The customer journey

When people buy from you, they go through 5 stages:

1. Awareness 
Awareness building is a central aspect of marketing activity. What are you doing to raise brand awareness?

2. Prospect
Someone who is going through the sales qualification process. As all Sales Managers know, enterprises must have a pipeline of potential customers that they have identified, talked to and qualified.

3. Customer
Someone who has bought from you once. Money has changed hands on a single occasion. Therefore, this is transactionally based. This means that there isn’t a deep relationship. If you have been in business for some time, you may well have a significant number of dormant customers. Go back and start communicating with them again. It is typically five times less expensive to sell to a customer, as it is to a stranger.

4. Client
The next stage is to turn customers into clients, through repeat business. This may include up-selling (i.e. increasing the size of the sale) and cross-selling (i.e. selling them something else).

5. Advocate
A handful of customers, a larger percentage of clients and some of your (non-client) friends will become Advocates. These are the people who recommend you. Everyone loves referrals. The question is: do you have a referral system in place?

Stepping out of the shadows

If you want to generate better results on social media, engage with people. You can do this via Likes, Comments, Shares and Messages.

When you do this…

Be interesting. Be positive. Be inquisitive. Be yourself.

I have noticed that many enterprises don’t engage, they only broadcast. For example by continually sharing their blog posts.

Think of it this way. Do you prefer to be shouted at or to have conversations with interesting people?

Many people don’t want to draw attention to themselves.

I quite understand this, however, when it comes to promotion you have to step out of the shadows and start interacting with customers.

Show the product or service being used

I know that you know what your product or service does. I know that you know how great it is. The challenge is that potential customers are not telepathic. They can’t see what you are seeing.

On this basis, show someone actually using the product or experiencing the service. Videos and pictures are a great way of doing this.

Stories describing how the item or service is used in real life are helpful.

Don’t make the customer work hard to figure it out.

Show them how it works.

This idea is taken from my newsletter which you can subscribe to here.

Using the phone for business sales calls

The Marketing Compass member Walter Blackburn is an experienced business person and expert in presentation skills training. He enjoys using thephone to talk to his extensive network of contacts and clients. Here are his thoughts on using the phone to sell.

Earliest time to start calling: 8am if you’re calling someone in their office on their landline. If you’re calling their mobile I would leave it to 8.30 or even 9 because you don’t know if they’re working from home and most people don’t want to be disturbed there if they’re getting the children off to school or whatever else they might be doing to get ready for the day.

I would be careful calling mobiles if you don’t know them. Most of us are quite protective of our mobile numbers, but I believe it’s ‘fair game’ if I call you on an office landline number. If you already know the person you’ll know when it’s OK to call and whether to use their mobile or landline. For example, one of my clients has back to back meetings every Monday and most Tuesdays so I wait to call him later in the week. He’s a high Mover (see www.empathystyles.com) so he loves to speak on his mobile rather than dealing with email.) If you know the person you will know what their situation is (i.e. do they work from home and what the best time to call is).

The point of calling early is to either get past any protective secretary or PA, or to catch your prospect before they get involved in meetings. If you’re calling someone ‘cold’, i.e. for the first time and you don’t know them, I would start calling them at some time during the day rather than early in the morning or early in the evening (say, after 5.30). It’s only when I’m being rebuffed by a secretary or a PA that I would call them early, say, before 9am, or early evening to get past the protective PA who may not be at his or her desk at that time. Turn it into a ‘warm’ call by doing some research first and make the call appropriate and relevant for them.

You will need to know how to contact the decision-makers in your target organisations – is it by email, by landline, by mobile or through social media? Many people are happy to ‘hide behind’ email and voicemail. Whether you use the phone to communicate with them will be guided by the organisation and the sector. Businesses probably fall into one of 3 categories re the phone:

1. There will be those companies which use email extensively, almost exclusively, and it would therefore be pointless looking for phone numbers.
2. There will be those companies which only use mobiles – literally there will be no landline numbers.
3. And there will still be many businesses which have a main reception with a switchboard to direct calls to the appropriate person.

A lot of business is still done on the phone. So unless you’re just selling from your website you need to be confident and competent on the phone. What that means is that you have to be able to establish rapport, qualify your prospect, find a need, present your offering in a way that meets the need and close on an action step, as well as countering any objections along the way. In other words you need to be skilful in the sales process, either face to face or on the phone, or indeed in email. I’m not saying that you should give your sales presentation over the phone – you need to be doing that ideally face to face – but there will be times when it’s appropriate to do some of it over the phone or in email.

