Don't Stray From Your Existing Customers

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It's a simple truth - unless you're a funeral director - that your current customers are your best prospects for additional business.


For years, direct marketing agencies have been telling their clients to prioritize their efforts to their customer bases, and anyone who has worked in direct marketing knows that your house file is always the most responsive. Current customers are six to 10 times more likely to respond, in fact. But if it's common knowledge, then why aren't agencies doing what they know works for their clients? Why aren't they practicing what they preach?


Ask any good agency where its growth comes from and you'll most likely hear, "From our existing clients." However, more often than not, growth from within is a matter of happenstance rather than a concerted, proactive effort on the part of the agency. Most often, clients are using multiple agencies on a project basis, opening the door for the best of those agencies to get a bigger piece of the pie by demonstrating expertise and concern for their clients' business. Meanwhile, many agencies spend money trying to solicit business from companies that they have never met.


In my experience, the fastest and most consistent growth comes from one of three sources: existing client companies, referrals and displaced clients moving to another client-side position. Interestingly, the likelihood of getting additional business from any of these sources usually hinges on how proactively and successfully you manage the business of your existing clients. So, in a sense, by working for your clients, you are really working on a new business effort.


Lean on me. There has never been a better time for agency growth. Perennial budget cuts and limited resources within client companies mean that many are leaning more than ever on their agencies for strategic counseling and support. But rather than sitting back and waiting for this to happen, agencies need to immerse themselves in their clients' businesses. What are your clients doing outside of the projects that you are working on? Have they abandoned certain initiatives because of lack of success? If so, ask to see the plans that they used and invest some time to make comments and recommendations based on your expertise.


Stop the search engine. The belief that everyone is doing business on the Internet today is a myth. It's more like everyone wants to do business only they don't how, or more importantly, they don't know who to search out for help. Ironically, they don't have to search for anyone. The Internet has opened a new opportunity for agencies to guide their clients through a complex world of marketing online.


Any agency that has been successful in the traditional marketing world is most certainly offering interactive counseling as well. The question is, do their clients know that? In too many cases, agencies find out later that their clients have hired a separate interactive agency. Why? Because clients think that's what they have to do.


Getting considered for interactive assignments is another by-product of a proactive account team that knows what their clients are up to on more than just a project basis. To use some popular examples, Amazon.com and Priceline.com are no longer successful for providing just one service. Each has parlayed trusting relationships with their customers into tremendous sales of music, movies, groceries, hotel rooms, electronics, toys and tools among others. Lesson to be learned by anyone in the interactive arena: loyal clients would rather deal with one trusted company to fulfill all their needs.


What's old is new. Rather than investing time and money pursuing new business, spend time with your existing clients. Learn about the competition and market dynamics, then make suggestions, ask questions, reanalyze numbers and determine if the client is a possible marketing partner with other clients.


I have yet to meet clients that don't like to talk about their businesses. Use this fact as an opportunity to learn everything that you can. And you'll be surprised at how budget monies suddenly appear when a good idea is backed by solid financial projections. Start today and you may be surprised at how quickly you'll see the rewards. And you'll learn why great businesses don't need to seek out new business. It seeks them.
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