March 18, 2010
Here’s the scripted scene. You are tasked with the marketing role in a start-up. You’ve determined who some potential customers are. Now, you need to talk with these customers to find out what their needs and problems are, and to gauge their reception to the product under development. ACTION!
Getting customers to speak with you is not as easy as it seems, and building a relationship with your potential customer doesn’t happen overnight. So, what do you do?
Voice mail can be your best ally in this effort. Most people call a potential customer and if they don’t pick up, they leave a message following the greetings instructions … please leave a brief message and include your name and call back number. If you leave a message such as “This is John Doe from XYZ Company and we are developing a new widget. Call me back at your convenience at (123) 555-4141”. Most likely it’ll be deleted and the call never returned. Most marketing folks will call back again. They get asked to leave another message, and once again, they leave the exact same message as before. Except this time the listener will delete the message before they reach the end of the playback. If you keep leaving them, the sooner and sooner the listener will delete the message, and the listener will hope you’ll eventually give up and go away. If you leave a message enough times, the listener may call you back just because they are so annoyed and just want you to stop calling. You’re clogging up their voice mailbox and keeping them for their important messages. Now what?
A more systematic approach is to create a voice mail campaign. Brainstorm about why your potential customer would want to spend their valuable time helping your create a new product. At this point, you haven’t talked to your customers so you are making assumptions about how your product can be of use to them. Write down 24 short statements about how your new product can benefit them or solve a problem for them. Then prioritize these messages. The next time you call and get voice mail, leave one of these messages and every time you call again, leave another. Now you are building a story about your product and your company. Not all customers will need your product for the same reasons. Keep track of which message eventually gets the customer to return your call. A typical voice mail campaign would have the caller leave 2 messages per week for the first two weeks, 1 message per week for the next four weeks, and finally 1 message per month for the next four months. If your customer is interested, it will usually take 5 to 8 message before you get a return call. Customers are much more receptive to cold calls at work than they are at home. After all, their employers are paying for them to listen to you.
Email is way over used these days. It’s free and therefore, the avenue of choice to get a written message to your potential customer. If you use email, the subject line is critical. Most readers never open the email. They elect to delete or read it based upon the subject line. The subject should be compelling and valuable to the reader. Use your best tidbit because readers will assume there is better and even more valuable information inside the email. Even if the reader opens the email, you only have the first few sentences to attract their attention and keep them reading to the call to action request – schedule a meeting or phone conversation.
The explosive popularity of email has made snail mail more effective. Recipients will read a physical letter these days because of rarity of getting one. Express mail is even better, particularly if you are trying to connect with a person in a larger organization. Internal mailrooms can be slow with delivering snail mail to addressees and often they can sit in a mail slot for some time before being picked up, but express mail gets delivered quickly because it could be urgent.
Before you jump into a full blown product development and marketing effort, it’s important to make sure the problem is real and customers are desperate for an answer.
Filed under: Marketing & Sales