If your business retains stable, profitable customers, consider turning them into advocates and champions of your products and services. Its easier than you may realize to get your best customers to help you promote your business to prospects, but it requires a careful blend of technical, financial and relationship skills.
Define the bonding process for turning your best customers into advocates and champions.
How do your better customers adapt your products and services to best suit their individual needs? Do those customer relationships resemble partnerships or strategic alliances? If so, these are your potential champions.
They can help by introducing your firm to prospects. Once you determine how these customers become champions for your business, a pattern will emerge that you can duplicate.
Outline your companys process for growing advocates and champions.
From the moment you land a customer, plot the development of the relationship. Is there a point where you begin to involve them in your new product development process and customer councils? If so, what led to this point?
Is there a best way for your business to do this or is it always a random act? Try to identify the three most likely sequences that result in growing champions. But remember, companies do not become your champions or advocates, the people in them do.
Create definitions for your development from customer to champion.
Determine each stage of the process from a closed customer to an advocate or champion. Typically, a stable customer has hit some milestone in his or her relationship with your business. It could be a third purchase, the purchase of a service that increases dependency, or the exchange of previously withheld information or advice.
Pinpoint these milestones. At this point, a buyer evolves into a customer.
Then look for when the customer begins to buy multiple products and services. Its around this time when they may ask to participate in customer councils, suggest strategic alliances, or want to test pilot new products and services. At this point, the customer becomes a cross-sold or up-sold customer, and its a good sign he or she is well on the way to becoming a champion.
Customers take the final step and become champions when they give you a reference and provide ongoing referrals. It means they believe in you and your firm and will proactively help you succeed.
Determine how many champions and customers you need at each step of the development cycle.
Divide your average sale from a customer into the total sales you expect from your advocates. This gives you the number of advocates you must land. Decide how many customers you need at each step.
If you need to qualify three cross-sold or up-sold customers for each advocate you cultivate, then plan to do so. Similarly, if you need to land five customers to produce three cross-sold or up-sold buyers, then land enough customers and dedicate the resources to do the job.
Understand what your champions are worth and what you can spend to get them.
While there is always enough economic justification to invest in customer development, often, too many customer relationships whither from inattention, another form of under-spending. Here is a three-step method to ensure that doesnt happen.
1) Divide the number of customers it takes to create a champion into the revenue of a champion. If you need five customers to create a champion and a champion generates $50,000 of revenue, then a customer represents $10,000 of potential champion revenue.
2) If you decide you must spend $5,000 to create a champion, you can spend up to $1,000 cultivating each customer.
3) By subtracting the cost of developing five customers, $5,000, from the revenue of a champion $50,000, you have $45,000, the real value of a champion.
This exercise is critical because it provides a benchmark of what to invest in a champion and what to expect in return. Often, the investment will not be a direct cash outlay, but rather one of your staffs time and expertise.
Create champions effectively.
With the financial guidelines for keeping champions in place, choose your tactics. Pick your sales, marketing and customer service activities for each step of the customer development. You may want to use seminars to cross-sell or up-sell customers, but may choose to emphasize executive tours and referral kits over more sales rep visits to create champions.
Evaluate your activities, tools and programs based on how cost-effectively they deliver the number of champions and advocates you need. Your choices will be easier and less risky than ever, because they will be based on meeting your goals you have set.
If you focus on your goal of creating champions, you will have the ultimate benchmark for delivering excellent customer service. This is because a satisfied customer will refer your firm to prospects, while an unsatisfied customer wont.
Next month, well put the process to the test and see how it works.