I just finished reading a great book about customer service.
It’s called “What Customers Crave” by Nicholas Webb, and it got me thinking about the huge changes over the past 20 years in customer service, more specifically, the pre- and post touchpoints.
There certainly have been changes/enhancements with customer service during the actual purchase but I feel these changes have evolved more naturally to align with how differently we interact as humans today.
In other words, I don’t feel like there are any new “strategies” for how customers prefer to interact with their rep/brands they buy from during the actual purchasing process because I feel this has always been the same for the most part. Simply “treat others how you’d like to be treated.” I feel everything runs pretty darn smoothly once that takes place.
The pre- and post-sale touchpoints will require a closer look and, from what I’ve found, some serious changes/enhancements within MOST companies who have been slow to adapt. We are dealing with a new generation of buyers now in both B2C and B2B transactions. These new buyers have SO much information available to them, and they use it. They will educate themselves to the point that they could very likely be more skilled in the product/service they’re buying than the rep at the company whose job it is to sell that product/service (although I certainly hope that’s not the case, for the sake of the sales rep!).
So, the big question for companies selling these products/services becomes: Where are these individuals getting this education, and from whom? At this point, if brands aren’t working to play a big role in educating their customers, they’re on their way out. And, guess what!? Outbound advertising messages built to create some emotion, or get someone excited about a deal they’re getting, or causing any sort of impulsive reaction from the customer isn’t the way to go in most, if not all cases.
Webb says, “Unfortunately American Enterprise was built on a hierarchical, authoritarian structure. In the early days we pushed out one-way dialogue to customers in the form of persuasive advertising. Those days are gone for good.”
Now our customers want to be part of the conversation and they want to work in partnership and engage with brands in an authentic way. How the heck do we make that happen, you ask? Easy. Content marketing. Say, for instance, Jan’s company is growing and they’ve decided to invest in a project management software. Do you think Jan is going to seek out random advertisements on this software, read the ad copy, become convinced, and call that company for a demo? Likely not. The first thing Jan will do is google “best project management software for small businesses.” When the search page results come up, she’ll likely glance at the ads and then dive more deeply into the listings of blog posts, ebooks, white papers and more that can help provide Jan with a higher level of education on the software. This will provide her with a list of the features that will work best for Jan’s specific situation. Only when Jan has this education will she start to consider her specific options. She’ll have a look at the tool benefits and feature pages, FAQ pages, case studies, etc. This will likely lead her to finally booking a demo with a small list of potential partners. At this point, a company sales representative becomes involved to complete the education and make the sale.
The goal, in this case, is for the brands offering this project management software to have content prepared and distributed in each and every case listed above. This means that a lot of this content isn’t even company-specific; it’s simply helping the potential buyer make a more informed buying decision for their unique needs. Does this mean that you could be leading this customer to someone else? Yes, it does, and if so, you’re saving your sales team a lot of time by keeping your pipeline stacked with pre-qualified potential buyers. This is inbound marketing at its finest.
The Post Sale
“For some reason, marketers can’t resist the temptation of trying to sell existing customers something new. They view existing customers as low-hanging fruit and market them to death.” We’ve all experienced what Webb is talking about here. So, what’s the difference today? Well, much like the pre-sale touchpoint, in a follow-up post sale touchpoint, you have to offer value and ask for nothing in return. Again, the customer wants a partnership with your brand, so “treat them as you would like to be treated.” Use the information they’ve offered through their purchase to get as granular as possible on what they appreciate, and then deliver it to them. This is where your marketing automation/CRM tools will become invaluable in building and completing this customer profile, speaking to each customer directly about what they’re interested in, and keeping this customer for a very long time.
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