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The Secret Weapon (You're Probably Ignoring)

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Prior to the launch of B Direct (18 years ago — whoa!), the Bs worked together at a much larger Boston agency. The founder and president of the agency had two memorable pictures framed and hanging prominently in his office. The first was a funny interpretation of one of direct marketing's golden rules; it was a famous scene from The Godfather with the caption "Give them an offer they can't refuse." The other, oddly enough, was about chickens.

The connection isn't immediately apparent, but read on.

Specifically, the illustration was a rooster, abandoning a hen and her chicks to pursue a new hen. His excuse? "It's new business I'm after."

Agencies need new business; they need "rainmakers" who can attract and convert clients. And, in all fairness, our former colleague and boss was the penultimate new businessman.

But, what about the poor hen and her virtually fatherless chicks? What about old business?

One of the classic mistakes agencies make is to send their smartest, coolest, most charismatic team members out on the road to win new accounts. Then, once the ink is dry, they turn said account over to less smart, less cool, and much less charismatic account execs. "Waitaminute," clients think, "I bought Julie, but you're giving me Joe. WTF?" Many salespeople are incentivized based on business brought in, not business nurtured and grown. Like the rooster, they're on to the next conquest.

At the end of the day, this is double trouble. Not only might you lose the business you worked so hard to get, but that new account could have been a source of additional new business. No matter how good your business development team is, your secret weapon is your current — satisfied — customer.

Current customers are often neglected, and not just by salespeople. How often have you, as a consumer, seen an introductory offer that's exponentially better than your current deal — even though you've been a loyal customer for eleventeen years? Magazine subscriptions and banking offers are notorious for this. Basically, any promotion that states "new accounts only" is guilty.

Instead, we all need to recognize the business-building value of our current customers and clients. Their advocacy and word-of-mouth is just about the most powerful acquisition tool you have and chances are, you've been ignoring it.

What have you done for them lately?

How do you make them feel valued and special?

When was the last time you reached out simply to say "Thank you?"

Make sure your customers aren't just satisfied. When you surprise and delight them, when you make them feel appreciated, when you exceed their expectations, they'll tell other people. They'll be happy to work with you.

And for you.

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