If your business is like the majority of organizations in the U.S., things have been pretty good. Sales have been more plentiful and come a little easier. In fact, if you’re having any trouble at all, it’s hiring and keeping the right employees to serve all of that business. Many businesses experienced one of their best years in 2017 or 2018. It’s easy to assume that we’re going to keep riding this wave, but I believe we’re about to see a shift. I’m seeing subtle signs that suggest things are about to get a little tighter. From a marketing and sales perspective, I would recommend it’s time to double down.
What I mean by that is I think it’s the right season to invest more time, talent and budget into the customers you already have. When people start spending less or are slower to spend, they are more likely to keep spending with an organization they already know, trust and value. If you’re a long-time reader of mine, you know that I think every business underestimates how much of their budget and attention should be invested in their existing client relationships. We spend too much of our time, attention and money chasing after new dollars as opposed to being more useful and valuable to our existing clients.
Your job, as we enter this season of scarcity, is to make sure the relationships you have with your current clients are rock solid. If anyone is going to give you new dollars in a tight economy, it’s someone who is already giving you dollars.
Here are some ways you can strengthen those relationships now, so they keep bearing fruit if things tighten up.
Ask their opinion: Everyone likes to provide input. A customer satisfaction survey will not only show you some places that need your attention, but it also creates a bond with the people who respond. Some business leaders shy away from customer satisfaction work because they think it invites complaints and dissatisfaction. In today’s rating and review economy, that’s happening anyway. You need to get over yourself and ask.
The key to this going well is promising the respondents that you will share what you learned from the effort and how you are going to act upon the feedback. After you’ve compiled the results, write a letter thanking everyone for their input, telling them what you learned (good and bad) and what you are implementing to elevate on the areas that need some improvement.
Bring them together: A customer-only event is a smart way to strengthen customer relationships. First, you are giving them access to something that no one else can attend. Second, you’re going to make your event something that helps them improve (based on what you sell them) over time, and third, you’re going to invite them to hang out with other people who share their interest or motivations. This works well for both B-to-B and B-to-C businesses.
An added benefit for you is that when you bring clients together, they only have one thing in common. You. Your best customers become your best salespeople. They talk about the work you do together or the product you sell them and rave about the results.
There’s no reason why the pending economic shift has to be a problem for you. Sure, it might be tougher to earn new business from new customers, but that’s not the only path to economic success. If you double down on the relationships that are already strong and can be enhanced, you will weather this blip on the radar screen well. And even if I’m wrong, there’s nothing but good that will come out of investing more in the clients you already have and love.