Are you losing profit without even realising it? Every business has leaks - places where customers and revenue can disappear between the cracks. But you have to spot the leaks before you can mend them. Marketing consultant Bryony Thomas explains.
I've yet to encounter a small business that isn't leaking profit in the way they approach their marketing. If you're not supporting every step in a customer's buying journey, you're definitely losing business.
There really is no point in running expensive marketing taps into a leaking business bucket. Address these leaks and you will make more money.
Common profitability leaks
Here are just three of the gaps I see most often in the way existing customers are dealt with:
1 Forgotten customers
Look firstly to the people who've been on your books for a while. It's easy to think that once you've got them on-board as a customer, the hard work is over. Unfortunately, your business simply isn't the most important thing on their mind, so it's easy for them to forget about you.
For example, if you have customers who pay an annual fee but who have forgotten about your business or the reason they bought from you originally, you have a potential leak. And that's quite apart from telling them about anything else you might have to offer.
2 Poor customer engagement
Now, look at the people you've recently signed up. For a buyer, there's a critical period between placing an order and considering themselves a loyal customer. It's the period during which a customer susses out whether a company is living up to their expectations.
Exactly how long this period lasts will depend on what your company offers and how it acts. For an online retail business, it might last until the product has been received and tried out for the first time.
Whatever your business model, there will be an interval between someone placing an order, and the point at which they consider themselves your loyal customer or 'on-board'. During that period, it's easy to lose customers on whom you've spent a great deal of time, money and energy.
In that time, such people may appear on your books as paying customers, but psychologically, they're not. And it's critical for 'real' adoption to take place that your customers become customers in their own minds, not just on your system.
To address this you need a systemic approach to customer engagement.
3 No emotional connection
Have you ever lost a deal only to discover that it instead went to someone with whom the buyer plays golf? Okay, so perhaps we've not all experienced that exact scenario, but I'm sure most businesses can empathise with the sense that there are times when it's not the best person who wins the deal; it's the person the buyer likes most.
Building an emotional connection is often a vital factor in getting people over that final hurdle of the buying journey. You can tick all their logical boxes, but if it doesn't feel right, often there's no deal.
To stem this leak you need to be the kind of business buyers want to deal with.
Securing adoption means securing an emotional connection
Where is your marketing leaking profits?
We've covered the three steps to take when making your marketing watertight. However, there are 13 touchpoint leaks in all, and addressing each one will make your business more robust and increase its profitability.
Ask yourself the following questions to work out if the way you interact with potential buyers is letting your business down:
- Forgotten customers: Do you have consistent customer communications that proactively address any service needs and keep your business in their minds?
- Poor 'on-boarding' or engagement: Is there a structured approach to communication with your new customers as they settle into their relationship with you that demonstrates your service remains consistent with the expectations they had?
- No emotional connection: Does your visual and written style have a personal touch that's friendly and allows people to make an emotional connection with your business?
- No gateway: Does your business offer a coherent set of products that lead helpfully from one to the next with the inclusion of a stepping-stone that allows people to understand what it's like to be a customer before they become one?
- No critical approval: Is there a clear way of educating (or helping your buyer to educate) anyone who could veto the purchase decision?
- No proof - Are you systematic about signposting some form of proof for every promise or claim you make?
- Lack of information: Do you have a steady stream of relevant information that invites people to find out more?
- Not meeting your buyers' needs: Is your content available in a range of familiar and novel formats so that people can engage with ease and enjoyment?
- Not active where your buyers are looking: Are there at least three places to put your marketing material which your potential buyers already access (for example, which social networks do they use?)?
- Not there when your buyers are looking: Have you made a commitment to timing the release of your marketing material when people are most likely to notice it?
- Not recommended enough: Is there a way of encouraging people to talk about your business so buyers hear something good regardless of who they turn to?
- Not known for what you do: Do you have an absolute clarity of purpose in telling people what your business does?
- No emotional impact: Do you strike an emotional chord with your potential buyer that means they can't help but notice you and feel compelled to take action?
Your business won't have all of these leaks. But, I'm willing to bet if you were setting each to red, amber and green, one or two would be flashing red. A little tweak here and there could have a healthy effect on your bottom line.
Written by Bryony Thomas of Watertight Marketing.
Bryony Thomas is the author of Watertight Marketing, billed by Start Your Business Magazine as "a must for small businesses".