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There may be a lot more business out there than you’re addressing

I’ve always understood there to be four types of customers and prospects. There are those wonderful people who buy from your company wherever possible. There are those who buy some of your products, but go elsewhere for other things which you could also sell them. Then there are the prospects – those who know about your products but buy elsewhere; and finally, those who don’t even know about you.

The question which every marketer should ask, of course, is: “Am I addressing each of these groups?”

Firstly, those lovely people who couldn’t buy anything more from you. Clearly, you’re getting something right. But what? If it’s price or performance, what will you do if the competition catches up? If it’s a personal relationship, what happens if the customer leaves, or your sales rep does? To maintain and improve whatever it is they like about you, it’s critical to know what it is.

The second group is often discussed in marketing circles, as we all know that getting more business from existing customers is a relatively easy but usually underexploited opportunity. Are you sure they know about the other products they could be buying from you? Do you know why they’re not buying them? If the competitor’s products which they are buying are similar to yours, I suspect many companies blame the customer for making a poor choice, rather than trying to find out if the competitor is offering something extra.

Moving on to the prospects, what about those who know you but don’t buy from you? It’s only human nature to be dismissive about these people, but are you getting out your sales message well enough? For example, loads of companies have been fighting cheap Chinese imports for years. Most can make a sound case for these being a bad investment. But it’s rare to find really good marketing collateral laying out this argument in detail. Your prospects might actually want this information to overcome the arguments from their own buyers. Are you helping them?

And it’s only after all this that we get to the prospects who don’t even know about you. These are the easy ones to throw money at. Bung a few quid at advertising, sorted. The question is: are these the people where you can get the best return on investment?

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