All I Want for Christmas is… a customer-focused value proposition?

Some of you in reading this will question whether what I’m proposing is really a marketing responsibility or a sales responsibility. But the point is that the buying climate out there is forcing marketing and sellers to engage and partner more closely than ever before. It takes a village of marketing and salespeople to land and keep happy customers. Marketing has the power and expertise to lead the way on that journey.  So please read this and let me know what you think!

• Customer-focused value proposition that clearly states the prospect’s challenge or goal, your company’s specific offer to address it, and what differentiates your offer from available alternatives;

• Customer-focused benefits (not features) tailored to individual personas/titles of target prospects;

• List of key value drivers that guide the prospect’s decision process, quantified with verifiable proof (customer testimonials, case studies, or third party validation). Qualification tools make all the difference in streamlining the sales process and driving closeable opportunities into the pipeline. While it is sales’ job to qualify, there is a role for marketing to play in driving the process.

• Create a “Prospect Fit Index,” which provides an easy and consistent method for sales to determine whether a prospect is worth pursuing. The index should outline what is a poor fit versus an optimal fit based on a set of 5–7 key criteria that describe the best and closable sales targets for your products or services. Any prospect can be quickly assessed or scored based on where they map across the index.

• Develop a lead measurement tool that allows both marketing and sales to score a lead to be able to assess the quality of leads coming in, and to determine which leads should be pursued versus nurtured until they are ready to go to sales.

Oh yes, there is more!  Click here to continue.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! Knowledgence is grateful for our part in your lives, and we wish you, your colleagues and your familes the very best!

Customer Testimonials: Now That You Have Them, What Do You Do With Them?

Testimonials are important assets that can be used in myriad ways. Be creative with them and be sure to ask permission on types of use. Include on the testimonial form a list of the ways you might use the quote. And if they prefer you don’t use their name, still gather the information. Research has shown that the use of a ‘blind” testimonial is only 10 percent less valuable than a named customer.

Here are some options for using them more creatively:

  • Get endorsements on your website through third-party review sites.
  • Post relevant quotes on different areas of your website (not just a “testimonial” page).
  • Use short customer quotes on your social media profile pages.
  • Add relevant testimonials as an appendix to proposals.
  • Arm sales people with testimonial letters that can be used on sales calls.
  • Add a customer quote to your telephone on-hold recording.
  • Add a customer quote to the back of all business cards.
  • Add to brochures, flyers, fact sheets and other marketing collateral.
  • Consider a sidebar on customer letterhead with 2 -3 short quotes.
  • Video the customer talking about their experience with you.
  • Interview customers for newsletters, blogs, webinars.

Important note:  While it is important to make use of testimonials from customers, do not overdo it! A bombardment of positive commentary about you and your business may come off as a bit disingenuous. And keep it fresh; rotate the testimonials you use every few months!

Read more on this topic.

What Should a Good Customer Reference Say?

Many of your clients may be happy to provide a reference for you in writing, but are often at a loss of exactly what to say that would be meaningful.  Some of them might just tell you to write something yourself, and they will sign off on it.  As tempting as that may be, the most value that you get out of a customer reference is that it comes from the customer!

But that doesn’t mean you can’t help your customer along with the process.  Ask them to take a few moments to answer some pointed, open-ended questions about the work you did or the product you sold.

•    What immediate or long-term benefit(s) did our engagement provide?
•    What aspects of the service experience were memorable and why?
•    What aspects exceeded your expectations?
•    What was the impact on revenue gains or cost reductions?
•    Describe your customer experience in 3 words or less.
•    What did you learn from our working together?
•    Would you work with us again and why?

Ask permission to use some of their answers as a reference for prospects.  Be sure to show the customer exactly how you are going to use their words, and in which media.

Customer references are some of the most precious assets your business has.  Don’t leave them on the table.  And once you have them, don’t squander them!

