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As most of you readers already know, in tough times the marketing rule of thumb is to keep investing in your marketing. Though it’s easier said than done if your business is closed and your customers don’t have jobs.

But that being said – there has never been a better time for real contact, as against digital contact. As I’ve shared previously, there is a heap of COVID-CRAP in our inboxes, most of it is a complete waste of effort and completely ignored.

So I ask you folks, “How many of you have rung your customers recently to have a real conversation?” Just put in a call to check in and see how your customers are and if you can help them – with anything?

If not, may I suggest you consider a phone or video call – sooner rather than later. The reason is simple: if you’re not, your competitors are probably doing so. If you are claiming as you read “I cannot afford to call my customers” – you may want to revise your business model. If you can’t afford to call or mail a letter to your customers, you will lose quite a substantial amount of business – in good and bad times.

Why didn’t you call?

Most SaaS companies lose huge volumes of clients because they never call them – they rely on marketing technology (martech for the buzzword lovers) to deliver their personal communications, immediately de-personalising the experience for their customers.

LinkedIn is guilty as charged. I tried the “Premium” service and after a year of not enjoying any premium service, I didn’t renew. All I got from LinkedIn was email to remind me to pay my renewal. Now, because LinkedIn is not very good at its “small data” I keep getting offers to trial the Premium service.

How hard is it for LinkedIn to pick up the phone and ask why I left them, or to block advertising a service I cancelled, so as not to irritate me? But hey – maybe they don’t understand lifetime value?

Here’s a simple example of the value of talking to your customers:
My elderly father is a member at his local licensed sports club – he no longer competes, but visits for dinner or lunch regularly. He isn’t known, he’s just one of thousands of members. Last week his phone rang – it’s a landline. The club’s welfare officer was checking in to see how my father was doing and if he needed anything. They were checking on all members aged over 70 – a  simple use of small data that made a big impact.

Nobody from the club has ever rung my father in his life. But he thought it was wonderful that the club would consider calling him – he’s told everyone and can’t wait for it to reopen so he can enjoy a meal with a glass or three of wine.

Can’t wait to get back to the club to splurge on a Schnitty…

Imagine what your customers might say if you called them?
Here’s another example – I’ve written about this previously. A major office supplies company in Australia was keen to migrate its customers to online ordering to reduce the call centre workload – and cut some costs. They company mails annual catalogues to customers and research shows the catalogue stays on file until the next edition is mailed. Customers usually order with the catalogue on their desk.

It didn’t take them long to discover a problem with sales. The customers who moved to online ordering were ordering less per order than those who rang the call centre. They weren’t shopping more frequently either. So sales dropped as business moved online.

They company launched a new strategy – before they shipped the online orders, they called the customers (by phone) and advised the order was about to be dispatched, asking if the customer wanted to add anything to the order. Inevitably, using historical order data, the customer service representative up-sold the customer and increased the order value. The company has increased its call centre to accommodate both types of online ordering – telephone and data lines.

And by how much can I increase your order today?

So, if you’re considering migrating your business to online-only because of the pandemic, consider accompanying the service with real people on the telephone if you really want to succeed.

Receptionist is marketing genius
Another former client of mine takes orders by email and website. Each time an order arrives the company receptionist calls the customer to confirm the order. She started doing this because she thought it was good manners – you know, the right thing to do.

I suggested that during the call she agree a delivery date that was later than the earliest her company could deliver. The company now delivers each order before the agreed delivery date. The clients love the service as it exceeds their expectations and there is rarely any dispute over paying on time.

Thank you for your order it will be delivered on…

How $2 helped make $millions
Speaking of paying on time, a very successful cousin of mine sold his business for a premium, partly due to his excellent cash flow and a simple phone call. Geoff (his real name) would ring the accounts payable department of each of his debtors and confirm who was responsible for the processing of his invoices – most were small to medium size companies.

Each month he would mail his invoice in a personally addressed envelope to the accounts payable clerk – complete with a $2 scratch lottery ticket attached. His debtors loved getting his mail – and they paid his invoices ahead, or on time, every month. His cash position added enormous value to his business when he sold it.

Thank you for paying my invoice on time…

So, regardless of whether you are able to sell anything or not to your customers, due to lock-down or delivery issues, make and keep real contact with them. They’ll appreciate your effort and the investment will pay off – either immediately or in the “new-normal”.

It also allows you to gain some knowledge about each customer. Because the old adage still applies:

One thing you know about your customer is worth more than anything you know about your product or service.

That ‘one thing’, gives you a reason for a conversation – and that conversation can turn into business for you.

The other reason you should keep talking with your customers is also very simple:

If your customers don’t make you rich…who will?

Gotta go – the phone’s ringing, I wonder who it is…