The year 2020 brought us one of the most unexpected events in recent history – a global pandemic. And it’s no surprise that a worldwide event of this proportion caused major disruptions and a need for creative change to organizations in nearly every industry.
In the midst of it all, Culture Pilot developed a virtual course to help think through marketing methods and challenges that are crucial for unexpected global change and forward-thinking communication strategies that are perpetually relevant. Here, we'll touch on some of those important, high-level topics.
In PART 1 of this series, we look at current Customers and approaches to new opportunities. PART 2 focuses on looking inward at our current business and marketing opportunities, and PART 3 brings it all together with a brief look at helpful tools, where to begin, and how to prepare for our digital marketing campaigns.
Let’s dive in.
One of the most important opportunities for any existing business is keeping close, positive relations with current customers. Our current customers are our most valuable asset.
Oftentimes we get so caught up on new business development that we let existing customers be forgotten or taken for granted. When we let our customers grow stale or unattended, it can easily feel salesy or inauthentic when it comes time for us to begin marketing to them again.
Our current customers create the sentiment of our business. And they do this with or without us, so it’s important we consider any potential ways to influence a positive sentiment about our brand.
In many industries, especially in an era when customer reviews are at the forefront of reputation management, we count on new business referrals from our existing customers, whether it’s by direct referral or strangers reading reviews.
It’s a responsibility of any business to stay at the forefront of our existing customers’ minds. If and when the time comes they’re asked for advice, if that advice pertains to our industry, we want to be top of mind when they refer new business.
One of the best practices we can get into regularly, even if just a few times a year, is checking in on our customers. It can be as simple as a thank you card if they’re a recent customer. We can’t underestimate the power of a hand written card. It’s a small and easy gesture that creates a human connection between a company and its customers.
Ideally an unexpected note comes in the form of a short, custom message that is individually written to provide a personal experience. It’s not always easy to create a custom message for customers, especially for larger organizations, so one suggestion is to narrow to who’s deemed as most valuable for growth.
We take a look at our CRM and generate a list of all current customers. For small business or those without a CRM, create a simple spreadsheet. Our goal here is to make a list that we can Categorize and Prioritize based on VALUE.
Value might be defined as cash flow and income, it could be spending power, the size of their extended network or power of influence. However this value is defined, we’ll create a column header in our spreadsheet or CRM that represents it.
One of our intrinsic values at Culture Pilot is the length of time someone has been a customer. They may not have been a high source of revenue this year, but if we’ve been working with them for 15+ years, chances are they’ve referred us additional business over that time as well. Whatever the value structure, ensure each customer is assigned a value. Give them a 1, 2, or 3 to represent the value (low to high).
Sort the customer list from most valuable to least valuable. Then we begin at the top of the list, and think about what kind of personal messaging to send. As simple as a “Hi, how are you doing? I saw something that reminded me of you.” – This simple gesture reinforces that they matter. They are on our mind. They are important.
We’re not here to sell, we’re indirectly reminding customers we actually care. They are more than just our bottom line.
Whatever the messaging, we make it as meaningful and non-salesy as possible. Why not ask for a sale? Because they already know who we are and what we do. We’re just planting a seed. We’re sending ourselves back to the front-of-mind. Imagine if we’d been doing this consistently for the past 20 years?
For fortune businesses, software companies, or anyone that may not have much in the form of individual relationships, we consider digital communications (eg: an email blast). We personalize by first name, company name, or the most logical variables in the message, and we send to our top valued customers.
Remember, our inboxes are inundated ALL THE TIME. It’s critical that the messaging is as personal as possible, and more importantly, we make it short and sweet. Who has time to read emails that aren’t of interest? This is not about the direct sale, it’s about the long game. Staying at the front-of-mind.
It’s not a difficult method, it’s about taking the resources we already have, and then putting in the work.
Personal notes are the simplest form of brand awareness for those who ALREADY value our company through historic relationships.
For a younger business without a long list of historic customers, what can we do? It’s time to think about the personal relationships and those not necessarily considered business contacts. But not so distant that we’re uncomfortable sending a personal note from time to time.
When we’ve created a value structure for existing relationships, what comes next?
Step 1: Make a list of everyone we know.
Not just customers or business relationships. We like to think of this exercise as creating our own internal social network. This is usually performed on an individual basis but it can also be completed as a team that shares contacts.
Step 2: Add new columns to your CRM or spreadsheet with more details for all contacts, such as:
We’re expanding beyond what we consider “customers” and fully utilizing the power of our network. This applies to nearly everyone we know or anyone in our somewhat regular line of sight.
Step 3: Stay Current and Communicate
We now have a substantial database that we can communicate with based on any category we prefer. This an opportunity to share a recent articles of interest, podcast recommendations, birthday wishes, or anything of relevance that keeps us relevant and in touch.
Someone need a recommendation for a dentist? A geophysicist? A piano instructor? An engineer? Chances are we may know someone that fits the bill. With an accessible and searchable list of contacts, we can begin to weave these connections together as time goes on. Then in the future, we’re positioned as the person or the organization who is front of mind when the needs come for our specialties.
We’re becoming a conduit to necessary resources. We have a list of data points to create more personalized content. The final step is to keep this list handy at all times and keep it up to date. Add more contacts and notes as they become available, and be conscious of these powerful connections when opportunities arise.
It’s not a difficult task. It just takes thoughtfulness and consistency.
A very special shout out is due to Judy Robinett, author of How To Be A Power Connector. Much of this process is foundationally based on Judy's teachings and is, from our standpoint, highly recommended reading.
Ready for more?
Part 2 of this series will take a look at our business and how to open up additional marketing opportunities. Stay tuned.