Need Customers – Fourteen Things to Do to Connect
Every organization is looking for customers. Organizations exist to address problems, provide solutions, and fulfill needs. Products, services, and technology are all about needs, wants, problems, issues, and opportunities. How we make the connection between what our organization is providing and what our market is seeking determines our level of success – revenues, profits, and cash flow, as well as fulfilling our other non-financial objectives.
So how do we connect with our markets, prospects, customers, referral sources, vendors, and other individuals and businesses that can help us grow? Here are fourteen items to keep in mind:
- Know the problem you solve or the need you fill from the prospect/customer’s perspective.
If you don’t know why the customer needs to buy, neither will the customer. What do you do to meet the customer’s need? How are you different from other providers? How does the customer make a decision to buy? Does the customer even know there is a problem or a solution?
Getting the customer means understanding the customer – from his/her/their perspective. It isn’t about creating a product, service, or technology because it is what YOU want to do. It is about creating and delivering something which will do something for the CUSTOMER.
It is about them first and foremost. Then it is about what you know and can do for them.
- Know the who, what, when, where, etc. of the various potential markets you can pursue.
Not all markets and opportunities are created equal. Not every prospect is a qualified prospect – meaning that some prospects may meet some of your market criteria, but they lack others. They may have the desire to buy a $100,000 sports car with all the extras, but they can afford only the $15,000 compact with the basics.
A prospect may be able to pay the $100,000 price tag for a piece of equipment but not need to buy the newest, latest, and greatest technology. They already have one they know and trust – and it still works. Thank you very much, but no thanks.
Who are potential qualified prospects? What are they looking for? When do they look? Where do they shop? Why do they buy? How long does it take them to decide to buy? How price sensitive are they? The list goes on and on. Know the difference between “the market members” – everyone in a particular market segment — and those who are true prospects.
- Decide which market is your prime target.
You may have a product which is “universal” in its adaptability. You don’t have unlimited resources to reach the universe, however. Identify a smaller subset and focus on capturing that market. Find one part of the market on which you can concentrate your resources and go for it! This is how you prove your “universal” appeal. This doesn’t mean those not in that target market won’t hear about you and buy, what it does mean is that your resources are deployed to the most effect and you can expand with the revenues, profits, and cashflow generated from your initial success.
- Hone your message on how you will solve the problem or fulfill the need based on what they need to know – not what you want to tell them
Do you buy products, services, or technology with no information? Do you randomly select where you buy your computer? Do you hire whoever walks through your door, regardless of qualification or need? Do you shop without regard to price, deals, and options? If you don’t, why should your customer?
Tell the customer the truth. Tell them what they need to know. Understand the criteria your customers use to decide to buy. Then provide them with that information.
- Plan to be consistent and persistent in reaching out to prospects and existing customers.
One time is not enough. Twice is better. On-going, consistent (and persistent) contact with your market keeps you in their mind and in their decision framework. One of the biggest mistakes companies make is to stop business development, marketing, and sales efforts just as they are making a difference. When you are generating interest and results, KEEP GOING! If you aren’t seeing any hint of results – evaluate what you are doing, make some changes and…KEEP GOING!
- Build awareness and credibility for the product and the business.
If I am buying a soft drink or a bottle of water, I probably don’t care about the stability of the business where I shop. I usually will have a wide range of purchase options on every street corner. I’ll buy where it is convenient and safe.
If I am making a purchase for my business or personal life which will have a significant impact on my financial, operational, or other aspects of my life, then it makes a difference with whom I do business. If it matters to me, it most likely matters to my customers. I don’t take it on blind faith that the computer support company who keeps my business running is reliable and knows what they are doing. I get referrals. I get references. I start with small projects and tasks to see how they do. I learn if they are on-time, solve the problems, stick to their pricing, and are people I can trust. My computers are a significant part of how I do business, so the risk is too high of going with an “unknown” for service and equipment. I need to know that the service and the company are going to be there when I need them.
What do your prospects and customers know about you? Your product? Your service? Make sure they know why to buy from YOU.
- Know where your prospects and existing customers get their information and how to reach them:
- Print media – national, regional, local, trade, etc.
- Internet – websites, ads, search engine optimization
- Email campaigns
- Events, seminars, workshops
- Conference and tradeshows
If you don’t know where they are, how are they going to find you? You don’t look for investors in the local notices for yard sales. Where are your customers located? How do they get information? When are they looking for information?
When you know where your prospects and customers are, you can be there to meet and greet them. Investing in targeted marketing – say an exhibit or a sponsorship of trade show – may be a larger “lump sum” investment, but when you know that the majority of people attending the event meet most of your criteria, then those focused dollars are a lot more effective on a per-contact return than spending less to promote to a more generalized market. You can spend $10,000 to meet 250 qualified prospects ($40 per qualified prospect). You can spend $10,000 for a print ad to be seen by a market of 10,000 people with 1% of that market meeting your qualified prospect criteria ($100 per qualified prospect). Which is more cost effective in the long run?
- Develop a marketing strategy and a cohesive plan for pursuing your primary markets.
Know who you are going after and how. Have a plan that will keep you focused and on track to evaluate return on investment and effectiveness of each phase and element of the plan. By having a plan (and a budget), you will be more likely to execute to maximize your resources and returns. With a specific strategy defined and tactics identified, you can establish timing and milestones that enable you to make contact consistently and follow-up on leads and opportunities.
- Execute the plan consistently.
Use the plan. Follow the plan. Monitor the plan. Work the plan. Today and tomorrow. Next week and next month. Adjust for results. Adapt with new information. Revise the budget. But execute the full plan. Invest the time in developing a robust plan based upon sound market research and financial capability, then follow through.
- Monitor results and adjust the plan.
- Be consistent
- Be persistent
- Be focused
- Build on successes
These last five points all relate to execution. Undoubtedly you will find some things work better than others. An ad works better in one publication than in another. The radio spot generated lots of calls but no qualified leads. The website search engine optimization generated lots of interest and lots of qualified leads. The exhibit at the national trade show connected you to a number of referral sources.
You repeat what works. You re-evaluate what doesn’t work to determine if it contributed to what works or if it didn’t help at all. You do more of what works. You eliminate what doesn’t. But you keep going!
©Copyright 2007 F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.