I’ve been working with a number of clients recently who have fully adopted my philosophy that the first thing a company needs to do to accelerate its growth is to provide ‘care and feeding’ to its current clients and fans. This has led them to initiate on-going customer contact programs, the most popular of which is rich e-mail.
This has led to a frequent topic of conversation – how often should a company ‘stay-in-touch’ with their client base. Before I answer this question, let me share a few key points.
- The goal of every interaction with clients or prospects should be to create value.
- The definition of creating value is to do something someone would be willing to pay more for.
- Value creation is binary. This means that you are either creating value or extracting it.
- You should always respect your clients and prospects attention and trust.
The simplest answer to the question of frequency lies in the four points above. Here are the questions I ask myself before I send something out: Would the people who receive this email/message/call/etc. find it valuable? Would it be something they are willing to pay for? If the answer is ‘no’ then I won’t reach out – regardless of how long it has been.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that it is okay not to be in regular contact with your client base. I re-state my previous opinion that your most important constituency (with the [exception of your employees]) is your current client base. You need to stay in regular contact with them and you must make sure that regular contact is valuable.
There is one exception to this rule. Once or twice a year, it’s okay to send out a communication that simply says ‘thank you’ and to demonstrate your appreciation. When you send out these appreciation messages, however, don’t mix them with your message or other promotional communication.
Every time you send an email (or any other communication) that is not valuable, it creates the impression that your communication is not important and reduces your perceived value. Your clients don’t go through their life thinking about you or your offerings. Think about all the email you receive on a daily or weekly basis. How much of it is valuable? What do you call the email that you don’t find valuable? Most people call it junk, and ‘junk’ is not a word I want to be associated with.
It should be no surprise that Apple’s announcement to cut prices, and their corresponding announcement to give a credit to the early buyers of the iPhone, has prompted a lot of conversation, both on- and off-line. I’ve received several questions and comments to my previous post about this. I thought one response should be shared. Here it is:
From the reader:
1) as an early iphone adopter, how did you react to the quick price cut?
2) as a marketing expert, how do you rate Apple’s refund/credit offer and communication from Jobs?
Here’s my response:
Interesting you asked.
There was a pang of disappointment when I heard the announcement, though I have to admit I wasn’t surprised. It happened a little faster than I had expected, but I knew they were either going to come out with a new model (that could do more things) or they were going to cut the price. I’m happier they cut the price.
The credit/communication from Jobs was pretty well done. I know that he got banged on for ignoring it on day 1, but the letter was written in a respectful manner. I don’t think that customers begrudge businesses doing things that are in the business’s interest – we just wanted to be treated with respect, forthrightness and honesty (and if you want to throw us a few bucks – all the better).
People are saying that the cut is teaching customers to wait for the price cut – this is advice that demonstrates a lack of understanding of what early adopters are (and remember, everything is situational, I’m not an early adopter in everything (just gadgets ), for example, I still don’t trust VOIP). Early adopters want to adopt early – we don’t care what the price is. We want it to have it. (Look, I paid $800 for my first cell phone).
Corridor Magazine just published an article about how companies are using blogging to communicate more effectively with their customers. Yours truly was focused (with a fabulous picture, see it below). It’s worth a read, check it out.
I admit it – I bought the iPhone early. I paid $599 for the 8GB model. Yesterday, as I’m sure many of you are aware, Apple announced they were cutting the price by $200. At first I was upset, but I got over it quickly. I bought the phone so that I would have it when everyone else didn’t. To me, that story was worth the $200.
There had been rumors for some time about Apple introducing a new model for the holiday season. I heard all about them from my ‘friends’ who thought I was crazy to have bought the phone. I replied, “It will be interesting to see how they handle that, if it’s true. A company like Apple,” I said, “has to honor its early adopters.”
Check out this open letter from Steve Jobs. He demonstrates respect to his loyal customers – and gives us a $100 credit. How about that, I paid more than I had to and I like Apple even more. Treat your loyal customers with respect and we’ll take care of you.
I’m sure this move ‘costs’ them a lot of money. A company with a more short sighted view of the world wouldn’t do it. I’m also sure that it will be worth every penny. This is a lesson we can all learn from.
By now, I hope you are all aware of the new blog we launched last week, The Third Wave Selling Blog. From time-to-time, I’ll reference a post from that blog if I think it’s important to the readers of this blog. I just posted one called Pain Seeking Missiles. If you have salespeople, or are one yourself, make sure you read this post. It addresses a critical flaw in traditional selling, promulgated by far too many ‘sales trainers’ and ‘consultants’.
