A Return to Basics: A Simple Method for Finding, Keeping, and Building Customers

By Andrew J. Birol, President, Birol Growth Consulting, Inc.

Your marketing and sales team says the best way to increase sales is to buy new database marketing software. Or launch new distribution strategies. Or have salespeople make more cold calls. Or add telemarketing. What’s the right answer?

Your customers feel neglected or don’t do as much business with you as they used to. Your customer service manager recommends a retention program. What should the program include? What channels should you use? Do you have the right software?

If you’re in senior management, chances are these scenarios are painfully familiar. Decisions like these are crucial to your company’s success.

Is there a method to the madness?

The fact is, all your company’s marketing, sales and customer service efforts come down to three basic goals: Finding customers, keeping customers, and growing customers. The advances in our industry have been incredible, but we’ve lost our focus. To get the greatest value from our efforts, we need to simplify our thinking and go back to the basics.

If you market products and services to business, ask yourself the following questions:

1. What is your company’s best and highest use in the marketplace? Are your products or services optimally bundled into a compelling offer?
2. Can you quickly identify the real pain that you resolve for customers and explain how your product or service alleviates that pain?
3. Who are your very best customers? Even the most sophisticated companies still define their best customers by such elementary criteria as SIC code, sales volume, and number of employees. Targeted marketing requires a deep understanding of customers and their needs, to be gained only if you’re exceptionally close to customers. Have you asked your best customers why they like you, why they buy from you, and whether they’d refer you? Referrals are the only true measure of customer satisfaction.

The Crucial Intersection

If you can answer these three questions, you can identify the crucial intersection that should drive all your sales and marketing efforts. It’s the point where your firm’s best offer is of most value to a narrow slice of the market because it resolves the greatest pain. The more precisely you can define this intersection, the better you can pinpoint prospects. This should be the rallying point for all your company’s marketing, sales and customer service activities.

Using Sales Funnels to Guide Your Efforts

Defining your target prospect is the first step. Using a series of scoring tools that strictly adhere to your target prospect profile, you can create three sales funnels that will organize and implement your plan for finding, keeping, and growing customers. All marketing, sales, and customer service activities must be designed, justified, and measured by their value to each funnel.

Finding Customers

The acquisition funnel systematizes the activities needed to turn suspects into prospects, prospects into qualified prospects, and qualified prospects into customers. Your goal of finding customers becomes the end and your marketing the means to the end.

Keeping Customers

The retention sales funnel fulfills your goal of keeping customers, by progressively moving one-time buyers or ex-customers to the desired status of customers who make multiple or sustained purchases. These are the customers with the highest long-term value.

Growing Customers

The development funnel is used to grow customers. Here the goal is to move stable customers through activities which convert them into up-sold/cross-sold customers and then to the status of advocate or champion.

The results of these activities are obvious: a larger number of customers with the highest value to your company. The “graduates” of this three-funnel process are to be coveted and honored with no costs spared.

This system simplifies all your marketing, sales, and customer service activities. By returning to the basics—offer, need, and target market—you define your best prospects. This drives the creation, execution, and measurement of all sales and marketing activities through the acquisition, retention, and development funnels and provides a method to the madness.

On one hand, it’s remarkably simple. On the other hand, your work has obviously just begun. Implementing and managing your business through this process requires discipline and passion. But when you have simple goals and clear ways to get there, the results are worth it.

Articles by Birol Growth Consulting are © copyrighted and all rights are reserved. However, articles may be reprinted with prior written consent if attribution is included as follows:

© Copyrighted by Andrew J. Birol, President of Birol Growth Consulting, who helps owners grow their businesses by growing their Best and Highest Use ®. Andy can be reached at  (412) 973-2080, by email at abirol@andybirol.com, or on the web at www.andybirol.com.

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