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Saying Thank You to Your Customers

Some thoughts as Thanksgiving approaches…

Your mama taught you the magic words: “Please,” “Thank You,” and “You’re Welcome.”  Now that you are a grown-up businessperson, these words are still useful, if not exactly magic.

Most of us remember to say Thank You to a customer when our transaction is complete, and yes, that is very nice.  However, it is also very common, to the point where it is almost a throw-away phrase, like “How ya doin’?”  Expressing your gratitude to your customers should be more than just a knee-jerk catch phrase that follows the cha-ching of your cash register.

The best way to show appreciation to your customers is to do things that make your customers feel good.  This will take on a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, based on the nature of your business and the types of customers you have. Real gratitude is shown when you give your customer something of value that they were not expecting, that goes above and beyond what they contacted you for in the first place.  But please, not the pens or baseball caps with your logo on them!  Most folks have plenty of writing utensils and headwear, so the “value” of these types of promotional gifts is really the free advertising YOU get, if/when the customer uses these gifts in public.

Providing an outstanding Customer Experience is the key to expressing thanks to your customers.  A clean, comfortable business environment.  A friendly greeting and an offer to help, if needed.  A few well-chosen words of personal interaction – not about the weather, but about something the customer has, or says, or wants to purchase.  Connecting, even briefly, is a way of letting the customer know that you appreciate their taking the time to connect with your business.  But make the effort to be sincere.  Complimenting someone on the white tee shirt they are wearing may come off as a bit contrived.

Granted, this is all Service 101.  Yet so many businesses fail at this fundamental aspect of commerce.  But I guarantee you, the customer who feels appreciated is a customer who will return to you, and will bring her friends / colleagues.  This is how your business grows best.

So think about your mom.  Think about how she’d want you to treat those nice customers.  Then do it!  And not just around the holidays; do it every day, with every customer.  Customers have choices.  Show the ones who have chosen you some kindness and gratitude, and watch how much they will come to appreciate you!

— Chuck Dennis

Time is of the Essence!

To make any kind of impact on social media, it is imperative that your content be timely.  That’s why you should start each day by viewing search alerts from your web search engines of choice, on topics that are meaningful to your business and industry.  You need to know what’s going on NOW.  The reasoning here is simple: keep your web presence as current as possible. It strengthens your business reputation, and your blog’s SEO.  And, you always have stuff to write about!

Here’s a quick lesson on how to get pertinent, timely information delivered to you when you need it:

  1. Where do you go? Log into your Google account, and go to  (Yes, you can do this with other search engines, too.)
  2. Where do you search?  Don’t limit the scope of your search to just news or just discussions, at least initially. Search everything, including other people’s social media!
  3. What do you search?  Create search alerts on your name, your business or product name, and some industry keywords.  Don’t forget your competitors’ names and products.  Do each of these separately, otherwise you will have bloated search results.  Use quotation marks to focus on “specific terms” such as “your name.”
  4. When do you want to be notified?  At very least, once daily.  But depending on your industry, you may want to be notified “as it happens.”  Beware of having too broad a search when you use immediate notification; your inbox will fill up quickly.

Consider doing this with a variety of search engines, such as Yahoo!, Northern Light, Bing, etc.

But a word of caution: become adept at quickly scanning and assessing these alerts.  If you fully investigate each citation, you will have created an incredible time-suck.

So focus on the hot news, and when something catches your eye, immediately write something about it, link to its source, and share it with your world!

–Chuck Dennis

8 Steps to Recovering “Lost” Customers

Because we’re so focused on generating new business, recovering old accounts is usually not a priority. But it’s a great revenue strategy to identify recovery targets and develop an action plan to go get them. Here are some steps to get you started:

1.  Research your customer database for all customers that have not done business with you for one year or more.

2.  Segment the list into groups of one year, two years, three-plus – and then sort by sales territory.

3.  Review each list with customer service and the territory sales rep to see if they have any intelligence on why the customer left.

