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There is a Method to the Madness

Written By: Andrew J. Birol
Your marketing and sales team says the best way to increase sales is to buy new database marketing software. .or launch new. . distribution strategies. .or have salespeople make more cold calls. or add telemarketing. What's the right answer?

Your customers feel neglected and orders are slipping. Your customer service manager recommends a retention program, but what should it include? What channels should you use? Do you have the right software?

Chances are, these scenarios are painfully familiar. Decisions like these are crucial to your company's success, but how do you know what to do and when to do it? In short, is there a method to the madness?

You can cut through the chaos by understanding that all your company's marketing, sales, and customer service efforts come down to three basic goals: finding customers, keeping customers, and growing customers. Too many companies today have lost focus on this core principle of doing business. To get the greatest value from your efforts, you need to simplify your thinking and go back to the basics.

Three Key Questions:

If you market products and services to business, ask yourself the following questions:

What is your company's Best and Highest Use in the marketplace? Are your products or services optimally bundled into a compelling offer?

Can you quickly identify the real pain or opportunity that you resolve for customers and explain how your product or service alleviates their pain or leads them to opportunity?

Who are your very best customers? Even the most sophisticated companies still define their best customers by such elementary criteria as SIC code, sales volume, and number of employees. Targeted marketing requires a deep understanding of customers and their needs, to be gained only if you're exceptionally close to customers. Have you asked your best customers why they like you, why they buy from you, and whether they'd refer you? Referrals are the only true measure of customer satisfaction.

The Crucial Intersection

Once you have answered the three previous questions with confidence, you can identify the crucial intersection that should drive all your sales and marketing efforts. This is the point at which your firm's best offer is of most value to a narrow slice of the market because it resolves their greatest pain or opportunity. The more precisely you can define this intersection, the better you can pinpoint prospects. This should be the rallying point for all your company's marketing, sales, and customer service activities.

Using Sales Funnels to Guide Your Efforts

Defining your target prospect is the first step. Using a series of scoring tools that strictly adhere to your target prospect profile, you can create three sales funnels that will organize and implement your plan for finding, keeping, and growing customers.

All marketing, sales, and customer service activities must be designed, justified, and measured by their value to each funnel.

Finding Customers

To bring in new business, you need more than slick marketing and crossed fingers. The customer acquisition funnel is a visual tool that systematizes what your company must do to turn suspects into prospects, prospects into qualified prospects, and qualified prospects into customers. Your goal of finding customers becomes the end and your marketing the means to the end.

Keeping Customers

Which customer would you rather have--one that places a single large order, or one that orders a smaller but steady amount over a period of months or years? Your best customers are the ones that keep coming back, but too many firms don't do enough to build relationships with their buyers. The retention sales funnel fulfills your goal of keeping customers by progressively moving one-time buyers or ex-customers to the desired status of customers who make multiple or sustained purchases. These are the customers with the highest long-term value.

Growing Customers

You keep customers by delivering products and services that meet their needs and doing it in a way that satisfies them. To take the next step, you want to grow these habitual customers into champions of your business--loyal customers who not only buy from you but who spread the word about how great your firm is. The development funnel is used to move stable customers through defined, predictable activities that convert them into up-sold/cross-sold customers and then to the status of advocate or champion.

The results of these activities? A larger number of customers with the highest value to your company. The "graduates" of this three-funnel process are to be coveted and honored with no costs spared.

The funnel system simplifies all your marketing, sales, and customer service decisions. By returning to the basics-offer, need, and target market-you define your best prospects. This drives the creation, execution, and measurement of all sales and marketing activities through the acquisition, retention, and development funnels. Yes, it is a method to the madness!

On one hand, it's remarkably simple. On the other hand, your work has just begun. Implementing and managing your business through this process requires time, discipline, and passion.

But when you have simple goals and clear ways to get there, the results are worth it.

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