How to identify your customers

The lifeline of any business is its customer. Hence, a loyal customer is like gold. In this contemporary age of widespread and extremely tough competition, businesses are vying with each other to get and retain the customer’s attention.

Even before setting up a business or releasing a new product, the first priority should be to identify your customer. Marketing and sales have some typical workflows. Once the business is up and running, then building a customer base would be the next priority. To identify the ideal customer we would need to ascertain the spending behaviors and needs of the customers. Here we would like to suggest techniques to identify business customers.

Conduct Surveys

Another very effective way to identify the target customers for your business is by conducting surveys relevant to the product you are offering. Surveys should be detailed, meticulous, and widespread, based upon every age, gender, and profession class. The data, in the aftermath of the survey, should be recorded and the product should be launched in the areas with a greater density of interested people in the survey; as a result, there are bright prospects of locating key customers of your business. In the survey, the phone numbers, location, and important contacts must be garnered. Furthermore, it would be help to find out the prevalent shopping methods of the customers: Do they prefer to shop by the store? Or, Are they inclined towards online shopping? In either or both cases, the appropriate provision of buying conduit is going to identify a large number of customers and also help them buy the service easily!

Advertise your services

Let people know about your product or service. How do you stand out from the crowd? What can you offer differently that would make their life easier?
You can take to social media marketing, which is a highly effective and popular channel. This may include: Facebook marketing carried out through creating pages, groups, making profiles of your products; you can also create a YouTube channel to promote your product as well as short ads. Furthermore, you can use physical advertising using banners on famous streets. You can also conduct seminars pertinent to your business that may be free or at a nominal cost. Customer interest can be easily developed by focused product marketing/promulgation. The proper advertisement that categorically addresses the requirements of buyers can only be effective.

Immaculate product/service description

To develop frequent and key customers, it is important that you be conversant with their needs and the quality of service they are looking for. During the advertisement or survey, notify the people about the great features and attributes of your product/service. Make the best endeavors to eliminate customers’ apprehensions relevant to your service if any; so that they may try your product, and even may become potential customers. The description of your product must have all the statutory information to help the customer to understand the components of what the product is made of. Product description can be tuned to attract customers of a particular age group, gender or social class. Underscore the core benefits of your service, and indicate how it is better than the other competitor’s services. In my perception, it is the key step to develop permanent clients in your business!

Product/Service quality and cost

When you advertise your service, it is necessary that you highlight all qualities of the product or service you are offering. In all probability, people of various classes may show an affinity towards different properties of the product. Similarly, when customers start contacting you, you must maintain the quality of the product you described to them. Improving and maintaining the quality of the product being delivered increases potential customers and strengthens the trust of key customers. In addition to maintaining the quality of the product, the price of the product should be appropriate to the market segment and social class that the product is aimed for. Fine quality and reasonable cost will fetch a deluge of key customers to your business, who will be frequently buying your product. On the other hand, if you have a high price, it will reduce the number of customers but will bring the concept of exclusivity and desirability towards the product. In a nutshell, accurate and successful product/service description will surely facilitate customer identification.

Fine Customer Support

Another important factor that is surely instrumental in generating a lot of buyer traffic to your business is brisk and readily-available customer service. To respond quickly to the queries of the buyer or the interested person indicates the quality of the service and also identifies your customers. Good customer support enables the customers to notify you about fruitful modifications and features they want you to add to the product. The quicker the customer service resolves the issues of the buyer; the greater will be the probability of key customers being driven to your product. So, make your business customer service available 24/7 with courteous and capable staff as it will be helpful in meeting the customers’ needs.

Conclusion

Plan well, advertise your product with full force. Deliver the product of your business by maintaining the quality at appropriate prices and expand your customer base. Using these proven tactics will surely drive a deluge of common as well as key customers to your service. Your business will thrive and the overwhelming performance of your business will definitely help you overtake the other competitors in the market!