4.  Check in with other key personnel who have been with your company for a while and have had customer contact, to see if there is any anecdotal information.

5.  Categorize the reasons for leaving and work with marketing to construct tailored messages for the major categories.

6.  Create a multi-touch field campaign to start to re-engage – holding out those you know had a service issue.  The goal is to get agreement for a preliminary live conversation with a sales rep.

7.  Do NOT try to sell them anything in the first live meeting. This is only step one in earning back their business.

8.  For service-issue customers, re-engagement requires a personal touch. Determine what the nature of the issue was, and what you can offer them now that might be worth reconsidering you as a vendor.

For this to work, you need patience and consistency. So make Customer Recovery a key aspect of every monthly sales meeting. Track and report on the process of recovery for each of the identified targets and make sure everyone in the company knows what is happening, and when you win them back or why you didn’t.

Click here to continue

Customers: Lost & Found

This is why you think the customers that you have lost have stopped doing business with you:

•    Can’t compete on price
•    Key contact left the company
•    Bad customer experience
•    Ummm… don’t know why

In reality, here are some real reasons they gave as to why they stopped doing business with you:

•    Vendor stopped calling us
•    Didn’t grow with us
•    Unwilling to be creative
•    Only heard from them at renewal time
•    Unresolved bad customer experience
•    Someone else wanted the business more

The differences between these two sets of reasons point to a key communication gap. A typical scenario: Former Customer says,“I never hear from them, and someone else appeared who took more time with us. So we went with a new outfit.”

When asked if they would consider doing business with their old vendor again, Former Customer said he would certainly consider it, but wasn’t sure that his business was important to them. This should be an “a-ha!” moment for the old vendor.

So think about it: what if you could recover 10-20 percent of your lost customers? It would likely have a significant revenue impact for you not only this year, but in future years.  It’s not always comfortable to reach out to former customers, especially if they were disgruntled.  But you may find it well worth your time to reconnect, and this time, LISTEN to them.  Addressing their issues might be easier than you think.

Click here to read more.

— Lisa Dennis

Socially Speaking

As social media becomes more and more prevalent in business, two things have become apparent.

One, social media for business is about your customer’s and prospect’s preferences, not your own.  This means utilizing the platforms that your target audience prefers, not the ones YOU prefer.  This may seem like an elementary statement, but human nature often pushes us into our own
comfort levels, as opposed to places unfamiliar to us.  Find out where your customers and prospects hang out online, and make sure you have a significant presence there.  Don’t assume! Ask them; find out what they like about Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.  Then make sure you are there, giving them the relevant content that they desire.

Two, your social media platforms need to support and talk to one another.  People who find your business page on one platform should be directed to your pages on other relevant platforms.  In addition to the ubiquitous icons of Facebook, Twitter, and the like that now regularly appear on web pages and email signature files, many of these platforms themselves now allow for crosspollination.  For example, Facebook has an app that can lead people who land on your business page, and allow them to sign up for your Constant Contact newsletter.

As businesspeople, we know that there are few things move precious than our mailing lists.  These are people who are asking us to contact them, so it behooves us to provide easy access for them. Constant Contact and Facebook have done just that.  Check it out!

Let us know how you are sharing your social media pages with customers.  Or ask us questions about how to better leverage your social media accounts.  We’d love to exchange thoughts and ideas on this topic!

– Chuck Dennis

Qualified Deals: do you have any??

Qualified Deals: do you have any?? Answer these questions and find out.

• What is the business pain the prospect is experiencing – in their language?
• How is the project need defined by the prospect and can we address it?
• Does the project have both a name and a budget?
• What is the time frame for a decision AND for a completed implementation?
• Who are the members and their roles on the decision making team?
• What are the criteria for each member of the decision making team?
• When do they expect a completed proposal?
• Who else are they talking to and how likely is it that we will make the shortlist?

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