At the June 17, 2009 BusinessLedger
Newsmaker’s Forum I was asked to offer some advice to marketers in the current business climate. The best tip I
can give is to stay close to current customers. This is akin to dancing with the girl who invited you to
Formally called “retention” marketing, wooing current customers is often an afterthought
vs. the always more exciting pursuit of new customers (“acquisition” marketing). It shouldn’t be. Not only
is keeping current customers Job #1, but expanding business with them is Job #2 and obtaining referrals from them is Job #3.
These are the easiest marketing moves to make and they are the least expensive moves to make as well.
And the best way to
stay close to current customers is via marketing research. There are so many inexpensive yet powerful ways to do this I wrote
a book about it. (MORE Guerrilla Marketing Research, with co-authors Robert J. Kaden and Jay Conrad Levinson, is
due this fall from Kogan Page.)
Here are just a few examples:
1. Conduct a dozen
or so 20 minute telephone interviews with customers. Ask them how things are going and how you can best help them in these
times. They’ll certainly appreciate the call and they’ll also give you lots of ideas about what to do. Do not
make this a sales call; genuinely ask for their input. Have a pre-prepared series of questions available and ask them of every
person contacted. This is a qualitative exercise so don’t worry about tabulating the results, but do take good
notes about the answers.
2. Shop the competition. When was the last time you personally shopped the competition, tried
their product(s), called their help line, visited their web sites and looked at every page? Do this for your key competitors
and you’ll be able to look at what you’re doing with fresh eyes—the eyes of your customers. This is what
the market looks like to them.
3. Utilize the enormous capabilities of the Internet to conduct an analysis of your industry using secondary
sources. You should do this every year; why not right now? If you haven’t got the time or Internet skills, hire a student.
a survey among your employees. The goal is to discover how you can do a better job in satisfying current customers.
Employees are an often overlooked source of valuable information; tap into this resource.
These are just a few examples of how marketing
research can help right now. The premise is simplicity itself. If you are wondering what course of action to follow, just
ask your customers or prospects or the customers of your competitor(s) (depending on the marketing issue). They’ll
tell you! And you’ll make a better decision than if you tried going it alone.