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Martin Wales

Customer Catcherâ„¢


[June 4, 2001]

Achieve Greater Success With One More Question

You want your product launch to go well. You want to get your marketing into the hands of the right people while working within a fixed budget. How are you going to achieve your goals sooner rather than later? What enables a company to outperform its competitors with limited resources? There are no singular answers of course, but the recurring theme amongst industry leaders is their inquisitiveness about what could be, rather than what is.

Several technology companies I have worked with were at a plateau and failing to meet their growth objectives. To get maximum leverage, I recommended an approach I call, "One more question." In May, my column covered the power of questions. Now let's look at applying them in your quest for increased productivity and profit.

Greater results are experienced and time and money are saved when you stop and ask one more question. It is applicable to every aspect of your business? This question, and others, are powerful tools that can reveal overlooked resources and opportunities by readjusting your focus.

Let's look at different areas in your business development and marketing. The following are suggestions to trigger more of your own questions, using your personal knowledge of your company, your products, and your customers.

Ultimate Strategic Positioning (USP)
Your USP is a defining statement that identifies what is unique about your company. Technology companies tend to base their marketing around their products, especially their features, rather than the strengths of the company itself. Your ultimate strategic positioning should clearly state the unique benefits experienced by your clients as a result of your company and its expertise. To begin you may ask: Do we have a statement that truly reflects the corporate message we want sent, regardless of the products we create? How did we arrive at our current positioning? What would our best customers say if we asked them to describe what sets us apart? And finally: Has our USP changed over time as we've grown or changed focus?"

Direct Mail
Direct mail is most effective when your value proposition is powerful and sent to a qualified list. You might wish to come up with an appropriate list of questions for your qualification process, starting with which prospect lists to buy or even which list brokers to consider. Do you buy a list from an industry magazine or from a more general source like Dun & Bradstreet? What single message could get your prospect's attention? How strict is your measurement of any mailing's success? If you do a follow-up telemarketing campaign, what would be considered an effective script? What kind of drip marketing do you implement if your prospects are somewhat interested, but not ready to buy now?

Web Site
The number one question that is not asked about Web site development and use is, "What is the objective of your Web site?" Assuming you feel you have to be online to stay competitive, how do you move beyond having just a "brochure" site? Investigate ways to use your site to increase productivity. Do you use your site as a training tool for new staff? Ask questions directed towards minimization: What don't we need on the Web site? How can we express enough information to give visitors confidence in our abilities and professionalism? What can be done to prevent them concluding that they have enough information to make a decision without speaking with anyone? How many different ways can people connect with us, whether they are customers or prospects?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
CRM is one of the hottest trends right now. Whether you have a CRM strategy that is based on paper or the latest software, you only improve your relationships with quality communications and a company-wide commitment to your program. You have to ask yourself and your clients the right questions to plan and implement a CRM strategy that will work.

CRM implementations are failing in large numbers for numerous reasons -- a lack of appropriate questions up front is a factor. I have mentioned in the past that I use GoldMine from FrontRange Solutions. There are so many features and reports available in this solution, that if I didn't ask myself what the most important features were I would end up keeping the box on the shelf. For example, what did prospects visiting my Web site want the most? They wanted instant information and immediate contact. By using automated processes like Web imports and e-mail rules, I made them happy but also saved myself 90 percent of the time it used to take to do it all manually. Ask: What can I do to meet my customers' needs, while simultaneously producing a benefit for my company? Ask one more question every time you meet a customer, and you'll have the data for developing your CRM strategy.

Trade Show Attendance
Not enough questions are asked about trade shows. Basics are covered with: What trade shows should we attend? Who's going? What can we afford? But you should also be concerned with: How is this show being marketed? How can we market to my prospects, clients, and show attendees to help ensure success? Are we fully participating with people in our suppliers' booths and presenting wherever we can?

Seminars And Speaking Opportunities
I have seen so many companies underutilize their opportunity for marketing when they are invited to speak at a symposium, trade show, or conference. Again, the obvious questions are usually covered regarding the speech topic and logistics such as AV equipment. Don't forget to dig deeper. What can you do to help market the event? Can you obtain a list of attendees? How can you network with the other speakers who are usually centers of influence? What PR are you implementing around the event? What customers can you invite to the event to add value to your relationship, give them exposure, and have available to offer testimonials on your product? Should you have some arranged questions in the audience to break the ice of the awkward silence at the opening of the question period?

Display Advertising
Beyond questioning where you should advertise, think about: How are we measuring the real return on our advertising investments? Are we really holding each ad up to what we make based on net earnings rather than gross sales? Once you add up the cost of research and development, production costs, sales expenses, and the creative design and media placement charges, you'll find your advertising should be pulling in more business than it is now.

Voice Mail
Some companies miss the opportunity to re-educate their customers or introduce prospects to marketing by failing to utilize the message-on-hold feature on their voice mail. Why should callers listen to a radio station or CD when you can deliver your own "radio" ad while they are on hold? How many different, brief messages can you create for your voice mail's message-on-hold? Try something along the lines of "Make sure you visit the Technology Marketing Corporation's Web site at www.tmcnet.com to get your free subscription to e-mail newsletters bringing you the latest developments in the communications industry."

In Conclusion
Asking a question makes you stop to think. Many companies act without pause or truly answering key questions. This often leads to unnecessary spending, underperformance, or negative results. Some businesses are actually oblivious to problems or miss competitive advantage because they don't ask questions or seek accountability after the fact, either.

In conclusion, let me ask you: What is one more question you can ask today to improve your chance for success?

Martin Wales, The Customer Catcher, is a business development specialist helping companies win and keep more business with a focus on CRM. He is a technology-marketing specialist, speaker, and facilitator focused on maximum results with minimum risk using a company's existing resources. Contact him at martin@customercatcher.com.

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