Friday, January 29, 2010
Selling value & creating preference in a commodity business
I was asked recently how to successfully sell value in a commodity business. When your product or service is virtually identical to what is available elsewhere, how do you create differentiation, preference, value and market share acceleration?
It’s not easy, but there are ways. Here are five to start:
Service: How well you treat your customers can make a big difference, especially if you want to be a premium-priced commodity seller. Customers who don’t value service will always buy on price, and if you want to be the low-cost leader, that’s fine too. But if you want to sell value with a commodity, provide excellent, remarkable service at every level and every interaction with your customers and prospects.
Trust: What’s your reputation? What are you known for? Do customers trust you, and why? Know what your customers value, and establish a tight bond between those values and the trust you create and strengthen in the way you do business, every day.
The Little Things: There are countless ways to do little, remarkable things for your customers. Unexpected things that make you stand out, thoughtful gestures that show you’re different, and that you care. Real estate agents who bring new buyers a pizza or sandwiches on moving day, that’s special. Auto dealerships that offer free car wash service for life. Things like that can be huge for differentiation and preference, not to mention word-of-mouth for your business to new prospective customers.
A Consultative Approach to Selling: Are you just selling the commodity, or are you providing additional value in the sale? Are you teaching customers more about the industry they work in, the environment in which they need that commodity. Are you helping them be more successful in the process of buying? Provide that kind of value-added service as part of the sale, and you’re creating immediate value & differentiation.
Results: A commodity market doesn’t necessarily mean that every option is the same, and will deliver the same results. How are you able to transcend what you’re selling, and deliver differentiation and value in how that commodity impacts your customers? Is the end-result better through you? How? And how effectively can you communicate that results-based differentiation? Let your happy customers tell that story for you. Use their enthusiasm and success in the market to drive preference and value.
Questions to ask on the last selling day of the month
- Are you satisfied with your results this month?
- What was the most important factor in your success?
- If you could start the month again, what would you do differently?
- What one thing has kept you from having a better month?
- What will you do differently next month to ensure greater success?
- What tools do you need from others (managers, marketing, etc.) to be more successful?
- What specific, tactical commitments can you make today, and hold yourself accountable for each day next month, to be more successful?
- It's the last selling day of next month. Looking back, what will be the key factors that led to your success?
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Lead generation modeling made simple
- How many opportunities are required to get a sale?
- How many leads do you need to create a new opportunity?
Let's leave out sales cycle length for now, to keep things simple. Let's just look at leads-to-opportunities-to-sales.
To build the model, you need a handful of inputs:
- Average sales price of a closed deal
- % of leads that turn into a new sales opportunity
- % of new sales opportunities that convert into a sale
- Average cost per lead
If you don't know these figures explicitly, come up with a reasonable but somewhat conservative guess. With this input, you can build a model telling you:
- How many leads you need
- How many sales will result (and with what bookings output)
- How much those sales will cost via a paid lead generation campaign
And with that model, if the inputs are isolated and the lead/opportunity/sales figures are calculated with simple formulas, you can make adjustments to the inputs to see what the sales and/or revenue impact would be if you:
- Generated more leads
- Increased the average sales price
- Increased the % of leads you can close
- Increased the % of opportunities you can close
Five tips for accelerating donor frequency and pass-along at non-profits
In any business, your most effective, leveraged marketing is via your existing customers. Of course, the best marketing is a fantastic product. If they love what you do, they’ll naturally want more, and are more likely to tell their friends.
But even happy customers often need a nudge or reminder to do one or both of these things. In the nonprofit world specifically, there are several easy things organizations can do to accelerate visibility, satisfaction, frequency and referrals from existing donors. Here are a few:
Thank you notes: Most nonprofits sent the obligatory donation receipt, usually coupled with another request for money. That’s fine, but what if you separated the two? What if the thank you note was hand-written – by a member of the staff, or even by someone who was personally & directly impacted by the donation? Imagine what impact that would have. Not at all unreasonable to ask everyone on staff to spend just 10-15 minutes a day writing thank-you notes to donors.
