Written by Michael O'Flynn - Sales & Marketing Manager for Professional Academy
Nowadays there are more and more potential ways for businesses to communicate with potential and existing contacts alike - so how can you make sure you are not missing out on your audiences preferred form of contact?
I was inspired to put write this blog after discussions in our office on our preferred contact medium. I found it very interesting to see the differences in our preferred choices which seemed not to be dictated by age, access to technology, or buying habits – all of the things we’re told as marketers dictate how we communicate with our audiences.
The granddaddy of the contact methods and my personal favourite is the telephone. This is how I would choose to contact a company to ask a question about an offer or product. From a business stand point it is also how I would prefer people to contact me and my company as it allows you to build a relationship, answer questions that come up on the fly, and give the most complete first contact possible which will ultimately improve the customer experience. That being said I am aware that this is not the case for everybody personally, or for businesses, so what are the other options available?
Email is probably the most popular contact method nowadays for several reasons. First of all it allows you to make an initial enquiry with minimum commitment. You have an opportunity to ask several questions to multiple parties with relative ease. You also have the ability to reply in your own time and control the pace of the conversation to suit you. For a business, emails can be frustrating but are an essential part of day-to-day work - it demonstrates just how essential it is to day-to-day work when sales people are taught “shut down your email for a couple of hours today and just hit the phones” a real change from thinking from even just a few years ago.
Webforms are a norm on most websites which plug directly into a CRM system and which can unlock or release something a potential customer wants such as a brochure, a download or a freebie in exchange for certain essential customer data – usually a bare minimum of name and email address. This is excellent for populating a pipeline and for savvy sales 7 marketing teams, can also trigger a series of well-orchestrated auto-responders allowing potential customers to receive the information they need whenever they want it without having to wait for a sales person to respond. Webforms are effective, but are very passive for both the sales force and the potential customer. However they are still a popular form of customers contacting businesses to ask the questions they may have.
Relatively new on the scene but becoming a mainstay of customer-facing website design is the live webchat function. The webchat function allows for a mix of the email and contact form methods with the back-and-forth format of a telephone conversation. Webchats are also instant and as we all know marketing is all about talking to the right people at the right time with the right product – if they are already looking at your website and have questions, the chances are that you have the other two essential factors in play as well.
No blog on how business communicate with their audiences would be complete without mentioning social media. Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are ingrained in the minds of all audiences across all industries. Even if your customers are not using them they are aware of them, they are part of the zeitgeist – unavoidable. It is highly likely that if someone has a gripe with your company they may express it, either via Twitter, Google Reviews, Trip Advisor or other review sites. This may not be directed at you, but it is a way of trying to communicate with you about your product or service. If you are on social media platforms you are also presenting an opportunity for a potential customer to contact you via their favourite method of communication. We wrote a blog a while back about how your business should be using Twitter with some helpful tips for you - feel free to check it out.
There are, of course, other potential communication methods such as the good old-fashioned letter delivered by the postal service, or face-to-face events being just a couple of them, but in my experience these are the top contact methods in terms of volume and effective interaction (feel free to send over any other suggestion via the Professional Academy Twitter account).
This is a simple one to answer, it really comes down to the personal preference of your audience and the options available so the best thing you can do as a company is make sure you have all of the options available and monitor which ones are the most popular.
The one thing you shouldn’t do is treat these audiences any differently. Choice of communication method may sometimes be frustrating to you but it is the preference of your potential customer and something you should be willing to roll with. I personally advise my team to treat everyone the same and not fob anyone off because the contact method is not a personal choice of yours. Prime examples of this would be webchat and social media.
Sales people can sometimes dismiss these methods and as such try to swing them back to a method they prefer to use. For example they may say something such as ‘thank you for getting in touch, let me send you an email with details’ this isn’t rude, or unhelpful but it is nowhere near as effective as opening a dialogue. You wouldn’t for example pick up the phone and say ‘Can I take your name and email address and what you are interested in? – Great I will now send you an email’ with no additional conversation or probing to find out what product or service was right for the customer – or at least you shouldn’t be doing so.
So, modify the way you respond depending on the method but always be aware of your tone, is this how you would talk to someone in person or on the phone? Do you sound robotic? May you be constructed as rude and trying to fob them off? Any of the above could cost you a potential customer or sale.
Professional Academy are industry leaders in delivering accredited practical minded Professional Qualification in Sales, Marketing, Management, Leadership and Digital Marketing. For more information on the qualifications available why not download a prospectus or contact one of our qualification advisers today via your favourite method of communication.