The Marketing Tip of The Week

by Ken Varga

 

A Sure Way To Grow Your Customer Base...

Listen To Your Existing Customers!



Hi and welcome again to another exciting Marketing Tip of the Week. This week, I'm going to write about getting your customers to give you the information you need to get additional customers.

So, how do you get started and what are the questions you should ask them?

As I've emphasized in previous newsletters, your most powerful headlines, sales pitches and ideas will come right from your own customers.

You need to talk to your customers. The first thing you should do is to make a list of those you want to call. I recommend that you complete a minimum of 50 calls. Then try to talk to 100 more. If you are just starting out in your business, start with what you have. But a minimum of 20 is probably a good place to start for you to get a good cross section of responses.

You should by now have a database of your customers and this will help you in creating the list you need to talk to.

Start with those customers for whom you have phone numbers, but if you don't have the phone numbers, have someone call directory assistance to get the numbers. There's no need to send these few names to a service bureau to get the phone numbers.

Since you want to talk to customers that are very familiar with your products and services, select those that you feel best fit the criteria of frequent purchasers that you've had a relationship with for more than one year.

If your objective is related to customer retention, then talk to recent customers who have been unresponsive to any of your offers.

Now you should prepare a script. You may think it will be a snap to "wing it"; after all, you know your business better than anyone and probably love to talk about it, but you'll be WRONG. Eventually you will master this technique to the point that you will not have to prepare as much for your conversations; but for now, in the beginning, you need to maintain some structure and consistency with your approach.

Also, by preparing a script, and having a form with the customers names and questions on each of form, you will have both a place to fill in each of their responses and to keep a record of each call, in case you need to call back.

The most important technique to master during your customer phone conversations is your ability to probe further into the answers your customers give you. The tendency for anyone responding to your questions is to provide only simple and easy answers. The valuable breakthrough responses will only come after you have gone past the initial responses.

Probe each answer a little further. Perhaps you have to do some prompting. Then, after you are into the conversation and your customer is loosening up, don't be afraid to try some moments of silence that your customer will feel obliged to say something. Because this aspect of your dialog is so critical, don't feel bound by your script when a customer clearly has some good comments for you in one or two areas. Go with the flow. The depth of your conversation is far more important than its breath.

Your customers will often expect you to solve a customer service problem for them, so don't say you can't help them. Take down the information and assure them that you will personally make sure it gets taken care of. Now your customer will feel somewhat obligated to help you with your research.

Start with a friendly and disarming opening.

"Good Morning Mr. Jones, this is Robert at the XYX Company calling. How are you today?"

"Great. Mr. Jones, the reason for my call today is simply to find out how you like our products, how we are doing meeting your needs, and how we may be of better service to you. Also, how can we do better? In fact, I like to call customers like you to get to know you better. Would you mind chatting with me for a few minutes?

If no, then ask if there is a more convenient time for you to talk to them.

If still no, then terminate the call in a very friendly manner. You may want to give the customer you phone number, or the customer service number, for them to call if they ever have a problem or would like to share any comments.

If yes, then proceed to ask the specific questions that you're trying to get answers for.

Here are some conversation starter questions:

  • Try to think back to when you sent for our (name of product). Do you remember when you ordered it?
  • How did you plan to use it?
  • How often do you use it?
  • Have you ever purchased a similar product from another company?
  • What was it about our (product) that seemed better than the other one you purchased?
  • Does our (product) do what you expected it to do?

Again, I cannot stress enough that you will not get the breakthrough feedback you are looking for if you just ask these kinds of questions. Each must be followed up with further probing. So ask the following:

  • Why do you feel that way?
  • Tell me more about what you were thinking then. That's good, can you think of anything else? When you said _____, can you explain what you meant?

If you still aren't getting anywhere, some prompting can help to jump-start the conversation. Ask the following:

  • Did you think you were getting a bargain when you sent for our (product)?
  • How do you feel when you use the (our product)?
  • How does using our (product) solve your problem?
  • Would you recommend us to your friends or relatives? Why? If not, why not?
  • Is there anything we can do to make your experience with us better?

The first few calls you make will feel awkward, and you may even get hung up on, but don't get discouraged. It will get easier, and even enjoyable, and before long you will wonder why you weren't calling your customers before.

Remember, it only takes one to give you the answers you need, but in the meantime the others feel closer to you and you've started a relationship with them that will help your business.

In fact, you may complete your first 15 calls before you connect with a customer that is just bursting with great comments for you and wants to help you out. Make it a point to keep in contact with these types of "gems" and think of them as your customer source of information. Call them whenever you need some customer input and thank them for their help with a free gift or product. They are worth keeping motivated.

Well, that's it for this week. Next week I'm going to write about two very important topics that I've been getting a large number of emails about. So, till then keep well and healthy.


Best Wishes, Ken Varga

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Copyright 2000-2006 by Kenneth J. Varga. All rights reserved.