Timing is Everything: Tips for Improving Customer Communications
Customers today are not only informed, they are actively engaged with brands at multiple levels; making it critical that companies manage highly engaged consumers effectively. One of the most important factors is timing of marketing and sales outreach. Stay quiet too long and a customer will forget. Send an email when a customer spends more decision-making time on social media and the message is lost. Provide testimonials, third party research and product information upfront; the customer may be overwhelmed. OptifiNow, a leader in sales optimization, has created the following tips businesses can use to improve the timing of sales outreach to boost results.
1. Develop a calendar including all events that would impact a customer’s buying process. Critical dates such as holidays, seasonal buying spikes and lulls, and national events like tax season or earnings announcements should be included.
2. Analyze current sales outreach timing. Is there a strategy behind emails and flyers going out or is a shotgun approached used each time more sales are needed? Look back at old campaigns and rank which campaigns were the most effective. Identify core commonalities.
3. Organize sales collateral. Not knowing what is available to send to potential customers greatly inhibits a business’ ability to time outgoing messaging properly. Create categories for sales messaging and assign each piece of collateral a category. These should include general sales/product messages, special offers, customer testimonials, case studies, third-party research and newsletters.
4. Once sales collateral is categorized it needs to be assigned timing. Developing a standard operating procedure for when each piece of messaging is appropriate to send to a lead, based on that lead meeting certain criteria, will help take the guesswork out of the sales process.
5. Next, it is important to review past sales to identify the average buying process timeline for customers. By reviewing how long it took for past leads to make a purchasing decision, a sales team can better align current outreach efforts to match typical response times and interest levels of leads that are in the pipeline now.
6. Begin building the master sales calendar. Once a business has identified key dates that will impact its sales cycle, organized and categorized sales collateral and reviewed past successes it is time to merge the information together. Put events and past sales wins on parallel timelines. If successes in the sales cycle are not aligning with key dates, as they should be, further research into why a campaign was a success (or failure) needs to be done.
7. Next, map out on a third parallel timeline the buying process of the average customer. Create buying stages for the sales funnel. For example, name Stage One, “Awareness”. This is when the lead is first learning about a business and evaluating its offerings and benefits. Stage Two is “Consideration”. This stage is when a lead is reviewing and contemplating a business’ offerings versus competitors and seeing what options are out there. Stage Three is “Short Listing”. The lead knows what it wants and what businesses best fit that need. Now it’s time to make a decision.
8. On the timeline for the average customer’s buying process, overlay the collateral materials available to send to the customer in each stage. It is crucial to create a campaign that builds and leaves no doubt about the superiority of your business’ product or service. Use past sales data to determine the average length of each stage for a typical lead.
In “Awareness”, leads should be interacting with news stories, banner ads, white papers, social media communities and receiving a newsletter. In this stage leads are being made aware of a business’ capabilities and are being alerted of their need.
Once a lead has entered the sales cycle and is made aware of a business’ offerings, the pressure is on. During the “Consideration” stage leads need to be consistently reminded of the superiority of a business’ product or service through third-party verifications. At this stage, sales messaging should focus heavily on analyst reports, case studies, references, testimonials, third-party research reports on the industry as a whole and media coverage balanced with selective messaging about product/service benefits and competitive advantages.
Only at the point when a lead lapses into the “Short List” stage should a business begin to deliver special offer sales messaging to a lead. During this final stage of decision-making, a lead should be well enough known to a sales team to identify any additional collateral materials that need to be sent to push the sale over the edge.