So that means two things: first you need to know the sales process for your product/service and the sector(s) into which you are selling and second you need to get some practice and experience in using it.

Do scripts still work? Yes, but they need to become a guide for you, not to be followed slavishly. The best scripts will form the basis of what to say or what to ask and are used in that way. As soon as you give prospects a scripted conversation most of them will recognise it as such and switch off. One of the reasons for that is that salespeople don’t adapt them to their personality or experience. It’s up to you to understand what you’re doing and how to personalise it for each prospect. Most of us will need some help with creating the basis for a script – we are too close to our own products / services and will tend to present our features and benefits too early rather than asking questions. Having a script means that someone has put some thought into how the call might go, which has to be a plus.

(Since Walter originally wrote this article, GDPR has come into force and this brings a whole new set of implications, including the need to generate more in-bound sales enquiries).

Click here to continue reading about business phone calls

LinkedIn connection requests – what to include in the message

When it comes to LinkedIn connection requests,  what should you include in the message, particularly when you are connecting with someone that you don’t know personally?

Here are some tips and ideas for you.

* It is fine to visit their profile once or twice, prior to making the connection request.

* Always include a personal message and start this with their name; triple check that you have the correct spelling for their name.

* I start my messages with ‘Hi’, however, you may feel that ‘Dear’ is more appropriate.

* Make the message about them, not you. Mention something that you noticed about them and / or their organisation, within the connection request message.

* If possible, refer to someone you both know (if they are a mutual LinkedIn connection, so much the better).

* Mention a Linkedin Group that you both belong to. (This is a good reason to join Groups, by the way).

* Mention something that you saw in their website or in the media.

* Before you press send, check the spelling carefully.

Here is an example of Message or In-Mail to a new contact:

Hi Susan
I have been reading your articles within LinkedIn about (ISSUE) and I noticed that we both know (CONTACT NAME). I have visited your website www.theirwebsite.com and I read (BLOG OR WEB PAGE) with interest. It would be great to connect with you.
Kind regards, (YOUR NAME)

How would you feel if you received a message like this?  You would probably think to yourself that at least they have taken the time and trouble to write a personalised message.

The recipient of the connection request will probably look at your LinkedIn profile. Therefore, it is important to keep the information up-to-date. Use the available word count. For the Summary section this is 200-250 characters or about 25-42 words.

Beware of sending connections requests via your smartphone. They can whizz off without giving you the chance of including a personal message.

PS I provide LinkedIn training and talks.

Delivering on your promises

Here is a way to succeed in life and in business: keep your promises.

I realise that at times it can be quite hard to do this.

Consistently delivering on your promises can be life changing.

Think of someone you know who does this.

Now think of a business that always keeps its promises.

If they say that they will call you back, they do so. If they are going to do something for you, it gets done.

Consistency is a message in its own right, isn’t it?

Sales and marketing can benefit from this.

The buyer thinks: I may not need you now, but I know where you are and I trust you.

Keeping your promises demonstrates integrity, which is a core brand value.

How hard can it be to keep a promise?

Cloud-based marketing apps and services

How many cloud-based marketing apps and services do you use? How many of them connect to each other? Has it all grown organically, or was it planned? The last few years has seen a dramatic rise in the number of marketing related services that are available in the cloud.  Some of them are free, others are cheap as chips and some are relatively expensive.

Here are some of them:

CRM (Customer Relationship Management systems)
* Capsule CRM
* Salesforce
* Zoho

Website
* Squarespace
* WordPress
* Wix

Forms
* Formstack
* Gravity
* Wufoo

Email marketing
* ConstantContact
* Dotmailer
* MailChimp

Many enterprises now capture (in a GDPR compliant fashion) customer contact information which triggers a series of events. For example, an automated Welcome email; a record being created within a CRM system; and a task for a salesperson to contact the customer. If you are already doing this, that’s great – however most businesses are not doing so (or anything close to it).

It is important to see the whole thing from the customer’s perspective. Is the software helping them? Is it easy for them to use? Does it actually work? What do the metrics tell you about customer behaviour? How can you improve performance and results?

To what extent does the software give you a competitive advantage? What is the strategic thinking behind the deployment of these services? Have you implemented back-up and recovery processes?

My work as an internet marketing consultantMailChimp trainer  and Capsule CRM consultant and trainer has meant that I have had to learn a great deal about cloud-based marketing apps  and services, as my clients ask me questions about how to solve a business issue or how to get X software talking to Y software.

I suggest that you list all of the apps / services that you use and think about how they are currently connected. See the whole thing as one big picture.

