keep your brand top-of-the-mind, and achieve this without the traditional marketing expense. The first place to begin is with your existing clients. It is much easier, and cheaper, to keep your existing clients than to pour loads of money into trying to attract new clients. Besides in a recession, the quickest way to land up in the poorhouse is to blindly pursue your mass marketing strategy.

So how do you set about keeping your existing clients? Well for starters you need to ask yourself whether you know who your clients are. Do you have a database of your past clients, or do you simply complete the transaction and let them walk out the door, perhaps never to be seen again? If you don't, then stop wasting time and implement a system that will allow you to gather your clients contact information at your various touchpoints.

So now the data is starting to come in, now what? Once you have started collecting this data you then need to communicate with your clients, and this should start immediately with a simple Thank You. Here communication means developing a meaningful relationship instead of mass emailing that simply erodes your brand value and shoves an endless supply of product down your clients throats. By meaningful relationship I mean use a give-and-take system. Provide value-add information in exchange for information. Everytime you communicate you have a branding opportunity, and if done correctly you slowly build loyalty. Imagine being able to track your individual client's so closely that you will be able to identify who your top spenders are, or being able to identify potential defectors before they go to your competitors. Oh great, I hear you saying cynically. You are not IT literate, you don't have the funds to develop a system and you don't know where to start. What now?

Well this is where Dialogue Marketing fills a niche. Dialogue Marketing provides an affordable system that will start creating your database instantly, and will help you design customised communications that will automatically, and periodically communicate with your clients across multiple mediums like email, text, fax, voice or snail mail. These communications can be fully interactive, gathering more client information for you, which in turn may trigger further communications to the client or internal notifications to personnel. The communications can also incorporate a points system, where points will be communicated via the medium of your choice and can track transactions, highlighting key information. All of this is designed to keep your brand top-of-the-mind and to encourage a repeat sales cycle.

In future postings, I will break the features down and explain them in more details, and what it will accomplish for your business.

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