Success stories: Donors may like your organization or cause, but they’d really like to hear what you’ve specifically done with the money. Where did it go? What effort did it support? Whose life did it help change? You can tell that story in your thank you note, or it could come directly from a recipient of that support from your organization. What if, for example, a recipient of your support recorded a quick thank you video explaining what they received and what impact it had. That video would be on your Web site, in newsletters, shared via your social media channels, etc.
Facebook fan pages: Most nonprofits have these by now. But how are you using it? What information are you sharing? Too often, these pages feature information about new donor campaigns, upcoming events, and other operational and donation-specific detail. Interesting, but not nearly as powerful and actionable as examples of your work in the field. Stories of success. Focusing on the impact and end-result of the organization’s efforts. It’s this information that motivates others, encourages your current donors to involve their friends in a cause that’s delivering results.
Sponsor for the year: Assign each donor to a specific program, or funding recipient, or whatever makes sense for your organization and cause. Throughout the year, send updates on progress. What’s happening in their lives, how it’s being affected month to month by the organization’s work and the donor’s specific participation. Help your donors feel like they have a relationship not just with you, but with the people they’re impacting.
Sharing with their communities: You’d think that people would automatically share what they’re passionate about with others. But unless prompted, most people don’t do it. It’s not that they don’t want to – they’re just incredibly busy with everything else in their lives. After sharing the above information and inspiration with your current donors, encourage them to spread the word. Give them link and pre-written content for various sharing channels – Facebook, Twitter, email. Make it one-click easy for them to engage their community and share their passion, energy and satisfaction for what you’re doing to help others.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Three critical rules for running your business
- QuickBooks is mission critical
- Cash flow is king
- Marketing is a must
- Watch your costs religiously
- Manage to cash
- Invest in sales & marketing to grow
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Key to closing business? Focus on what you can control
You can’t control your prospect’s budget. You can’t control their recent reorg. You can’t control what your competitor is going to say, or do, or offer.
You can’t control the economy, or the weather, or your prospect’s busy schedule.
But you can control how many prospects you talk to. You can control how well you address their specific needs and pain points in the presentation. You can control the timing, the frequency, the efficacy of your communication with prospects.
You can’t control the timeline your buyers follow, but you can control the sense of urgency and scarcity communicated to that same prospect.
You can control your sales process, and how well you set expectations and committed next steps both for yourself and from your customers.
Whether you’re in a marketing or a sales role, there’s plenty you can’t control. Don’t fall into the trap of using those things as an excuse or crutch. Focus on what you can control, and manage those opportunities actively to get the results you want.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Making a case for innovation in the absence of proof
How do you prove something that hasn't happened yet?
That's the challenge facing innovative ideas inside many companies. Innovation, by definition, is a leap into the unknown. But for organizations that increasingly look to past history/results and data to determine future steps, quantifying the likely success and/or risk with an innovative idea can be tricky.
Or, as Roger Martin and Jennifer Riel put it in their recent Business Week column, "Innovation is killed with the two deadlies words in business: Prove it."
"We use existing information to understand the issue at play. But for breakthroughs, there is no rule or pool of past data to provide certainty. So when a CEO demands evidence that an idea will succeed, he is driving innovation away."
Martin and Reil ultimately recommend innovators use pieces of past history, results, research and logic to stitch together a case for innovation based not on direct past evidence, but clues to a likely outcome. They call it abductive logic, the logic of what could be. It's still a leap, but for organizations dedicated to innovation, it's necessary. The full Business Week column is worth a read, but their parting shot is particularly good:
"Asking what could be true - and jumping into the unknown - is critical to innovation. Nurturing the ideas that result, rather than killing them, can be the tricky part. But once a company clears this hurdle, it can leverage its efforts to produce the proof that leaders depend on to make commitments - and turn the future into fact."
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Are you selling or enabling? Adding value beyond the sale
Do you sell what you do? Or do you sell what your customers will do?
Do you sell what your product does? Or do you sell what it's going to do for your customers?
Those are different things, of course.
Do you sell what the product looks like today? Or do you sell what your customer's business will look like after using that product?
Finally, do you sell what you sell and that's all? Or do you also help your customers to be as successful as possible with what you're selling?
Actively teach your customers how to get more value, drive more results, see greater success with your product? Use this approach - which starts well before customers buy - to become not just a seller but a trusted partner to your customers.
