What are you getting when you send introductory offers of free trials, no shipping charges, or special interest rates to your business prospects? Are you getting the highest payoff for your efforts? Or are you sending your prospects the message that you do not expect them to become your best customers?
As marketers you know why you use these prospecting tactics. You want to encourage trial usage to acquaint a potential customer with the benefits of your product. Colorful graphics shouting “Free!” and “No Interest!” can effectively attract consumer prospects. But these tactics tell the prospects that they are expected only to be one-time or short-term buyers, using the product only long enough to take advantage of the limited-time offers. I suggest that you try different tactics with business prospects.
Consider what you have done to find these potential customers. You have invested significant effort in finding the best lists and merging/purging them with your house file to net new companies and contacts. You have applied demographic and firmographic overlays to your customers and rented names. You created a profile of your best-customers’ characteristics. You have matched that profile to the prospect companies’ attributes. The file you are ready to mail has a great likelihood of containing business buyers whose needs will parallel those of your top customer segments’ needs.
What do you do next? Do you send them an introductory offer, reward first-time buyers with a thank-you letter, and coax them to a second purchase with another special offer? What do you do when some of them attain long-term multibuyer status and join your best-customer segment? Do you only then tell them that they have platinum status and are entitled to an extranet with discounted pricing, invitations to hospitality suites at conferences, and other loyal customer rewards?
If your top prospects match the profile of your best customers I suggest that you maximize the payoff of your efforts. Treat your best prospects like your best customers from the start. For many business buyers a particular product is not a discretionary item for which the purchase decision is likely to be swayed by introductory offers. Use the information you gained from the profiling process. Convince those prospects that you understand their business: their industry segment, the needs of a company their size, the issues faced by people with their specific titles. Then jump to the payoff. Tell them the rewards your best customers receive. Assure them that you expect them to become among your best customers because you have taken the trouble to profile them to match your products to their needs.
If you use tactics appropriate to business prospects in your long-term customer acquisition strategy you will not waste your processing and profiling efforts. Tell your prospects that you are not wasting their time with products that do not match their profile. Tell them that you recognize their potential. In return, you are likely to be rewarded by their quick confirmation of your confidence in your profiling through their best-customer buying behavior.
Bill Singleton, president of Algonquin, IL-based consultancy Singleton Marketing, writes “Show Me the Data” for the LIST & DATA STRATEGIES e-newsletter.