Push versus Pull marketing

What are Push and Pull marketing strategies? ‘Push’ means that you go out and find customers i.e. by cold calling, mass emails, direct mailshots and most forms of advertising. The problem is that you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, aren’t you? Typically, only 3% of people are actively looking to buy when you contact them. This is why large companies spend so much on sales and marketing; they know that they have to shout louder than their competitors. If the customer doesn’t already know you, the chances are slim that they will buy the first time that you contact them.

During the last century, marketing was largely all about pushing. Companies pushed the (unwilling) customer towards their brands, using expensive advertising, telesales, direct mail and sales forces. In the 21st century, pushing has become more difficult, due to the fragmentation of media, an explosion of communication channels (i.e. TV and radio stations, websites, blogs etc) the advent of GDPR and knowledgeable buyers who have heard it all before.

Enterprises of all sizes realise that getting customers to come to them is better than the old style ‘hunt and kill’ method. Broadly speaking, an attraction based approach includes customer education and knowledge sharing. It is co-operative, trusting, interactive and more female than male in nature. It also happens to be ideal for the world wide web, which was originally conceived as a way of sharing files amongst scientists.

I know that this approach does not appeal to everyone. “Why should I share my hard won knowledge?” they say to me. “That’s fine,” I reply. “Keep all of your professional knowledge locked up in a darkened room. Lock and chain the door. Let some large, angry hounds wander around the corridors putting the fear of God into anyone who enters the building.”

What will happen? The knowledge will shrivel and die, as it needs interaction with others to flourish and grow. Mind you, you’ll have to go and bang on all of the doors in the neighbourhood to find new business. By the way, how will your neighbours know that you are so brilliant at what you do, as they can’t see your expertise?

My advice is to share a little more. If you need any more encouragement, I am sure that your competitors are already doing this.

I receive a sales enquiry every business day, based on a knowledge sharing, ‘Pull’ approach. It is enjoyable to talk to people who are interested in what I do, have a requirement and are ready to spend money.

Google likes this approach as it favours websites with extensive content, by the way.  If you move towards ‘Pull’ you will need to spend more time learning, writing and sharing which is the right thing to do in a fast moving technological society which is experiencing exponential change. If you don’t have the time, then you can always work with someone who can help. (Like me, for example).

The above was originally published within my e-newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.

Is it worth having a CRM?

Is it worth the time, trouble and expense of having and using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system?

The answer is that, yes, it is.

In my experience, it is a challenge to keep track of details and information when you are marketing and selling, as the information escalates exponentially. You end up with lists or a spreadsheet full of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people.

If you are busy and the sales leads are coming in, you need to keep track of current sales opportunities. At the same time, it is important not to ignore dormant customers and your future sales pipeline.

For example, you may ask yourself: Who else is involved in making this decision? What did they tell me six months ago? Are they on LinkedIn? Is there a direct dial telephone number for this person?

The best CRM for your enterprise is the one that you actually use.

All too often, the software can be difficult to setup and too complicated to use on a day to day basis.

Have it open at all times. Record details as you receive them*.

In an interconnected age, choose a CRM that integrates with other software applications that you use.

For example, Capsule CRM integrates properly with MailChimp and Gmail.

Once I have sent a proposal by Gmail, with one click I can add that person into Capsule. When I look at their profile in Capsule, it shows me the email and the PDF proposal – which I can open with one click. I can then add this opportunity to my sales pipeline, which means that I won’t forget about it.

The benefits of having a CRM system

Capsule CRM training

* Please bear the GDPR legislation in mind when you record and store data.

A CRM system that works with MailChimp

For several years, I have been a MailChimp trainer.  During the training sessions, I am often asked about CRM solutions that work with MailChimp. There are several options and one that I like is Capsule CRM.

Capsule is a cloud based system. You can login to it via a website browser or via their App (which is very useful). You can create a free account and experiment with it (with up to 250 contacts).

The best CRM (Customer Relationship Management system) for your business is the one that you actually use.

I have read countless stories in the marketing and business press regarding complex databases, that have cost a great deal of money,  which have failed.

Many CRMs are too complicated and take too long to learn.

You can install a CRM on your own office server and there may well be good reasons for doing this, i.e. if it integrates with your accounting / e-commerce system.

Alternatively, you can use a cloud based system. This option can be easy to implement and inexpensive to run.

MailChimp and Capsule and be linked together via an API (Application Programming Interface).

I have got to know the Capsule CRM well as we use it every day within The Marketing Compass and I offer Capsule CRM training.