It's the essence of solutions-based selling, and it keeps going well after the purchase agreements are complete. This quote from Dunlop Tires CIO Dennis Courtney sums it up well:
“The products that a supplier offers are only a small part of the equation. Generally we could get what we need from several places, so it’s not unique. These suppliers who try to sell the product - who try to show us their stuff is better - are missing the point. What we’re looking for goes beyond the product. We’re looking for business understanding, we’re looking for whether they can adapt to our special needs or whether they can advise and help us. We want their salespeople to add something worthwhile on their own account.”
When you sell, are you adding value before and beyond the sale?
Friday, January 15, 2010
Hot stove baseball marketing ideas
This is also a great time to engage fans early, get them thinking about the season ahead, and use those engagement opportunities to increase individual, group, corporate and luxury box advance sales.
Below are several ideas for brightening the days of baseball fans in your market. Some of these are more geared towards major league teams, others for the minors, some equally for both.
- Give fans access to newly-signed players via a live chat. Could be done strictly online, via a call-in line, or via a video feed (or combination of 2-3 of these)
- Add dedicated webcams to your spring training facility. Let fans catch a few minutes of practice as early as February with cameras trained on practice fields, pitcher's mounds, dugouts, etc.
- Find players, coaches or general managers who are willing to tweet this season, and get them started now. Most of them are getting ready for the season already anyway. That direct window will be highly compelling to fans.
- When the season starts, add a batting-practice cam to your home field. Great way to let more fans peek in on early practice before gametime. This could also include the under-the-stands batting cages.
- Create a season ticket referral program. Encourage current season tickets to add their friends. For every new season ticket holder referred, maybe they get 10% off their own tickets for this year (either as a rebate or credit towards next year's tickets)
- Create a fan "insider" program where news, insights, player tidbits, etc. are shared exclusively with fans via your Facebook fan page and/or Twitter account. Great way to widen your regular fan base into the social media world.
- Develop immediate cross-promotional events with local basketball and/or hockey teams (pros, college, high school - doesn't matter). Bring in players, the team mascot, and add special event-only ticket purchase specials for the season ahead.
- Launch sports bar trivia nights. Make it a rotating event for the next few weeks, at a different sports bar each week.
- So many sweepstakes and promotional ideas. In exchange for joining your email list, or Facebook page, or Twitter followers, you could give away: shagging balls in the outfield before an early-season or spring training game, manage a split-squad spring training game (would be great for PR too!), take a bus ride on a spring training road trip, or more.
- It's summer in January! Let fans come out to the ballpark, play in the snow in the outfield. Let first responders (police vs fire) play a softball game on the field - in the snow...
- Let local high school teams conduct a practice in February in your ballpark. Allow their family and friends to come and watch, open concessions, sell advance tickets for the upcoming season...
- Host a sports card and/or memorabilia show at the stadium in the concourse area. Invite all fans to bring their stuff for a "baseball swap meet"
- Host a "biggest team fan" contest in the local elementary schools; there's a winner at every school, with winners recognized on field at an early season game.
The innovators within and around us
I’m constantly blown away by the brilliant, innovative ideas around us. It’s a shame that so very few of those ideas see the light of day.
Brilliant people with innovative ideas are everywhere, but most of their ideas get caught in one of three traps:
Fear/Risk: Innovative ideas are inherently risky. They buck trends, go against the status quo. The risk of failure is quite high. It’s why most people keep their day jobs and merely dream about their ideas vs. taking action on them. Oftentimes this is born out of income risk. I can’t quit my day job to give this a shot – if it fails, my income and family suffers. Or it could be the risk of ruining your reputation. Try something innovative at work, and if it fails that may damage your success record. Or your promotion. Or raise. This is why so many great ideas, innovations and start-ups are born in a recession. Individuals with great ideas lose their secure jobs, so the risk of starting or trying something totally different goes down significantly.
Rejection: Because innovative ideas aren't what people expect, they get rejected easily. If you raise an innovative idea in a big company, it's likely to get squashed. If you run a new idea by someone who's embedded in the status quo, they won't understand what you're saying. Worse, they'll tell you it will never work. Innovators get rejected - a lot - but for many would-be innovators, that rejection is too much to overcome. Either they can't move forward in their existing organization, or become convinced that the nay-sayers are right. That's a travesty.
