Strategies for Finding Customers—And Keeping them Loyal

There are essentially two ways to increases sales: find more customers or find new ways to sell more things to the customers you already have. Both strategies are important, but often one or the other gets short shrift.

  • In a start-up, when the focus is on new customer acquisition, it’s easy to overlook upselling opportunities.
  • Over time, as a company gets more established, the focus shifts to upgrades and add ons for existing customers. Finding new customers may get the backseat.

Getting both acquisition and retention/upsell strategies working together is the key to smart marketing. You need new customers to replace inevitable attrition and stay innovative. At the same time, keeping current customers loyal pays huge rewards: a 5% reduction in your customer defection rate can increase profits by 25% to 80%.Here are five ways to keep your acquisition and retention strategies in balance:

Know your value: Regularly ask yourself, “Who is my customer and what value am I delivering?” Focus on problems you are solving for your existing customers that helps make them more competitive in today’s economy? Apply what you have learned to markets/customers you haven’t tapped yet.

Know the competition: Instead of simply trying to beat the competition, analyze what they are doing and how it impacts your acquisition and retention strategies. What problems do your competitors solve that makes them attractive to new customers and gives them the potential to make inroads on your current customer base?

Know the decision makers: Remember that the people making a buying decision do not always have the same set of criteria as the person actually using your product. That’s why simply repeating your core marketing message to decision makers won’t work. You have to target their hot buttons—how are you making their life easier? Helping them achieve their goals? What could make the decision maker at a prospect choose someone else, or at an existing customer decide not to remain loyal?

Make it easy for new and existing customers to reach: Give new customers, existing customers and decision makers the option to “self-select” on your website. Use the capabilities in your communications system—such as customized routing, hunt groups, multiple incoming lines, and connections to etc.— to get a streamlined presence on the phone that’s critical for both acquisition and retention strategies.

RuralSourcing: Using Communications to Build Business Where the Grass is Greener

Will “ruralsourcing” take hold on the back roads and country lanes of America? With 60 million people accessible via broadband and often located near a college/university system, it’s more and more likely. The very things that made outsourcing overseas so attractive—lower costs, an  educated workforce and an established technology infrastructure—also exists here in the U.S. That’s why more large, U.S.-based businesses are beginning to turn to small rural companies for back office and other services—a phenomenon that’s been dubbed “ruralsourcing.”

The benefits are numerous: lower costs, shorter supply chains, better data security, intellectual property protection, cultural compatibility and convenient time zones.

Hard numbers on the growth of rural sourcing are difficult to come by, but according to Mary Lacity, professor of information systems at the University of Missouri’s College of Business, the past year or two has seen a spike in demand. Lacity estimates that there are some 20 rural outsourcing providers in the United States pursuing a market of $100 million.

  • Iowa has launched an effort — Off Shore Iowa—to promote the ability of several Iowa communities to provide technologically enhanced administrative back office services.
  • A number of IT services companies, such as The C&L Group (C&L), Rural Sourcing Inc. and Cross USA are specifically focused on developing high-tech hubs in rural areas across the U.S.
  • New numbers out of South Dakota show a boom in sole proprietors.

Small rural businesses looking to capture their share of rural sourcing dollars will do well to pay close attention to the communications capabilities that they have in place. The right communications can help support the efficient, professional business processes desired by outsourcing companies. In particular, consider the following:

Multiple, Incoming Business Lines: You will very likely need to establish multiple, incoming business lines each with its own separate phone number and identity. But you want to be able to manage all of these lines through one system and be able to easily use one set of people resources to manage incoming calls on all the different lines.

Connect Multiple Offices: If you have more than one office location, take advantage of a communications system that lets you have all the offices on one dial plan so everyone is reachable as an extension on the system (not an outside call) and can also share resources such as messaging or a receptionist.

Home Office Workers: It’s very likely you will be “sourcing” business yourself, by taking advantage of home-based workers. With the right communications solution, home-based workers can be just another extension and have access to all of the communications capabilities as if they were working in the office.

Conference Calling: A communications system with a built-in conference bridge gives you the option of instantly setting up conference calls with a few people or a few dozen. It’s a great way to streamline communications with people in a wide range of locations.

Software Options: Different people in your organization are going to have different communications needs, depending on whether they are managers, office workers, home-based employees, frequent travelers, etc. Make sure your communications system gives you options to get the right fit for each type of employee and not have to spend on capabilities that aren’t needed.

Avaya IP Office is an example of a new breed of small business communications system that offers a great option for companies looking to take advantage of the ruralsourcing trend.  What makes Avaya IP Office particularly attractive is that is has an established track record: 30 million users around the world.

For more information on Avaya IP Office