We have all heard the old adage “it is easier to keep a current customer than to find a new one”. I was reflecting on that this week due to two experiences that we have had in the past year.
First of all, in compliance with my to-do list, I was following up with a past client who had indicated that they were making some changes in the spring. Her comment struck home when I called and she replied, “I’m so glad you called. You were on my list to call but I have been so busy with…” That says it all. As business owners wearing our sales hats we don’t like to pester other business owners. We know how busy they are and how much we all resent interruptions. But good customer service is all about listening with the intent to understand. By listening well during conversations, we can understand the current and potential situations that make up our clients’ world. We can make notes to call them at a future date and if we have gained their trust in our past transactions with them (see our April 7 post), then those future sales calls will be productive.
Conversely, let’s use the marketing firm that we used last year as a poor example of following up. Last year we hired a local marketing firm to help us with our PR. Our marketing plans were on track except we realized that we were hesitating when it came to our PR and so, as we would advise our clients, we outsourced what we were clearly not good at. That firm proposed a more comprehensive marketing program than we were able to commit to last year, but we explained our situation and settled on the PR work that we wanted as well as some website SEO. The PR firm did get an article published on our business in 2 area papers, but did not accomplish everything that was on the PR plan that they had laid out which included TV spots, radio interviews, and more. Perhaps that is the nature of PR. I don’t know as they did not follow up with us to review their progress.
What I do know is that once our budgeted dollar amount was spent last October, we never heard from them again! No phone call to find out if we were now in a position to address some of the other areas that they had recommended to us in 2010. No follow up call with us in 2011 to review our situation and marketing needs for this year. We had simply not heard from them since until a PR article that we submitted ourselves ran in the area newspapers a few weeks ago. We understand that we are a small business and therefore not highly lucrative for them, but we are a few thousand dollars per year and that dollar amount could potentially increase as we grow. This was an example of poor sales work on their part. We actually did have some marketing work to accomplish this year and we sought out a different source.
The moral of this article is: follow up regularly with your current and past clients in addition to looking for new customers. If you did your job well, you have already earned their trust.