Bandwidth: Who has time for new ideas anyway? You woke up this morning with too much to do as it is - current projects, current deadlines, current initiatives. We then go home to family, kids, chores and a thousand things pulling at our time. Innovations usually start in someone's spare time, but finding that time can itself be a significant challenge. If you get laid off, and suddenly have a plethora of time, the bandwidth limiter is eliminated. But for the rest of us, finding time to triage and pursue our new ideas can often ben an insurmountable challenge.
For every entrepeneur, no matter how confident or determined, these hurdles exist. For the majority of individuals with great ideas, these hurdles can in fact be crippling.
But there are equal but opposite attributes that successful innovators have that anyone can learn and/or adopt. These include courage, tenacity, passion, organization and thick skin. But perhaps most important is conviction. Conviction that you're onto something, that you're right, conviction that it doesn’t matter if others can't see it, if it's risky, or if it takes a few extra hours in the evening and weekends to tinker with it.
There are innovators within all of us. Everyone has these amazing ideas - be they recurring or fleeting - that can create massive change, efficiency and betterment in the world around us - at a micro and macro level, and everywhere in between.
Perhaps part of the solution isn't to convert innovators into entrepreneurs, but to create a better channel of innovative ideas into the hands of those with the time, courage and tenacity to make them happen. Make the idea exchange easy, but with all the right attribution and financial rewards available to the originator.
Your neighbor has an idea that could change the world, but isn't doing anything about it. How do we change that?
Business opportunity & responsibility in the face of disaster
The opportunity you have as a business is to immediately rally your customers, prospects, industry, employees, shareholders and more to do what they can to help. Often that means inspiring their direct and/or financial help. It can occasionally mean just letting them talk, and work through what they've seen, felt or experienced.
It's the right thing to do. Yes, it has the possibility of bringing those groups together aligned with you in a way that can have lasting business impact. But that's not the point.
Here are a few suggestions for how you can use your business resources and leverage to have an immediate and lasting effect for others.
- Rally Your Customers: After a disaster, there are often countless organizations asking for your donations to help. It can be difficult to determine which are credible, which you can trust, and which will deliver the most immediate help to those in need. If your customers already trust you, use that trust to help direct their efforts in a way that can have the most impact. Do the research for them to find the most impactful relief organizations, and give your customers a direct, easy and collective way to help.
- Help Your Customers: Depending on the nature and location of the disaster, you may have customers directly impacted. What can your business do to help those individuals directly? What do they need that other customers could help with, your employees could help with, or your business directly can support?
- Rally Your Employees: By all means, get your employees involved as well. Help them aggregate financial support for relief efforts, and if possible (and appropriate) give them ways to also contribute directly with their time, labor and talents.
- Allow Time & Forums for Sharing: Disasters - even half a world away - can be intensely personal. They can shatter our confidence, sense of safety and accelerate our perceived vulnerability. Give your customers the time & space to talk, share, vent, cry, and support each other. Generally business-focused discussion forums might take a left turn for a few days. Let it happen, and if your employee contribute to the conversation, do it only as a fellow vulnerable human being, not as a company representative.
- Help with Preparation & Prevention: In the aftermath of disasters, questions about future preparation and prevention always come up. How could we have prevented this? How do we prepare if it happens again? How do I prepare myself, my family, my business? Help your customers and employees answer these questions. Do so in a way that helps them directly, but also gives them an opportunity to help others (those around them and those directly affected currently) do the same thing.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
How I take, process & archive notes
This is what works for me, at least. It helps me capture everything I need, quickly identify action items, store everything for quick retrieval anywhere I am, and keep my mind clear for what’s next.
I use a legal note pad for taking notes. Letter-sized paper, as it’s tucked into my leather folio. Tears from the top. Every meeting or “event” (brainstorm, discussion, etc.) gets its own piece of paper. At the top is the date, client name and meeting/discussion topic.
I then take notes, draw diagrams, note action items during the meeting or conversation. Action items get a square box next to them, so I can quickly find them later. I’ll use the front and back of the page, as my scanner works both sides (we’ll get to that later).
