This article is written by Kristin Zhivago (RevenueJournal) and reprinted with her permission.
The majority of CEOs and entrepreneurs still think that yesterday’s aggressive, cold-calling, hard-sell methods are still working. The truth is, using these tactics is more likely to irritate and repel your customer than to make them want to buy from you. How do customers want to be contacted? We answer this question in Part 3 of our 4-part series debunking common marketing and selling myths. If you arrived late to the party, here are Part 1 (How Customers Decide to Buy) and Part 2 (How Customers Choose a Product).
You just sat down to dinner. Your phone rings. You answer it, and a motor-mouth, angry-sounding recorded voice starts yelling in your ear, telling you that “you have been chosen,” or that “your credit rating may be in danger,” or that “[So-and-So Candidate] has an urgent message for you!” Click. Back to dinner.
Who on earth are they selling to? Forrest Gump? Someone who will patiently wait through the entire message, and then innocently give his credit card information to a call-out-of-the-blue telemarketer? It’s hard to believe there are people that gullible left in the world.
Most people find these pre-recorded, loud-mouth calls to be irritating, intrusive, and unconvincing. The chances of anyone responding positively to this kind of in-your-face approach are very slim indeed. But even the less-intrusive cold calls are not welcome, according to the customers I interview for my clients. They are all saying that they do not want to be contacted this way, and that they will even avoid doing business with any company that does contact them using these outdated methods.
Many marketers would prefer to use less intrusive, more sophisticated methods to contact customers, which is good. But whatever method they use, they always want the method to result in a fuller pipeline and higher conversions. That is the whole point of what they do, after all.
Too bad your customer doesn’t care about your pipeline. The customer is only interested in whatever the customer is interested in, and ignores everything else. He doesn’t mind being contacted, but it better be relevant. That means, at the very least, that you better know what they’re interested in.
How do you find this out? You ask them, via phone conversations, as I describe in my book, Roadmap to Revenue. The best questions for finding out what interests them is to ask, “What are your biggest challenges right now?” And, “What are your goals?” If you ask them properly, they will tell you what they’re struggling with, which tells you what they will want to hear about. Ask this of your customers, whose challenges are similar to your prospective customers.
What if you’re trying to introduce a new product to a new market? Then you need to find prospective customers and ask them the same questions. Their answers won’t be as helpful, because they haven’t actually gone through the buying process with you, but you will still be further from “guessing” and closer to “knowing” than you would have been if you had not asked.
You’ll also need to know where they would expect to find this information. “What sources do you depend on for information?” is the right question to ask. “Do you use social channels at all? Do you subscribe to any newsletters or participate in any groups?” “If we had new information on that subject, would you like to hear about it? What would be the best way?”
Answers to these questions will ensure that you don’t waste a lot of time, energy, or resources on off-target content and channels.You will be contacting them in the manner they prefer, with information they will find interesting. You will also contact them as frequently as they prefer, so that they continue to look forward to your content, are not irritated by too many messages, and so you don’t look desperate.
How often you contact them depends partly on the nature of the industry you’re in. For example, companies selling to marketing people assume that marketers are constantly searching for new methods, and are eager to see what others in their profession are doing. Daily, meaty-but-short contact would not be unwelcome. On the other hand, a design engineer would become irritated by daily contact; it would be more appropriate to send something once a month.
When you send the information or post it, it’s best to be as un-salesy as possible. The subject line should describe exactly what they will find in the email or article, and the content should be instructional or educational, not a pitch.
People pay attention to things that matter to them. If you think you know what matters to them, you’ll be doing what everyone else does – irritating them with useless information. If you find out what matters to them specifically, you will be able to make sure your content addresses those concerns, in a relevant way.
Ask your current customers the questions I describe in Roadmap to Revenue, in chapter 3, and you will know exactly how to proceed.