by William Lower and Peter Hickey
If you pay attention to online marketing forums and groups, you will know there is a plethora of articles, eBooks, software solutions and even entire companies focused on one thing: helping companies get more leads and subsequently more sales for their business.
The obvious question is, “Where are those leads coming from?” Are they coming from companies that don’t have a current supplier for the products or services you offer? Or are those leads and sales going to come at the expense of your existing customer base?
Are you going to be the company that has clients or accounts stolen from you?
As much as any business needs growth and will go to extraordinary lengths to attain that growth, so should companies keep an eye on what is all too easy to take for granted: existing customers.
So how do you protect yourself from people like yourself? Think about it. You’re aggressive and if you are reading this, chances are, new business is very much on your radar. So let’s look at what you can do to defend against you competitors’ attacks. Defend yourself from someone who, like you, will work hard to gain new business. So assume your competitors are as aggressive as you. Don’t underestimate them.
We’ll use our B2B Foolproof Guide to Creating Powerful Marketing to reverse engineer a defensive position.
In new business acquisition, the most important thing is to identify your target audience and get as smart about them as possible. What makes them tick? What keeps them awake at night? You get the picture. It is far beyond simple demographics. Age, sex, geography, etc. It is psychographics. What are their wants/needs both rationally and emotionally? More to the point and where you could be vulnerable is identifying those wants/needs that are not being met.
You should already know these things about your clients (and if you don’t, find out quickly because you competitors are trying to gain insights through that knowledge). However, in your case, you need to know something else. What are your customers saying behind your back they aren’t telling you outright? If someone would ask your customers about you, what would they say? “They are great at (fill in the blank) but they (fill in the blank).” You need to know the “but” part of the equation because that is your Achilles heel and that is where you are likely to be attacked.
Naturally, you can’t spend all your time trying to find new leads and going through exhaustive efforts to defend the business you have. You need time to actually deliver your products or services. You have work to do.
But periodically you probably can afford an afternoon or all-day internal workshop to identify where you are vulnerable and where you need to improve for your customers. An ideal way to conduct those workshops is to treat your existing customer as if it were a client you were pursuing. Look at some of the programs and guides designed to help generate leads and sales and apply that to your current business. Our guide can be downloaded here.
A key question is identifying an offer you might make to a prospective client. If you can identify what kind of offer would be most relevant to your customers, that will contribute to understanding needs/wants they have that are not currently being fulfilled.
You will see in our guide there are various stages of lead generation, from your competition’s need to generate awareness of themselves to identifying problems your customer has that your competitor promises to alleviate. And that you don’t.
You need to head that off at the pass. An effective way of solidifying your relationship is to hold an annual review process. This to could be in the form of a workshop but it is a working session to ensure you are current on what concerns or problems your client has, and to identify how you or your company can help them alleviate those problems.
Books have been written, there are many CRM software programs, all designed to help you not just hang on to the business you have but also identify where there may be growth opportunities for you from within you current client base. An existing customer’s problem that needs to be solved many result in you either adding or expanding a service or product offering or losing their business. It’s a matter of being seen as a problem solver vs. a problem.
No matter what actions you take to secure your business base, there is one commodity that is practically priceless. Trust. At the heart of any business-retention strategy should be the answer to the question, “Do they trust us?” If the answer is ‘no’, you need to fix it. And it can be done. More on that later.
In short, if you always keep a certain ‘new business’ attitude toward existing customers, that will make it harder for your competitors to make inroads to taking your business away from you.
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