When I’m done with that meeting or brainstorm, the paper is torn out of the pad and added to the folder on the left-hand side of the folio for processing later. There are likely plenty of action items on that page, but 90% don’t need to be done right away. As long as I know I’ll have a chance to process those notes within 24 hours or so, I don’t worry about it. Clear pad, clear mind, onto what’s next.
When I have time to process my notes, I take one page at a time and scan for action items. Every action items requires one of three next steps – Do, Delegate or Defer. If it’s a task that can be done in two minutes or less, I do it right then and there. If it’s something for someone else, I delegate it and notate that either in the appropriate CRM system or in my own “waiting for” file. If it’s a longer task that I own, I put that on my to-do list with a due date if necessary. My to-do list is sorted by context (@home, @computer, @office), so I only look at and think about that task again when I’m somewhere it can actually get done.
When I’m done processing those notes, the page gets scanned with my Fujitsu ScanSnap. This creates a two-sided PDF of the note. I add that file to an archive of scanned notes on my office machine but also via Dropbox. These folders are sorted by client or subject, and the note file name itself is the date plus the general discussion topic. I save it with a year-month-date format so that, in the folder, everything appears in perfect chronological order.
The beauty of Dropbox, then, is that it mirrors this database across all of my other machines. Office desktop, two laptops, and iPhone all have the exact same file access. On the laptops, it’s a completely mirrored file system so that I can access anything offline as well.
This may sound geeky, and it probably is. But if you’re like me, your day is filled with information and input. Some of it relevant, some of it requiring further thought or action. Without a good way to record and process that information, there’s no way I could 1) stay on top of everything, and 2) keep my mind clear enough to be productive for the next conversation or topic at hand.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
It's not about social media, it's about community
Before social media, it was still important to engage communities of relevant customers and prospects. It was still being done by marketers, brands and individuals every day.
Before Facebook and Twitter, people were still getting together to discuss topics they care about. They were creating & participating in clubs, trade associations, user groups. They still found a way to congregate, share ideas, make recommendations of products and services to their peers.
Before YouTube and blogging, individuals and organizations still prioritized getting themselves and their ideas in front of large, relevant groups of like-minded people. They still found ways to dynamically present their ideas in a way that engages primary listeners/recipients, and encouraged them to share the idea with others.
Social media isn’t about the technology and tools. Social media isn’t new. It’s all about community. It’s about engaging that community, becoming a trusted member and contributor. It’s about using the community to create awareness, leadership and intent.
Your customers and prospects may be on Twitter and Facebook, but they still live and participate in communities in the physical world every day.
If you want to build trust, awareness and engagement, think in terms of community, not technology.
Recognizing and honoring first responders
It's a great event, and they wanted to know how they might be able to make it even bigger. Below are a few of our ideas for them.
Even if you don't run a baseball team, there's opportunity here for your organization - to honor those in your community, bring that community together under the umbrella of your brand, and set up immediate and future revenue opportunity all at the same time.
- Get civic/community organizations to purchase tickets to be given to first responders and their families to attend the game. Consider including some type of discount as part of this effort (buy four tickets, get the fifth free)
- Charity element for families of fallen first responders (buy five tickets, a % goes to fallen families fund)
- Work with local radio stations to have a “first responder” contest in honor of the first responders night. Listeners would be told to be the first responders (first to call in) to answer questions concerning first responder issues. Winners would get tickets to the game.
- Have a pre-game hitting contest (or some kind of baseball skills contest) with representatives from first responder organizations participating. Police vs. Fire softball game?
- Get first responder organizations to have displays at the game that deal with safety issues (like fire truck/fire safety)
- Create a contest where fans nominate a first-responder hero. Have them indicate who & why. Could be run via a PR campaigns, through media partners, etc. Winners would be announced at the game, and/or featured in the parade, etc.
- Host a school essay contest via the local elementary schools. Have them write about why first-responders are important. Pick a winner at each school, feature them in the parade or at the game.
