Money can’t buy you love

The old adage about keeping existing customers happy has never been truer. Simon Lawrence looks at how good data can help build good business relationships.

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25th June 2009 at 9:40 am

The recession has seen businesses putting expansion plans and financial investments on ice, however the one thing a small business should always keep warm is its relationships with customers and prospects.

The economic climate has encouraged businesses to become far more value orientated and companies are keen to make sure their marketing activities and budgets are drawing maximum returns.

However, by putting too much focus on marketing to gain immediate returns, businesses risk falling behind their competitors when the economy picks up.

By concentrating on long term as well as short term relationships with prospects, businesses are ensuring they are in the front line when customers are looking to invest once more.

When a new prospect is first identified and engaged, they are probably still in the research stage of the purchasing decision and not yet ready to talk fully with a member of the sales team.

It is crucial to nurture these leads, develop relationships and collect data during these early stages of research. The stronger your relationship is with a prospect, the better positioned you will be to apply this knowledge and offer them services and products they might actually want at an appropriate time.

SMEs have the potential to enhance their customer relationships, and therefore their data, with every communication sent out. So make sure each one counts.

Collecting and maintaining good data should be considered a strategic move allowing you to deal with current customers better and enable you to address the potential needs of prospects. Any touch point can be used to collect information including mail-outs, click-throughs and white paper downloads.

To avoid putting strain on new relationships and alienating potential customers, SMEs should aim only to ask questions to which the answers will be beneficial.

To work out which questions are most important to ask, a business will first need to establish what its desired outcome will be and work backwards to see the fewest questions that can be asked to gain this information.

By using prospects responses, data from any contact points and applied customer analysis, companies can predict what a prospect (or an existing customer) could buy in the future rather than purely concentrating on what they might buy tomorrow.

A relationship developed over a period of months, or even years, rather than just a few weeks will be in a strong starting position when prospects are again ready to purchase.

Simon Lawrence

Simon is the founder and CEO of Information Arts one of the UK's leading business-to-business marketing consultancies set up in 2000. Simon has over 17 years experience within the industry and is widely regarded as a leading expert in businesses marketing to other businesses. http://www.information-arts.com/

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