Building a robust Marketing and Sales Capability – Part 2

This is 2 part post. See the first part here

Confirmed Information

Once the marketing team or the sales team identifies the lead to be a potential customer, and the sales team does have an interest to pursue a particular lead, it is then converted. This conversion has a few of different categories of information; a contact, an account, an opportunity:

  1. A contact is a person within a company. It is possible to have multiple contacts within a company. Most interactions with a company is to a contact
  2. A company is also referred to as an account. Some systems have the capability to have parent and child accounts. This relationship is to ensure that head office and branch offices are maintained under the same account.
  3. The third aspect is the opportunity. An opportunity is a clear potential to make a sale. The opportunity in many systems are gauged by a timeframe within which the sale can be conducted and the value of a sale that can be done.
  4. There are other optional aspects such as events, notes and campaign logs that can be maintained for a converted lead. The reason behind these optional aspects is maintain a history of interaction with the customer. For example, for which marketing campaign did our company first meet with this customer or when was the email campaign sent.

The confirmed information about a contact and the company that she works for is a static data point that usually does not change over time. Contacts and account details can be used for a variety of activities such as sending proposals sending quotations, sending invitations to events or for specialised discounts and promotions.

People moving

One thing to note about a contact is that, the person may choose to work for another company in due course of time. In such a case, usually I would recommend that you mark the current contact as terminated or change the status to dead. It is very rare that you would transfer the contact data to the new company that she works for. However, you would create a new contact and the new company and keep a reference note under this contact mentioning that she had work previously for another company.

Duplicate data

Most systems will be able to detect duplicates within the contact database using fields like email, primary phone number or a combination of name and address. Duplication must be seriously looked at during this phase of the sales cycle.

The Sales Cycle

We had discussed about targets and is being part of the marketing campaign and everything  beyond leads to be part of the sales cycle. The sales cycle has numerous steps and depending on the complexity of the product or service that is being sold, the length of the cycle can drastically change.

Qualification

Qualification is usually the first step in the  sales cycle. Once the lead, or contact is qualified,  it means there is a clear need for the product or service that is being sold. The exact need would be identified in the next step of the cycle.

Needs Analysis

Based on the information that is received about the qualified lead which is converted to a contact and also an account, the exact pain point is identified. A single product or service may not address all the pain points, however, so long as there is sufficient number of pain points a value can be found.

Value Proposition

Understanding the value that the product or service will deliver to the customer is important because this value has to be clearly expressed to the customer. Before a sale, the customer has to believe that the product or service will deliver what is expected. Most of the value proposition will have to be built around solving the pain points that the customer has exhibited during the need analysis. This is a stage where the mapping of the product features to the pain points of the customer takes place.

Identifying Decision Makers

When selling a product or service to a large firm, there are usually multiple people who will be using the product and therefore, it will be necessary to identify all those who will influence the purchasing decision.

Perception Analysis

There could be other components that is required to ensure the sale can be closed. The perception of the customer is understood to incorporate the additional requirements to satisfy all the possible needs of the customer

Proposal/Price Quote

A detailed proposal is presented along with the price of the product/ service

Negotiation/Review

Most cases for large contracts, there will be negotiations that are conducted. There could be specifications that are changed or general price negotiations

Closed (Won/Lost)

This is the final stage where, the sale is closed and result is either a win or a lose. If customer is won, then the next step is to bill the customer. If the customer is lost then there could be a assessment to understand the reasons why this customer was lost.

Maintenance/Recycle

In most cases, the customer contacts are maintained for future business, whether the sale was won or lost.

Not all sales cycles follow this exact pattern. The type of product or service will determine the length of the cycle. For example, the sale of a chocolate bar to person would last a few minutes, while the sale of a large commercial oil tanker may take a few months. This difference is not because of the physical size of the product but rather the time taken to make the decision to buy or not. Most individual buyers tend to be much faster in their decision making as compared to a large corporate entity. Therefore all the phases of the sales cycle mentioned above may not pertain to the sale of a chocolate bar!

Now that we have explore the different stages of a sales cycle, do let us know how you conduct the sales cycle in your firm. Please provide your comments below!

Building a robust Marketing and Sales Capability

Most companies are aware that revenue is of utmost importance to ensure growth and sustenance for the company. This is a 2 part post. Read the second part here

The two vital components of revenue are marketing and sales. Though most firms are well aware that marketing and sales functions are important aspects, very rarely do they look at marketing and sales as a capability not as an end goal  for generating revenue. This article does not downplay the importance of sales and marketing goals, but it does show that companies with systems and procedures can sweep up more opportunities than those firms with random or incomplete processes with goals at the end.

