Hey there, small or medium B2B technology company: Have you thought about what your actions are saying to your customers? Even if you don’t think you can afford a big company’s expensive embrace of high-touch customer service, at least you can stop shooting yourself in the foot. Here are six little things you might be doing, all of which tell your customers you don’t really care about them.
1. You’re pushing content whether they want it or not
Emails. Mailings. Newsletters. That are all about you. That you send out whether or not you have any idea if your customers actually want to hear this stuff. Ya, I know that you know that pushing content is the old and discredited way of doing things and that managers still ask for it because it makes them feel like something is getting done. Something is getting done: Your customers are getting annoyed.
In this day and permission-based-marketing age, it’s pretty much table stakes that you ask before you send. Why would you want to talk to people who don’t want to do business with you anyway? When they do need your product or service, they will find you.
2. You make it difficult to use your product
Not only is there no such thing as a proper user manual in your operation, but trying to contact customer support makes Frodo’s return of the ring look like a gambol through a flower garden. Post-sales support is just as important as what it took to get the customers in the first place. Apparently, in your company, one does not simply walk into customer service. And should a customer, despite all of the barriers you erect, happen to stumble upon your hidden trove of manuals, they’ll find them stuffed full of acronyms and mysterious terminology.
Nothing is self explanatory. Make it easy for your customers to fall in love with your product or service. Provide clear, easily accessible user manuals and support information, and a number of different ways to reach you if they need to.
3. You do all the talking in sales calls
A sales meeting is an opportunity to understand what your customer really needs. Some sales people are so focused on delivering the pitch they forget to ask questions and listen. They don’t ask customers what they’d like to know or how they’d like to use the meeting time. The result is you get no information on the buying process or whether — and how much — they’re willing to pay to solve their problem. Then you wonder why didn’t we get the sale? And your sales manager wonders why the close rate on the pipeline is as paltry as it is.
This is critical for early-stage technology companies. Don’t allow your sales peoples’ focus on making today’s sale or this quarter’s numbers come at the expense of superb customer service and the long-term profitable relationships that grow from it.
4. You eschew old tricks
Just because you’re a young, hip technology company on the cool edge of things doesn’t mean you should ignore old-school, well-established ways of doing business. People like to do business with people, and today’s automated technologies, while efficient, are a thin substitute for genuine human contact. This becomes increasingly important with the size of the sale.
(PS: Eschew is an old-trick way of saying avoid.)
5. You’re lying
Okay, you tell yourself it’s just a little marketing spin, or maybe it’s just a wee over-statement about current capabilities that engineering can easily bridge. And anyway, dammit, the competition’s nose is stretched way farther out than ours. We need that sale to meet the quarter!
Sometimes it does take a little magic to win those first big customers but unless you are absolutely confident you can deliver it with all of the features that you talked about, don’t bother selling something you haven’t built yet. In particular, don’t make the person who put their ass on the line for you look like an ass by delivering something less than what he was expecting and told his colleagues they’d be getting. Your product should do exactly what you say it does. You can partner with a customer for development but both parties should have realistic expectations and you need to make sure you’re not using your limited development resources designing a product for a market of one.
6. You never call unless you need something
As parents with a son in first-year university, we’re starting to experience a wee bit of this. It’s not the nicest thing to happen to parents but it’s a totally unacceptable way to treat customers. How about the occasional call that’s all about them — genuinely, unequivocally, unambiguously about them? It’s back to the concept of building relationships. Besides, it costs more to acquire new customers than to nurture existing ones.
None of these six items is new or radical. However, there are no shortcuts when it comes to making the customer feel as the most special person in your life. We are all customers of some sort; all we need to do is to think about how we like to be treated.
Image: Anroma Group Blog
By Linda Moran and Francis Moran
Linda Moran has been bringing technology to market for most of her 20-year career. Currently, she is head of marketing at Sciemetric Instruments.
Francis Moran and Associates is an associated team of seasoned practitioners of a number of different marketing disciplines, all of whom share a passion for technology and a proven record of driving revenue growth in markets across the globe. We work with B2B technology companies of all sizes and at every life stage and can engage as individuals or as a full team to provide quick counsel, a complete marketing strategy or the ongoing hands-on input of a virtual chief marketing officer.