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Be visible is really nothing more than the opportunity to get in front of the customer in some meaningful way. Unfortunately, it is proving far more difficult to do so. B to C or B to B businesses are equally challenged in getting through to their customers, because there are just many more roadblocks.
In the time before voicemail, a phone call to a customer’s home resulted in one of three outcomes; no answer, a busy signal or someone actually answered, pretty predictable outcomes. Along comes voicemail and call display, so now people could just ignore the call. Voicemail was supposed to be a tool to communicate information in one’s absence, however it morphed into a call screening tool when call display arrived on the scene.
The voicemail call display duo
Calls to a business customer pretty much followed the same path, however businesses usually had an additional layer of screening in place, namely the receptionist. As telephony automation increased, direct dial to customers was initially more productive, however with the advent of the voicemail call display duo, making contact quickly became more difficult.
Email on the other hand,quickly replaced the telephone as a primary communication device between business and customer. And why not? It was an easy way to send your thoughts or proposals to a client at any time of the day and unlike voicemail, you retained a written copy. Although this did create a challenge for some individuals to up their writing skills as, until this point, even the smallest companies had admin personnel who edited and finalized the final correspondence.
A response was expected
The initial upside to email was that it was a novelty and individuals promptly responded to any item that hit their inboxes. Maybe it was the novelty of this wonderful, empowering communication tool, but times have changed. Once upon a time, proper etiquette wouldn’t allow you to ignore personally addressed correspondence, but today it’s common practice. No, it didn’t matter, if the former was hand written and sent via a postal service and the latter sent digitally. In both cases someone took the time to compose the communication and therefore a response was expected
The problem today is mostly driven by the bombardment of unnecessary CYA’s or cover your ass, cc’s, bcc’s emails and let’s not forget the biggest culprit of them all, spam! It’s overloading peoples inboxes.
Average office worker receives 121 emails per day
It’s no wonder, when it is estimated that the average office worker receives 121 emails per day and sends out 40 per day. At that rate, they would easily fall a month behind within 10 days if they had to reply to every one they received.
With every technological advancement, we drift farther and farther apart from our customers. Social media and SMS are all being layered on and hyped as customer connectors, but they’re not. Just imagine what will happen when AI (Artificial Intelligence) goes mainstream? We’ll never have to talk, correspond or meet again. It’ll all be done for us. I am hopeful that the combination of Alternative and Virtual Reality might right the ship, but I won’t hold my breath.
Maybe I’m old school, but I’ve always pushed for a face to face meetings. No matter how far I had to travel or how inconvenient it was, getting in front of new or existing clients was a major sales and marketing tactic for me. Nothing beats face to face customer interaction. It allows you to see the customers reaction to your comments, thoughts or proposal. It gives you the opportunity to be in the moment to correct any misunderstandings or expand on key points. You can’t do that effectively via email.
The other added benefit of to be visible, was stickiness. It’s a term I have used for years in support of my need to get in front of clients. This approach is directly responsible for more than a few million dollars of revenue that I generated.
In a nutshell, stickiness is the art of being visible within client’s businesses. I’m not suggesting setting up a desk in your clients premises, although not a bad idea if the client is big enough! Being visible within a client requires effort and patience. Effort, because with all the built in screens I mentioned earlier, it’s a challenge to get a client to respond to your requests. Patience, because with everyone running flat out, meetings are now scheduled weeks in advance and not days.
The payoff though, is the more frequent you are in a clients place of business, the more people will come to recognize you. The more they see you, the greater the odds that you’ll have the opportunity to talk with them. Of course, the more you talk with them, the more you have a chance to let them know what you do.
Opportunities to be visible
A typical scenario, for me was to arrange a meeting with a client and as time went on, I got to know or at least recognize other people in the business. As we made our way to the meeting room or the person’s office, I’d make a point of saying hi to anyone I knew. It was more of an opportunity for me to let them know I was in the building.
Over time this little acknowledgement led to someone telling me to stop by when my meeting was over as they either had a question or wanted to talk with me about something and that something was usually a potential opportunity. My estimate is that this happened 50% of the time. Again, the size of your clients will impact these numbers but don’t underestimate the potential of even in the smallest of companies.
Another opportunity to be visible is upon completion of a project. Make an appointment with the customer to review the engagement. Too often, I see owners just send off the summary report and an invoice and that’s the end of it. What a missed opportunity! This is exactly when you need to be visible. Generally speaking, the client is happy with the results and are open to other suggestions you may have.
On those occasions when it’s just physically impossible to be visible on a client’s premises, there are other ways to stay front and center. For instance, the client has asked for a quote. Far too many owners email the quote and hope for the best. Instead, once the email has been sent, call them to let them know you sent it, especially with the number of emails that end up in the junk folder. Alternatively, finish your cover email with a statement, such as “I’ll call you tomorrow to discuss”. Then make sure you call.
Looking for ways to be visible to your customers pays greater dividends to the small business owner than most of their social media activity.
I’m Greg Weatherdon and this has been your Small Business Minute.
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Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2018
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