By M. Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant
This post is part of a series taken from M. Dana Baldwin’s article Marketing: A Key to Long Term Success published in Compass Points February 2002. In Part One, we introduced the series and discussed What is marketing? In Part Two, we discussed taking the long view. In this post, we will discuss What is included in the marketing effort?
What is included in the marketing effort? Actually a surprising number of factors should be included in the marketing endeavor. You should be starting with the simple things that leave a lasting impression on the customer. For example, we suggest you try calling your own company. Judge how friendly and helpful your initial contact is with your company. First of all, does a person answer or does a machine answer? There is no right or wrong selection, here, but you should be sure from the very start of the interaction there is an obvious and easy way for a caller to reach a human. There are many people who simply do not relate well to a machine answering their phone calls. Once your caller is able to reach a real human, does that person project the image and feeling you want projected to your customers and prospects? Does the first person who answers have the ability to direct the caller to the correct department or person to help the caller? Does she or he come across as knowing how to assist the caller? Too many times, we have seen the point of initial contact with customers and prospective customers left to the least experienced and least trained personnel in the company. The result can be that a poor impression is left in the mind of the person initiating the contact, and this can have the consequence of fewer sales and less confidence in your company’s ability to handle whatever brought the prospect to contact you in the first place. It is important for all parts of the company to realize they are a part of the process of satisfying the customer. If the initial contact goes well, the inquiry is promptly and accurately handled, the order is well taken and handled, but shipping goofs and sends the wrong materials or ships to the wrong address, the good done by the rest of the company is lost on the customer, because the outcome is not correct in the eyes of the customer. Everyone must contribute consistently to have the overall effect desired.
Another factor could be your hours of operation. Are you available when your customers want to contact you? I visited a service-oriented company recently, and noted that their hours of operation were from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. My first question of the management was to ask when their customers were at work? Do your hours of operation make it easy for them to contact you without having to take time away from their work? Their reaction: they had never thought about how convenient their hours were. They had always had those hours, and had never thought of changing.
Next, do your people follow through on their commitments to outside contacts? When your customer service department tells a customer that they will have an answer by a certain time or date, do they consistently get back to the customer on time or early with the complete answer? Or do they miss deadlines, lack understanding of the customers’ needs, and not follow through on commitments?
The interesting thing about this discussion is that, so far, we have not suggested that any significant investment will be required to bring your levels of service and communication up to a higher level. These are potentially easy fixes, the result of which will be a broad-based impression that your company cares about doing business with each contact, knows what it is talking about, and follows through with the commitments made by each area within the company. Even if these factors don’t result in immediate orders, the groundwork has been laid for the up-coming improvement in the economy. When business picks up, the fact that your company cared enough about its customers to improve communication and to follow up on commitments, on time and with complete information should lead to better sales.
In the next part of this series we will discuss What next?
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M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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