- Identify those who have been personally affected or helped by first responders in the market, encourage them to buy game tickets and/or game packages as a thank you to the responders
- 50/50 raffle at the game (and at the parade) to support a Fallen Heroes fund
- Have First Responders selling concessions at the game as a charity (i.e. a % of proceeds go to the Fallen Heros fund)
- Get corporate sponsors to buy tickets for first responders and their families as part of a sponsorship package for the night
- Create large community "thank you" cards to be signed at various public places (library, city hall, etc.). Have community members sign the card, plus have messaging there to encourage them to attend the First Responder night to thank the responders in person
Saturday, January 09, 2010
The three things you must know before any marketing campaign
But before we can be smart about helping new clients drive sales and revenue from these tactics, we have to take a quick step back and ensure three things are understood and put into perspective:
Your Customers: Who are they? What are their core needs, objectives, pain points? What gest them fired up in the morning, and what keeps them up at night? What (and who) influences and motivates them?
The more you understand your customer, the better your marketing will be. And frankly, if you don't know your customer well, I'm not sure how you can put a successful product into play in the first place.
Don't feel like you know enough about your customers? Just ask! Take a list of customers and call them. Don't pitch them, but ask them about their business, their needs, their pain. You'll learn a ton.
Your front-line employees are hearing from customers every day. Your customer service reps, sales team, account managers - they all are a wealth of knowledge about your customers if you're willing to ask and listen.
Your Products: What you're selling needs to closely align with the needs of your customers. It needs to clearly fill a need, solve a problem, or provide a benefit that can be easily communicated.
Too many companies describe their products to customers by explaining features. That's a mistake, especially at the front of the conversation and sales cycle. To gain the customer's attention, you have to speak in terms of benefits. Don't talk about the how and what. Address the why.
And when building and updating products, ensure that the customer's voice is closeby throughout. Product plans and specs are often build directly from customer feedback, but that customer closeness can get lost as decisions are made to get the product launched. Don't that happen on your watch.
Your Objectives: Even if you understand your customers well, and have a product that directly aligns with the customer's needs, there are a million ways to take that message to market. There are countless customer segments, marketing channels, and likely several different product and/or service lines on which you can focus.
Which are most important? What combination will most directly lead to success for your organization this year? If you've defined goals for the organization, and broken that down to a handful of focus areas or "bets" in the marketplace, that gives your marketing the direction it needs to focus on the right customers, the right channels, and the right products.
Now you have clear direction from your customers, your products and your organizational objectives. Doesn't that make marketing execution easier, and much more likely to succeed?
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
How to achieve a frictionless sale every time
If you know your audience well, accurately qualify new sales opportunities, and follow a sales process that mirrors how your customers want to buy, every sale should be frictionless.
Doesn’t mean there won’t be objections to overcome, hard questions to answer, or negotiations over price and terms. Those aren’t going anywhere.
But if you’re meeting a market need, the right buyers for your business want what you’re selling. They may even need it. It’s critical to them achieving their own goals, objectives and/or success.
In that context, selling is never convincing. It’s not pushy, high-pressure or aggressive. You communicate value, connect on benefits, and let the buyer buy.
Is Twitter a better drip marketing tool than email?
It all still depends on whether your customers are using Twitter, but let’s assume that they are.
Let’s do the math.
You have 2,000 subscribers to your email newsletter. It goes out once a month, gets a 20% open rate, and 20% of those opens click on something. That’s a 4% clickthrough rate, reasonable to expect if the list is mostly opt-in and your content is relevant to the audience.
That means every month, 400 people saw your email and 80 of them read something.
Let’s say you have 2,000 followers on Twitter. I have just over that as I write this, and get 14-16 clicks, on average, for each tweeted link. That’s a 0.8% clickthrough rate. And perhaps 5X of that number have read the tweet but don’t click (same ratio as email), so 3.2% of followers at least see the Tweet.
But the newsletter only goes out once a month. You tweet every day.
Let’s assume you tweet just once per day for 21 business days a month. Sixteen clicks per tweet becomes 336 clicks, or a 16.8% clickthrough rate across the month.
Clearly there’s overlap between tweets and clicks. But I doubt it’s a 4X overlap vs. email. Even if your newsletter goes out twice a month, Twitter gives you more impressions and clickthrough. And that assumes only one tweet per day, and only on weekdays.
