Stick Close to Your Best Customers in Tough Times
Most B-to-B direct marketers today are “skittish.” Worries abound regarding rising oil prices, inflation, recession, among a host of other things. Now’s the time to check in on your best customer segments to really gain an understanding of what they’re thinking and how their businesses are doing. And the only real way to do this is over the phone. Your customer service reps and outside sales reps, if you have them, are now more critical than ever, helping you stay connected with your customers.
I suggest you find reasons to talk to your customers, either through e-mail or direct mail. This helps you acquire instant understanding of any customer problems, allowing for a quick assessment of your position and future. Staying close to your biggest customers is also important if you have any large accounts receivable balances you’re concerned about. It’s also important during these tough times to make sure your supplier relationship is solid.
Here are seven tips to help you better communicate with your customers, particularly your best ones.
1. Communicate and provide them with suggestions on how to use your product or service to help negotiate these tough economic times.
2. Make suggestions on how to consolidate purchasing for larger discounts and shipping savings.
3. Offer extended payment terms on purchases to assist them, and consolidate their buying in your direction. Of course, be mindful of their creditworthiness.
4. Show appreciation for their continued business. Sometimes a simple thank-you call from a senior executive makes all the difference and will set you apart.
5. Keep your trusted suppliers close, both for market and competitive information as well as additional customer satisfaction. Ask for their assistance on a key account when appropriate.
6. Always stay positive. In other words, keep mailing, and keep selling. The weak will fold in tough markets; you will not.
7. Look for innovative ways to apply technology to cut costs and improve service. Also, “cut the fat.” Your collective productivity must be improving now.
While times are tough now, and oil costs and housing woes downright depressing, this too shall pass.
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Terence Jukes is president of Ability Commerce, a 140-person firm that designs, builds and runs e-commerce and related marketing programs for catalog companies. He can be reached at TerryJ@AbilityCommerce.com.