We have all heard the adage: It takes 5x more to land a new customer as it does to keep an existing one. But how can you stay top-of-mind with existing clients without being annoying or too “salesy”. The answer – continuously demonstrate your value.
Keeping an existing customer’s attention has never been harder. They constantly see online ads for new products/services and receive emails from competitors. In addition, the champions you worked closely with to land the sale are often shuttled off to new projects and contact with them becomes sporadic at best.
Even if your software/device/solution is something a customer uses everyday, there is danger in becoming complicit. In fact, if a customer becomes so used to your solution that they start viewing it as part of the furniture, then you are vulnerable to a competitor coming in and snatching your customer from you.
Consider this all-too-common scenario:
- Customer A implements a software from Company X, multiple high-level stakeholders are involved
- 3 months later, control of the software shifts to operational leadership. The project team disbands
- 12 months go by, new operational leadership takes over
- 24 months after implementation, Company X’s solution is identified as a possible cut by Finance
- Staff is asked for justification for Company X’s software, a weak case is made
- A staff member who prefers a competing solution makes a compelling argument to switch
- 6 months later the Company X receives the cancellation notice
In less than 3 years, this fictitious Company goes from winning a deal to losing a valued customer.
If you think this couldn’t possibly happen to you, I challenge you to look at the smallest 5 customers in each of your sales territories and ask your team when was the last time anyone connected with those customers in a meaningful way. I’m going to bet that at least 50% have not received any form of regular communication outside of a monthly invoice.
Other than forcing your Sales or Customer Service teams to contact customer on a regular basis, what can marketers do to help ensure your company remains top-of-mind with customers? Here are 5 ideas to consider.
Monthly Report of Your Value
This is one of the most overlooked opportunities for Health IT companies. With a little bit of elbow grease (or automation), you can demonstrate the value of your software platform on a monthly basis.
For example, say you provide a patient communication platform that reminds patients of their appointments. For the most part this type of solution works completely in the background. Over time, customers may even forget that it’s YOUR platform they have. You could stay top-of-mind with your customers by creating a monthly report of all the appointments you successfully confirmed, all the texts that got replies, all the calls you diverted to text, etc.
Even better, don’t just report those numbers, add the VALUE of the things you did. For example:
- $180 for every appointment confirmed
- $15 for every call diverted to text (based on a text=10min conversation)
This type of value report is extremely powerful. Financial savings/benefits will always get the attention of your internal champions and their leaders. I have personally seen people use these reports as part of their monthly review meetings with senior executives.
PRO TIP: Instead of just producing the report in PDF format, create a PowerPoint version of the graphs so that you customer contact can just copy and paste it into their monthly presentation.
Another great way to remain front and center with customers is through a newsletter. If you already have a blog why not gather up one or two of the most useful articles and include them in a monthly (or quarterly) newsletter to customers.
If possible, ask your product/service team to write a short “tips and tactics” article that talks about how to get more from your solution. You could also include a summary of the trends you spotted from the last conference you attended (make sure it’s a conference that is relevant to your customers).
DO NOT, under any circumstances, include a sales pitch or a press release in your newsletter. Those are turn-offs for most readers and they will see your newsletter as nothing more than sale collateral (thus ignoring future editions). Only include articles and information that adds value to your customers.
Customer Appreciation at Events
One way to sneak in a little bit of subtle promotion into your newsletter is to mention that you are going to be at an upcoming conference. In a short article or paragraph in your newsletter, ask your customers to reach out if they are attending too so that you can send them details of a customer appreciation event. If you don’t have a newsletter, then be sure to send an email to all your customers.
Your event does not have to be grandiose; it can be something as simple as taking your customers out for ice cream. After a long day at a conference, a fun event can be more appealing than a fancy dinner.
These events are a fantastic way to say thank you to your customers and if planned properly, they can create lasting positive memories. I still remember the time, years ago, when a partner of ours took us (and customers) go-karting. It was only a 2hr event between the closing of the exhibit hall and dinner, but it was one of the most fun events I’ve ever been to. We all had a good time and shared a lot of laughs.
Customer Advisory Council
Inviting customers to be “insiders” at your company is a fantastic way to stay top-of-mind. A Customer Advisory Council (CAC) will not only strengthen your relationship with your top customers, your product and service teams will also benefit from the Council’s candid feedback.
Creating a CAC is not difficult and does not have to be expensive. Yes, it would be nice to fly everyone to your head office for a quarterly meeting, but a virtual web conference with video is a perfectly acceptable alternative. Just be sure to publish an agenda for each meeting a month in advance so that everyone can prepare for it.
Be sure also to summarize the discussion and distribute that summary back to everyone on the Council. Most of all, make sure that the suggestions and recommendations of the Council make their way into your product and services offerings. There is nothing worse than being on a Council and not seeing any of your suggestions being implemented.
User Group (even a small one)
Finally, one of the best ways to ensure that customers do not forget you, your solution or the value you bring, is to hold a user group meeting – even if it’s just you and a handful of customers.
A user group meeting combines elements of newsletters (sharing valuable knowledge), customer appreciation events (a chance to get to know your customers as people in a social setting), and customer advisory councils (gathering feedback and input to improve your solution). The biggest advantage of a user group meeting is that you have a captive audience for the entire time you are together. You control the agenda and the experience.
Here are some suggestions for running an effective meeting (a topic we will explore in a future article):
- Ensure executives as well as product experts are available and involved
- Plan longer breaks so customers can check-in with their organizations and so that your own team can connect with customers
- Teaching customers how to use your products more effectively is great, but don’t be afraid to mix in soft-skills education as well, like “how to present your ideas” or “how to break the ice at a networking event”.
- Do not get defensive when constructive or negative feedback is shared. Instead, try to unpack what is being said and get to the heart of the frustration so that you can address it.
- Do not go overboard with the wining and dining. Don’t let your customers think that their monthly fees are going to paying for lavish dinners or entertainment.
Be Active and Creative
These are just 5 ways to stay top-of-mind with customers. There are numerous ways you can achieve this, not just these 5. Just be active with your customers and be creative in how you engage with them. Your customers and your company executives will thank you.