Keeping up meaningful communication with leads, prospects, potential and existing customers can feel like more of a challenge than finding them in the first place! OK, it’s not cold calling, but contacting them out of the blue can make you feel a little awkward, especially when you haven’t got any sort of excuse. And when I say excuse, “just checking in” doesn’t in any way qualify as a valid reason that will enhance, progress or nurture a relationship. What’s the alternative? Read on to find out...
Some of these ideas will be familiar, and start to connect the dots for regular readers of the Manufacturing Network Sales & Marketing blog. Don’t worry if you’re not, this article is packed with value all on it’s own.
6 Reasons To Get In Contact With a Previous Customer
1. Ask for content for a case study
Think about work you’ve completed for your customers, each challenge you faced represents an opportunity to sell your capability. Asking for a customer’s permission to write a quick case study and publish it on your website is a great excuse to get back in contact with a customer.
You can actually find a guide on writing case studies in 3 minutes flat on the Manufacturing Network Support Site, here’s a quick overview of the 3 part structure we think kicks ASS!
1. What happened / what did you do?
2. How did you do it?
3. What was the outcome?
If you want to read the full support article you can check it out here!
2. Ask for a testimonial
A customer testimonial could be a bit like the case study, but get the customer to write it as though they were advising a friend on doing business with you. It could be a short one-liner or a few paragraphs, the point is you’ve got a reason to call!
A great idea from John Jantsch’s book Duct Tape Marketing, is to get them to write the testimonial on their business card, you can then take that with you to show others. This affords great credibility but can also easily be translated into a testimonial on your marketing material, website or online business profiles.
3. Share an article you think they would find interesting
Maybe you read a blog post they would find interesting.This is a great reason why you should subscribe to blogs that aren’t just of your interest. If you find content that you think may be useful or of their interest, just weave it into an email, maybe share a bit of perspective or ask for commentary on the article. People like having their egos petted, asking them their opinion is a great way to engage.
This is completely in-line with the modern sales mantra “Always be helping”.
I wrote an article a little while back about subscribing to business blogs for precisely this reason. I also provided some guidance on some tools that are available to make monitoring topics and blogs that are potentially interesting to your customers.
If you’re thinking of using this method, you need to check out my previous article “Why to subscribe to a business blog even if you don’t read it”
4. Keep your ear to the ground online - watch out for their name
One of the methods I uncovered in the above article was to use google alerts and other tools to track mentions of your customers and their competitors on the web. 9 times out of 10 you’ll be able to quickly disregard the updates, but now and then you’ll spot something interesting. It might be an investment, or a strategic decision, or some commentary they had in the press.
Regardless of which type of mention it is, make them feel like they’ve got your attention, share their press coverage on social and professional networks and help them propel their business into the spotlight.
You might even think about setting up an alert for projects you or they are working on that make it into the news. With long supply chains knowing what’s going on at the furthest customer end is always useful.
If what you’re making is contributing to a new production line, an overhaul on a process plant, the building of new infrastructure, whatever it is, it will be getting talked about online. Keep an eye out for the z-list headlines.
5. Do a customer survey
Use this as a way to get in front of them again. Either physically or over the phone. For best results organise a meeting time, don’t catch them on the hoof.
This doesn’t have to be a formal list of questions, it could just be a conversation about how things are going with a little bit of structure thrown in.
6. Write an article for your customers
It could be answering a common question, It could answer a specific question or problem that the customer had during the last project. It could simply be a list of common issues and how to avoid them.
Be careful to position this correctly, make sure you don’t patronise your customer. If you know them well, then you should know what they would find useful. A buyers or purchasers guide is always a good start.
You could print the guide, and you could put it online as a lead generator for your company. Either publish on your own website or you could publish right here on Manufacturing Network’s Knowledge Base.
Value Add vs Non-Value Add Communication
These methods can be categorised broadly into value adding and non-value adding. If you’re purely extracting something from the customer, with no material gain to them, that’s non-value adding. The reason why we feel awkward about getting back in contact is not that we don’t have anything to say, it’s that we’ve got nothing “Value Adding” to say.
In every communication, an effort to add value should be made. Even if you fall short, the effort will be appreciated, your foot will be in the door, and it won’t be because “You’re just checking in”.
So when you do want that case study, make sure it’s clear what you’re customer is getting out of it. This could be shared online publicity, backlinks to their website for Search Engine Optimisation or even content for a case study of their own. You may even want to build up to the request with a few instances of value adding communication, then ask for their time.
So there are some actionable tips. Don’t shy away from using any of the methods above, and consider using a blend in the communications you have with your customers over the coming months. Let us know how you get on! Don’t forget to come back to this article and leave a comment with your success stories. Or, if you’ve tried any of these in the past just leave a comment below about your experiences and lessons we can all learn.
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