Last month we looked at advertising and direct mail. This month we will look briefly at some key points to be aware of about customer databases and then look at telemarketing.

Databases

This assumes that you keep information about your customers in an electronic or paper database.

A database should allow you to:
 

 

  • Contact the right decision-makers i.e. correct name and job title etc at the right address or phone number.
  • Understand their buying behaviour - order dates, frequency, timing, order sizes etc.
  • Keep existing customers up to date with your products and services.
  • Assess customer profitability.
  • See the payment history.
  • Store any personal information that is relevant i.e. age, gender, social or economic status.

There are very strict rules on the storage and processing of customer information i.e.:
 

  • You need permission to hold it.
  • You must store it securely.
  • You must use and process data in accordance with the principles set out in the data protection act.
  • You should check whether you need to be registered with the information Commissioner.

You will need to be aware of the telephone preference service (TPS) and mailing preference services (MPS) which allow people, and in some cases some types of businesses, to opt out of receiving unsolicited calls and mail shots. You should ensure that before any campaign that your database has been cleaned to take into consideration people registering on TPS or MPS; there are mail cleansing services that you can use for your own database.

You may choose to purchase a list in order to find new customers; the Direct Marketing Association website will give you a list of providers.

Telemarketing
Telemarketing can be time-consuming and for many can be nerve-wracking, particularly when the calls you are making are cold-calls.

But the advantage is that you do get the chance to speak to your audience so you can tailor your message accordingly and you can assess the level of interest. Telemarketing can be used for consumer and business marketing. Businesses are often more receptive, on the other hand customers and consumers can see these as nuisance calls.

Telemarketing is good for:
 

  • Researching and contacting business decision makers.
  • Updating your database content.
  • Fixing appointments with people; few if any business customers will place an order based on a phone call so be clear about the purpose of the call.
  • Keeping in touch with existing and lapsed customers.
  • Finding out more about customer needs.
  • Giving information about the benefits of your products.

As with all marketing, this can be done by you or your staff. A lot of skill is required to achieve a decent conversion rate, so some training may be needed.

What do good telemarketers do?
 

  • They have clear objectives for the call and the outcomes, including being clear about the message that they want to get across.
  • Check that they have the correct person on the telephone.
  • They understand that they have about 30 seconds to make an impression, so they get to the point quickly in order to get the other party's interest. It is worth having an opening script that you can read from, this will help you get the initial message, aimed at getting the other party's interest, across confidently. If you decide to use an opening script make sure you write it in conversational tone (i.e. how you would say it) so that it doesn't sound as if you are reading.
  • Encourage the other party to talk by asking open questions and if there is a pause in the conversation letting the other party break the silence.
  • They listen actively to what is said by the other party so they can tailor the call and the message.
  • They don't interrupt, second guess or try to pre-empt the other party.
  • Summarise the conversation at intervals. This shows the customer that the caller is listening and understands.
  • Talk confidently about the benefits of the product and (as they possibly already have a supplier) the benefits of switching.
  • Develop a rapport with the other party; a good tip is to smile whilst you are talking.
  • Have excellent product knowledge and can answer any question however technical; the other party may put you to the test.
  • Ensure there are no interruptions or distractions at their end.
  • Know how to get past the gatekeeper i.e. reception or the PA.
  • Take rejection without it harming their confidence. People will say no, but you have to bounce back.

There are professional telemarketers will offer this service for large companies and to smaller businesses where skills and resources are a lacking.

That's all for this month. Next time we will look at PR and start to look at digital marketing.

Peter Mulhall

Business Adviser

Business Link - the place to go for business support

Online: www.businesslink.gov.uk

BUSINESS LINK ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS

business link

I met someone at a networking event recently and we have decided that our companies should work together. Do you think that business co-operation or collaboration is a good idea?

In short: you can't be good at everything, so yes it may well be a good idea.

However, let's look at a few of the things that would be involved.

What opportunities do we want to capitalise on?

You will need to identify an opportunity. This might be submitting a joint bid on a tender, or entering another market sector, or a particularly large customer to target which otherwise you would not have the credibility, skill or the resources to convert into a customer. You may not identify a specific opportunity at the early stage, but all parties should have a purpose for wanting to collaborate.

Choose your partners - but choose wisely!

The choice of collaborative partner is critical. Sometimes the criteria for partner selection are woefully inadequate and more suitable to choosing a golf partner than a business partner. Getting on with business partners is essential, but more is needed.

Taking it on trust

Trust; this is a difficult one as it only truly forms with experience. There will be issues possibly, for some, on intellectual property and the need for confidentiality and confidentiality agreements. But ultimately you will need to trust partners, sometimes with sensitive information about your own business as you proceed to collaborate. Not only that, you will need to trust that the other parties will fulfil their responsibilities on the projects or ventures that you undertake; there will inevitably be division of labour and you are unlikely to be in a position to supervise, hands-on, the things that others are accountable for.

Skills match

One of the big advantages of business collaboration is that you gain access to skills and competencies not available in your own business i.e. the other party excels in areas where you are weak and vice versa. This doesn't happen automatically; drawing up a skills map and skills-auditing each potential partner in order to match skills required with skills available is a crucial part of the preparation stage.

Cultural match

If you, as a sole trader, are wanting to collaborate with other sole traders, understanding the other party's style of doing business, vision, view of the world around them, their values and beliefs and behaviours will be important for effective collaboration.

If you are a larger business with staff and even possibly a management team, how you go about understanding each other's business culture will need a lot of careful thought. Each MD spending time at the other's business getting to know people and processes is a good place to start.

Process matching

This is about how you or your company actually works from end to end. How you sell, market your products & services, communicate internally, & externally, deal with suppliers, customer relationship management; how you actually make the products and provide the service, how you run your admin and finance functions etc. Don't assume that because your own business runs effectively and smoothly that there will be no difficulties when you collaborate with others even if they too have a smooth running business.

Legal & structural aspects

Collaborative agreements or even legal entities may be needed depending on the depth of the relationship and complexity of the work being undertaken. Seek specialist advice.

So yes it is definitely an option to consider...

It is widely accepted that business cooperation / collaboration is a valid strategy for growing a business. There are huge benefits to be had from utilising the synergy of complementary businesses as well as potential economies of scale.

...but don't go into it blindfolded

We have only scratched the surface and looked at a few aspects, but even so it should be clear that some form of due diligence is needed before any decision is made. Good advice is essential for each party separately and, if the idea progresses, possibly a facilitator, either internal, or external to mediate and to project manage the formation and early stages of the partnership or joint-venture.

A sobering thought is that the majority of collaborative business relationships fail. So do your groundwork first, be prepared to put the time and effort into making the partnership work and you stand a chance of being one of those businesses that succeed with collaborative cooperative relationships.

In a nutshell:

  • Identify the business opportunity
  • Choose your partner carefully
  • Spend time getting to know them and their business
  • Take advice
  • Be clear about the risks and benefits

If you think that collaborative co-operative working is a possible strategy for you but you're not sure where to start, talk to one of our business advisers.

That's all for this month.

Peter Mulhall
Business Adviser
tel: 07717 290309

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Business Link - the place to go for business support

Online: www.businesslink.gov.uk/east

 

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