So which is more valuable as a drip marketing tool for your business? Do you agree or disagree with the math?
Perhaps more important, what’s your experience been if you’re actively using both channels to engage customers, prospects, partners or other audiences?
How to find your customers and prospects on Twitter
A friend asked me this the other day, so I thought it was worth posting my answer here as well.
A good way to do this with prospects or an industry in general is to think about the keywords they would likely include in their Twitter bio. Then use one of a number of Twitter search tools to determine which Twitter users have those keywords in their current bios. It's not exact, but gives you a ballpark.
For example, if you're targeting contractors and home services professionals, search for Twitter users using keywords such as "landscaping", "remodeler", "home stager", and the like. You probably already have a sense for the overall universe of said practitioners in a given market, so this can give you a rough ballpark of prospective customer penetration on Twitter.
Easiest way to do the same with current customers you have is to ask them! If you have customer service reps or account managers, have them ask the question at the end of inbound calls. Ask for it on registration forms for upcoming customer events. Or if you want to be more aggressive, include a pop-up or other request form when they next log in or visit your Web site.
Give some examples of the kind of value-added content you tweet about so they're more driven to sign up. Your customers will want you to follow them too, so they'll be happy to pass along their Twitter account name.
Monday, January 04, 2010
Communication Strategies for Banks in Transition
These are turbulent times. Even though the economy seems to be rebounding, banking and finance businesses are still not running at their typical pace. It’s an environment ripe for change. If you are rebranding, opening new markets or party to an acquisition or merger, your communication strategy can make all the difference in not only maintaining your customer relationships through the change but also set up for long term growth and success.
The goal of any communication strategy at this time should be to reassure and build trust in the new bank in order to protect the existing customer base. This is especially true when a bank gets taken over by the FDIC. In this situation, customers have already started withdrawing their money. And those customers that remain are a high attrition risk. The communication tactics listed below are all easy to execute at a low-cost. They need to happen immediately after the bank changes ownership. Time is of the essence.
- Send each customer a formal letter signed by both the out-going bank president as well as the new bank president explaining the transition and introducing customers to new bank branch personnel. If the change is due to an FDIC take-over, the FDIC will also send a form letter. However, this letter is typically not customer-friendly. Rather, it is legal speak and can be perceived by customers as confusing and harsh.
- There will be operational questions from customers about getting new checks/debit cards, etc. These changes should be listed out very clearly in an FAQ that is customer friendly and minimizes bank-speak. The FAQs should be available online as well as in hard copy with the letter of introduction or when customers visit the branch.
- The Branch Manager should be present and visible throughout the transition period to welcome customers who visit the branch. In an FDIC take-over situation, typically FDIC representatives will be at the bank the first few days after the take-over to explain the situation. To ensure long term success and protect the customer base, a representative from the new bank should be there as well.
- Hold an open house to welcome customers and invite discussion with customers. Serve food and beverages.
- Make available a “back-pocket” retention offer. If customers are taking their money out, arm tellers and personal bankers with a rate offer to get them to keep their deposits at the bank.
- Develop copy points for the staff so they are comfortable talking with customers about the situation. Transitions can be very complicated and confusing to the staff as well as to customers. Make sure branch staffers are is clear on how to respond to customers’ questions to minimize the potential of miscommunication and false rumors.
- Identify customers that have recently left and invite them back with a special rate offer. This could be done by call-downs or via direct mail.
- Identify top customers of the bank (highest deposits, multiple accounts, etc) and have the new branch manager personally call them to notify them of the change.
- Ensure that messaging is consistent across all marketing channels (in-branch and online). If the bank failed, their website should be redirected to the new bank’s website with a special flash page explanation of the transition, welcoming customers to the new bank. Online access to accounts should not be interrupted. Ensure that messaging is consistent across all channels.
- Make all customer-oriented transition information like FAQs available online.
- Create a special email address for customers to contact with questions and concerns. Ensure that these questions are answered in a timely manner and are consistent with other communications. Create an escalation procedure for those issues that are more complex.
- Outdoor temporary signage (sandwich boards, easels) should welcome customers with old and new logo. Lobby signage should reinforce the transition.