I have several clients that sell into industries with long buying cycles. Nurturing customer relationships in this setting is a challenge. It may take more than six months for a prospect to go from the awareness stage to signing a contract. Some customers may make a purchase only once every so often.
You want to stay on their radar screen. But how do you nurture customer relationships in a long cycle? Here are some useful tactics to consider:
E-MAIL NEWSLETTERS – If you have great content, make sure it gets in front of your customers and prospects via a newsletter. Great content informs and motivates your target audience. To get started, create an editorial calendar with the topics you think are important to your target audience. Then develop short, informative articles about those topics.
Invest in artwork to give your newsletter visuals that draw attention. Look to well-established online e-mail marketing tools like Constant Contact to distribute your newsletter. They provide metrics to monitor your success.
PROJECT CLOSE-OUT MEETINGS– Service businesses can use a “Project Close Out Meeting”. The meeting is an opportunity to gain feedback on your service and can be a meaningful touch point with your customer between projects. Schedule this meeting so there is a reasonable amount of time between the conclusion of the project and for your service to show tangible results. Additional success factors include:
- Invite as many decision-makers as possible and ask for additional ways to provide value to the client.
- Send attendees an agenda in advance so your objectives and discussion points are visible to all and they can properly prepare for the discussion.
- If the client is exceptionally pleased with your service or product, it would be appropriate to ask for a referral (or better yet, an introduction).
SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING – This is a popular method among my clients for engaging with prospects in a long sales cycle. And it is inexpensive! According to global consulting firm, Bain & Company, although not every company is on board yet with social media, it has delivered results for those who have developed and implemented a social media marketing strategy. “As part of a broader customer engagement strategy, social media can be an effective and cost-efficient marketing, sales, service, insight and retention tool. Our recent survey of more than 3,000 consumers helped to identify what makes social media effective. We found that customers who engage with companies over social media spend 20% to 40% more money with those companies than other customers.” Social media helps nurture customer relationships.
Tools that provide meaningful touch points and support customer relationships are readily available, even if your customers are in long buying cycle markets. Use the tools to reach the right contacts at the right time with messaging that is compelling, relevant and supports your brand.