Another aspect is that, at times, companies fail to understand the boundaries of marketing and boundaries of sales.This creates an overlap of tasks and activities thereby causing loss in effective revenue management. The separate tasks and activities of revenue management as part of marketing and sales are described next.

Sales and marketing process has a variety of tasks and activities that can be sequenced in a linear fashion. This process is quite generic and can be adopted to a variety of industries and categories of companies. The following sequence shows the overall process of a typical sales cycle:

A typical sales cycle

Target → Lead → Confirmed Information (Contact, Account, etc) → Opportunity Exists → Understanding the pain point → Proposal → Negotiation → Closing → Maintenance or Recycle

What are targets?

Targets are pieces of information about a person or a set of persons from a particular source of marketing activity. For example, if a company has conducted a seminar, then all the attendees of the seminar would be potential targets for future marketing activities. There is no potential impact on the marketing or sales activities if targets change or have incorrect data. Target are quickly changed, deleted or modified depending on the type of information that is obtained about the target. There could be additional activities done on targets such as data cleaning or a call centre based verification. In some cases email subscriptions are requested to ensure targets are real. The most cost effective method is used to ensure targets are cleaned and moved to the next stage of qualification.

A target is just the starting point to a more personalised communication to a person or a company.

The next stage of activity in the sequence is to convert a target to a lead.

What are leads?

Leads are targets that have been qualified based on an email confirmation or a phone call. Since leads have origins in the target list, their conversion depends on the campaign activity.

Each campaign activity may have different types of qualifications and therefore not all targets get converted into leads. Targets which do not get converted, may not be important for the current campaign. In some cases, a marketing campaign starts from existing leads, that were used before or were those that would never converted in previous campaigns.

The stage of leads in the sequence of marketing and sales activities represents the boundary between marketing and sales.

A lead has sufficient information  about a person or a company to to have an effective communication. However a lead does not have all the information required to make it a sustainable data point for future interaction. This is because leads can appear as duplicates or may appear across different companies with different names.

Not all leads come from targets. Some are created directly in  the system based on the Information that is received by the company. These created leads are sometimes created by the marketing department and in some cases done by the sales department. Usually the volume entries for new leads are done by marketing department and lead corrections and data scrubbing is done by the sales department.

The conversion from targets to leads, exposes a level of efficiency that the marketing campaigns are able to achieve.

Why is this lead necessary?

In most companies the sales department may feel that marketing departments waste a lot of budget with no direct return on investment. A marketing department can use the ratio of targets to leads conversion to show a clear value of the different marketing campaigns that were conducted.

Usually leads have the same data that is in the target and therefore, most sales and marketing tools are not able to distinguish unique leads within their system. In the next stage of activity, the leads are changed to a more static data point and hence duplicates can be identified more easily.

Now, as a company, we are quite sure that the customer exists and the person we are talking to exists. The information about the lead has a significant level of confirmation. The next stage of activity in the sequence is to convert a lead to a contact.

Read part 2 of Building a robust marketing and sales capability

A basic supplier information sheet

I have been asked numerous times as to what comprises a basic supplier information. What are bare minimum pieces of information that has to be tracked for each supplier that a firm deals with? Here is a small list that I think will help get you started with managing your suppliers.

Description Additional Information
Supplier # Unique Number for each supplier
Name  
Name 2  
Name 3  
Name 4  
Address  
PO Box  
City  
District  
Postal Code  
Region  
Country  
Industry  
Created on  
Created by  
Last Update On  
Bank # Bank number of supplier
SWIFT / BIC Routing number
Bank #2  
SWIFT / BIC 2  
Account group  
Customer If Supplier is also a customer
Block Payment Block supplier
Tax Number 1  
Tax Number 2 Some Suppliers have multiple tax numbers
Telephone 1  
Telephone 2  
Fax Number  
Telex number  
Email1  
Email2  
Contact Person 1  
Contact Person 2  
URL  
Credit Information Identifier  
Transportation zone  
Currency Usual currency amount
Account with supplier This is your account # on the supplier’s system
Advance Payment If this supplier requires advance payment