Best of 2012: July

More from our series of highlights of the year. Today we look at the way your company presents itself on the phone, why you might think about asking for people to pay for your data sheets, the cost of asking for a phone number, getting links from closely-related companies, looking after existing customers and starting a production line of written articles.

1. How many companies monitor the image presented to telephone callers? My colleague Rob Hancocks, who has been telephoning a lot of companies recently on our behalf, reckons that as many as 1 in 5 calls are answered so poorly that – as a prospect – he might even think twice about doing business with the company. Have you rung your own company recently to see how it comes across to telephone callers?

2. Imagine that in asking someone to give up their contact details, you’re asking for a payment. It’s a fair, and very revealing, exercise. Now look again at any material which you could make available for free download, but instead are asking “payment” for. Do you seriously think that “a list of reasons why we’re a great supplier” or even a data sheet, would generate significant income if you put a cover price on it? No, of course it wouldn’t. Imagine having a pile of them at an exhibition, and trying to sell them to visitors. On the other hand, an authoritative guide to your technology? Now, that might easily persuade people to dip their hand in their pocket.

3. It’s not unusual for a company to spend, say, £50 getting a prospect as far as a form. Imagine you’ve placed a £500 advert, got 20 people to the website and half of them made it as far as the response mechanism. Now, let’s say the form – and the object of the exercise – is to get people to request a copy of your catalogue in the post. What a dreadful waste even if just one or two of the prospects looking at the form decide not to complete it because you’re insisting on having their telephone number, which – to them – doesn’t seem necessary in order for them to be posted something. You’re wasting £50 every time someone turns their nose up at the form.

4. Starting a proper link-building campaign is like the telephone call you really don’t want to make; you’ll find anything else, however trivial, to do instead. In business-to-business marketing, that’s a strange thing, because we have an opportunity which many organisations don’t have: a network of closely-related websites whose owners we know, and who have reasons to be interested in mutual promotion. They are, of course, our parent companies, the companies who we distribute for, and our own distributors and resellers. It’s such an easy win to go through all of these related sites, and check that there are at least simple links to our own websites. If there aren’t… well, why not?

5. They say that getting increased business from existing customers is a lot more cost-effective than trying to generate new customers. I’m sure that’s true. But I wonder if existing customers actually get less love from your company than they did before they’d placed their first order, rather than more? The best thing a supplier can do for its customers (apart from providing a great product, of course) is to offer them additional services which they’d miss if they left, and to give them confidence in the company by making them feel part of a community.

6. It’s a major marketing commitment to start a “production line” of short articles to go on other sites, but it can be very cost-effective. Commissioning a technical writer or PR company to write a short article for you every week needn’t be the province of the big players in your market. Then your job is to look for the websites (belonging to magazines, blogs, your own principals and distributors) which will accept your articles. You might be surprised how grateful many of them will be.

Quote of the month:
A Twitter account – especially if the Tweets can be displayed in a panel on the site – will instantly get over the “this company looks dead to me” problem which some websites give out.

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