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When Is Enough Too Much?

August 14, 2009

“Are we bothering our customers?” This was the essence of the question put to me. And it was a first. Generally, in the marketing and advertising biz, it’s nearly impossible to over-contact the customer. It’s not something we actively worry about. It’s not like we’re stalkers, hounding or bombarding the client. We don’t put them on speed dial. We don’t harass them to the point of pissing them off. We rarely hear, “Back off!” (That’s what the Unsubscribe buttons are for!) Nevertheless, it is a valid query from a client trying to understand the range of too little to too much contact with valued patrons.

Most companies err on the side of too little contact. It’s not unusual for a small company to have had no direct contact with clients for more than a year. The thinking generally goes like this: “They already know who I am and what product or service I can offer. They’ll call me if they need something.” This is the big mistake. Assuming existing customers will call you again for your services is presumptive and even condescending. Exactly who needs whom?

Unless a customer is the rare nightmare, sucking up more of your time and expense than what you get from their business, you are better off to err on the side of too much contact. They’ll tell you if you’ve knocked on their doors once too often.

Just imagine what business you may drum up if you called one client a day for a year! That’s more than 250 customers contacted a year assuming each conversation may be less than five minutes long. Given the current economy, loyalties are flagging. Anything you can do to keep a customer from jumping ship to one of your competitors is worth investing in. This can be as little as a simple phone call: “Hi. This is Lisa from XYZ Company. We just wanted to call to thank you for your business this past year. We know times are tough and we truly appreciate your business. Is there anything we can do for you at this time?”

While the number of responses that lead to a big sale may be few, I’ve never had a client tell me the task wasn’t worthwhile. Sometimes they report only getting two or three good sales from the calls, but they more than make the ROI. Better yet, they’ve gained new insights about where their client base is focused at the moment. They learn what new products or services customers are looking for. And they usually find they now have potential business in the pipeline. Many of those existing clients may not be ready to buy at the moment, but they may say they’ll be ready in two months. Make note. Write it down. Call them back in two months. They’ll be impressed you paid attention to the details and actually listened to them. And they’ll give you the sale.

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