I was chatting with a client a few weeks back and he was telling me how he was struggling to generate new leads and sales. His particular industry had been quite depressed overall with activity fairly quiet. I got to asking a few probing questions and, before suggesting any new avenues to take, I asked what existing communication channels he had in place for his existing clients and leads. After some excuses and explanations the answer was ‘None’.
This got me thinking about how often businesses forget their most valuable source of sales, their existing clients and leads. There are a number of reasons why this might be the case as outlined below:
Many people do not understand how to carry out communication activities and this fear of the technology associated with this activity can lead to them dismissing it. If you have a couple of hundred or even thousand clients, contacts and leads then it would be crazy to ignore them. Sending out an e-mail newsletter once a month, or every quarter helps not only keep your company and product in your clients’ and prospects’ minds, but helps build your credibility and your brand. If you have a new product or service, or have signed up a new supplier or client then let your contacts know. It is also often the case that a prospect or client has been meaning to get in touch, and your newsletter can be the perfect reminder.
Doing it wrong
I often receive e-mails from people that just are simply doing it wrong. They either attach a file that is 3Mb in size, copy two hundred people on the e-mail, make the body of the text too long, use service providers that do not follow best- practice and in some cases even break the law. Rather do it right than waste time and energy on doing it poorly. You can end up getting your IP address blocked, your website listed for spamming and ultimately negatively affecting the rest of your business.
There are plenty of platforms that enable companies to create newsletters for outbound e-mail and SMS campaigns. Although the initial learning curve of what and how to do, can be daunting, it is well worth it through being able to regularly communicate with your clients and prospects. If you simply do not have the time to learn or manage, then outsource it to a company which can do it for you. By utilising either a platform to send messages yourself, or by using a reputable company to do this for you, you can drastically improve the effectiveness of outbound communications, automating subscription options and unsubscribes, creating targeted messages for different people who are at a different stages of their client life with you.
Not understanding your sales cycle
All too often the art of taking a prospect through a sales cycle is ignored. It is easy to assume that someone either wants your product or service, or not. However, this ignores a wide variety of factors. Perhaps the prospect needs your product but either doesn’t have budget, is tied into an existing contract or simply does not understand what you offer. By regularly communicating with prospects, this is an opportunity to explain how your product or service can fix their ‘pains’, or explain key features that set you apart from the competition.
Keep it short and sweet. It is often tempting to cram as much information into a newsletter as possible. However, this can bore people, or lose your key selling points amongst the reams of letters, words and images. People do not have the time to wade through endless technical jargon so get to the point. You have seven seconds to get your message across – so make it count!
One aspect of e-mail communication which makes it powerful and successful is the ability to test. You can test different subject lines, e-mail designs, layouts, send times and dates. This ability to test means you can ensure you improve your delivery rates, opens, reads and click-through rates. By knowing what works you can ensure you do more of it, and this will ultimately lead to better results.
The point of communicating with your existing clients and prospects is not to bombard them with sales talk or hardline pitches, rather it should be to gently remind them of why they first contacted you, and how your products and services can help them. It is also an opportunity to show your creative side. I know many businesses and people who are very successful at generating sales activity from ‘mundane’ newsletters by offering something new. A unique competition, refer-a-friend rewards, allowing advertising space on their newsletters, giving rewards for feedback, giving results of surveys completed, giving industry news and so many more. The key is to start with what you have. After all, what better place to grow your sales than starting in your own backyard.