Do you ever get that vague and uneasy feeling that you’re being an annoying pest by calling your clients too often?
There is no question that in these tough economic times it’s important to stay front and center but incessant telephone calling is not the answer. It is important to balance the nature of your contacts by doing two things.
First, mix your media. Use e-mail, direct mail, fax and dimensional mailers to get through the clutter that bombards your client’s desk. Use them to create a sense of value and worth with each and every day.
Second, mix your messages. Don’t always call or send business related materials. While special offers, sales and other company literature can create value at a business level make sure you don’t forget the personal side of the equation. Remember that people buy from people they know, like and trust. Work on these components too. In effect, you want your client to welcome the contact, not avoid it.
Here are the top 10 ways you can do just that:
1. Send a Thank You Note
Every now and then take the time to send a thank you card to your clients and let them know you don’t take their business for granted. Give it character by using generic cards that are more personal rather than a thank you card plastered with your company logo. Hand write your message AND hand write the envelop. Use a real stamp. Your effort won’t go unnoticed!
2. E-mail a Newsletter or Link
You can unobtrusively ‘touch’ your clients with your company newsletter but make certain that the newsletter has more than just company propaganda and special offers. The idea is to create value that goes beyond a transactional relationship. If you don’t have a newsletter, scan the web and look for sites or links that might be of interest to the client either on a business or personal level. (For example, if the client loves to cook, maybe you send a link to a cooking site).
3. Send/E-mail/Fax a VAA (value added article)
Scan industry magazines and tear out articles that might be pertinent to the client. Attach a Post-it Note that says something like, “Kev, I thought of you when I saw the article on distribution management. Enjoy!” Your client will be impressed that you took the time and effort. Or, if you know the client well, scan magazines that might be relevant to a hobby or passion. Show him that you listened, remembered and took the time to do something extra.
4. Fax a Contest
Laura Tribble is a tele-sales rep who faxes her clients Trivial Pursuit-like contests typically related to the holidays. For example, near the Fourth of July she faxes 20 or so questions focused on Independence Day. Laura offers a little prize (like a couple of bags of chocolates or candies) to the top five winners. Doing business with Laura is fun and customers look forward to her next contest. The proof? She often gets a 40-50% response rate. Who do you think is remembered when it is time to order?
5. Arrange for an Office Treat
For your top clients, arrange a Pizza Lunch or something similar. Call your client, tell them you’d like to ‘buy them lunch’ (even though you might be a thousand miles away) to say thanks for their business. Arrange a date and time, determine their favorite pizza place, call in the order with your credit card. Follow up shortly after the event and listen to them sing your praises. Or have a “Lunch and Learn” Session. Arrange for the pizza and then call in and use a speaker phone to provide tips and ‘how to’ information on your products or services.
6. Send a Dimensional Mailer
Some clients deserve a little something extra and memorable. Send them a book, or seasoning salt, or anything that has height, weight, scope and dimension. It might be related to work or to the season or specifically to the client. Don’t be extravagant. The point is to have clients open up a package like it was their birthday. They will be wowed by your thoughtfulness, Yes, it can get a little pricey but your top clients WILL remember the gesture and the equity in you as a vendor will soar. (P.S., Resist the urge to send promotional products with your company logo. They’re ‘okay’ but they don’t leave much of an impression. Send something different that reflects you or your client).
7. Send a Postcard or a Greeting Card by Mail
Every now and then send a greeting card to your client. It might be holiday or sports related, or maybe an inspirational quote. Cards are different because create curiosity: ‘Hey, who sent ME a card?’ They get opened and remembered. They even pin them up at their desks. Check the internet for companies that allow you to send cards via the web that look and feel like they were hand written. They even include real stamps.
8. Make a Non-Sales Phone Call
Every now and then call your client and talk about anything but business. If you have something in common – e.g., the two of you are Florida Gator Fans or you both watch “Dancing with the Stars”- use it as a pre-text to call. Again, do NOT discuss business. Keep the call short. Have some fun or lament about a bad call, and then leave it at that. The idea is to show the client t that he relationship is more than the sum of their transactions. (P.S., Leave a fun voice mail message relating your common interest if you can’t reach the client. E-mails work too.)
9. E-mail a Greeting Card
You can also e-mail a greeting card that has ‘look’ and the feel of a handwritten card. There are a few internet based companies that makes the whole effort fast and easy by providing a huge on-line selection of cards that you can customize and send out as quickly as you can click. Check them out.
10. Use a Combination of 4
It is important that you use at least four of these techniques in combination and never get dependent on a single tactic. Using four or more of these contacts ensures that your effort gets through all the “crap” that is vying for your client’s attention. In addition, stick with the program. One or two touches are simply not enough. Staying in touch, building value and creating a relationship is a journey, not a destination. For your top clients, never let more than 3-4 weeks go by without some sort of friendly touch over and above your regular business calls. Your “B” clients should be touched about every 6-8 weeks over above business calls.
Staying in touch without being a pest requires time and effort but the rewards are considerable. Your efforts will typically translate into more loyal customers and bigger sales. Take the time and effort to add this strategy to your regular calls.