Some universal facts in the new marketing landscape:
- There is no more mass media- you can’t just buy any one media and hope to reach a very big audience (unless you buy Superbowl spots- and even then…)
- Even if you can reach all of your current and potential customers- they are still being barraged with messages- making yours stand out is increasingly difficult.
And then, factor in the age old rules-
- People do business with people they know,
- It costs way more to get a new customer than to continue to sell to an existing one.
Put all the above factors together- and all of a sudden, handwritten notes start making sense. The “Thank You” note, long a staple of non-profit fundraisers- and boutique clothiers- is now becoming a very effective tool to implement in any business.
Here is a bit of a story from American Public Radio’s Marketplace show:
Then, a couple weeks later they both got letters in the mail from the saleswoman who’d helped them. They were thank you notes.
Siewert: It was a fully hand written note, referencing the exact bag we purchased. And on my note, she even had a nice reference to our alma mater.
Turns out they’d gone to the same school. And, I’ll admit the purse Sarah bought wasn’t exactly cheap. It was Marc Jacobs, about $400. But it’s not just pricey department stores that are beefing up their manners. When the recession hit, JCPenney started a customer service program called GREAT. It’s an acronym for salespeople: Greet. Respect. Engage. Assist. And Thank. And other retailers are following suit.
Brett Brohl: I’ve written, at least 2,000 thank yous just in the last 12 months.
Brett Brohl owns Scrubadoo.com. He sells medical scrubs. You know, those pastel-colored outfits, doctors and nurses wear. Brohl says he hand writes a thank you note for every single customer. Scrubadoo is a new company, and Brohl says there are a lot of websites out there selling the exact same products he does.
Brett Brohl: If you Google the word “scrubs,” we’re not on the front page, we’re not on the second page. And just like every other industry right now, competition’s tough and with less people buying, it’s even tougher.
Brohl says, a new company like his can’t afford major marketing like TV commercials. Instead, he says, he’s counting on thank you notes to help Scrubadoo stand out. So is this the beginning of a new trend of exemplary customer service?
Nancy Koehn is a retail historian, at Harvard. She says for smart businesses it is.
Nancy Koehn: We’re returning to civility, courtesy and a way of actually honoring customers that has seemed far too absent, I think, for the last 20 years.
Koehn says the role of the salesperson has changed a lot over the decades. Before the recession, a salesperson’s job had morphed into managing transactions: Bagging groceries, dispensing coffee, ringing up a sale. She says the more we’ve absorbed technology, like self-service check-out at the grocery store, the more retail businesses have reduced service.
Now, the role of the salesperson is changing again. I’m at a perfume counter at Saks Fifth Avenue with James McLaughlin. He works for a fragrance company called Jo Malone. McLaughlin says its sales people have been sending thank you notes for years. They’re scented. But now, he says the company spends 20 percent more time, on expressing gratitude — everything from hand and arm massages to wine tastings for customers.
James McLaughlin: We oftentimes will liken the experience as dating. You have a really great first date, and then the person calls you three months later when there’s a sale going on and says, “How about a second date?” Why would they bother? You didn’t keep in touch.
But just saying “Thank you” isn’t really enough- you need to build a customer relationship management system- one that has all their quirks, likes, dislikes- size etc. in it. Good clothing salespeople used to keep little 3×5 cards with all the data on their clientele- as did smart hair stylists- and even a few bar keeps.
The more you know about your customers- the better able you are to solve their problems and be a trusted part of their business.
Luckily, today technology offers us all kinds of tools to do this. First we had Personal Information Managers- with software like ACT and Goldmine. Then they became enterprise level- where all the data was stored centrally. SAP, Salesforce are some of the better known systems. Of course, there are also “free” Open Source alternatives- like SugarCRM and its stripped down fork vTigerCRM.
I included the intro to ACT video to introduce you to the concept of CRM systems- not as an endorsement of one over the other.
Having a lot of social media contacts might be nice- but it’s what you do with them that matters. We have lots of information- it’s how we utilize it that counts these days. Integrate a CRM tool with your website- and you have a lead collection system.
There are plenty of options out there- we’ve been using vTigerCRM at The Next Wave. We consider it, along with internal wikis, part of our toolbox for building our own media channel- and of knowing everything there is to know about our clients, to strengthen the relationships.
Sending a handwritten note is good, but making sure to follow up is even more important. Utilizing the high tech CRM systems to keep track of all our efforts gives us the best chance of keeping doing business with our existing clients- and in prospecting for new ones.
So, before you spend $3.5 million on a Superbowl spot- think about how you can build a CRM system to keep close to the clients you already have.