I had a follow up visit with one of my doctors today. My 2:30 appointment became a 3:30 appointment – with me sitting in the crowded waiting room. I know, nothing new here, happens all the time. The only experience that might be worse than visiting the doctor is waiting for a delayed flight.
Why am I writing this post then? Because, sitting in the waiting room, I realized that we convict these service providers without ever considering how we’re doing. I realized that all I wanted was to be kept informed; I wanted to know that I wasn’t forgotten. I wanted to know how much longer I’d be waiting. Interestingly, I wanted to know the cause of the delay. This last one is interesting because I realize that it would have no actual impact on my experience (does knowing why there’s a delay shorten it – I think not). I realized that the whole experience was emotional – I wanted to be valued.
In my disgust for the lack of respect doctors offices pay to their patients (wouldn’t it be better if they called us clients?), I realized that I’m guilty too. While working on material for our clients, we don’t do as good a job as we should in keeping them updated, ensuring that they feel valued by us. Additionally, my accountant doesn’t do a very good job. Neither of the attorneys I work with does a particularly good job of this. My insurance company doesn’t, and the list can go on and on.
How much does it cost to keep your customers and clients informed? Nothing. Then, I realized that this is part of the problem. Rest assured, if I had made a six figure investment in this endeavor, I’d be damn sure that we excelled at it. But because I didn’t pay anything, it’s easy to overlook – and to pay attention to those things that ‘cost’ me money.
Here’s the thing – it is a six figure investment, and more. When the ‘free’ part of an experience is well executed, it’s the difference between a good experience and a great one; or a great experience and an indispensable experience – and that’s clearly worth more money than any investment I’ve ever made.
People do not want products or services – they want results. One of the biggest challenges businesses face in their go-to-market is how to identify and communicate the meaningful, compelling result they provide. The reasons companies face this problem are numerous, and I’ve written about many of them in previous articles, as well as on thefastgrowthblog.com. They range from a total lack of understanding of their customer to not having the confidence to make a compelling promise – and everything in between.
Recently I witnessed another major cause of the problem. This situation is most prevalent in a business-to-business or business-to-government environment, though it comes into play in the business-to-consumer market as well. Frequently, an offering only provides a part of the ‘total solution’ that is required to fulfill the promise a company makes to its clients or prospects. In marketing circles, this is called a ‘partial solution.’ It is rare that a company provides a true, ‘total solution’. As a result, it is critical that those companies do an exceptional job of marketing and selling their partial solution.
In a previous article, I wrote that all clients want the same thing – a remarkable client experience. I define that as giving clients what they want, when they want, how they want; preferably without having to ask for it. Clients want results; they don’t want products, services or even experiences. They don’t want to think. Unfortunately, most company’s messaging and sales strategies force prospects to do exactly that – to think about how an offering can help them and then translate what a seller is telling them into information they can act upon.
This means that as a seller, the more ‘thinking’ you can do for your clients and prospects, the simpler you can make your offering. By simplifying your offering and making it easier to understand exactly what you will do for them, you create more value for your clients. In contrast, when you make clients and prospects think about your offering, you reduce your value and ultimately commoditize yourself.
The term solution has always bothered me. Too often, solution is merely a synonym for product or service. Remember, if there is not a problem there can be no solution. People want to get rid of problems and they don’t much care how they get rid of them (so long as it is legal, ethical, affordable and preferably not fattening).
That said, solutions come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Strategically, you need to make one determination and that is whether you are a ‘total solution provider’ or a ‘partial solution provider’. Simply put:
- Total Solution Provider: Your company provides everything necessary to support the promise that you make.
- Partial Solution Provider: Your company does not provide everything necessary to support the promise that you make. Your company, therefore, relies on other components, outside of your control, to deliver your promise. To provide a ‘total solution’, your offering must interface with other offerings (from other companies) and/or functions (within your client company).
I’ve just recently published a white paper on what I call The Total Solution Ecosystem™. Readers of my ezine The INTELLIGENT GROWTH Ezine will be receiving a free copy of it. As a reader of this blog, if you’d like to receive a copy, please e-mail me your name, your e-mail and your company, and I will be happy to add you to the subscription list (you, of course, can subscribe from our site as well and receive a copy). Or you can e-mail me (email@example.com) and enter total solution in the subject line (please also type in your name and your company name).