If ‘sell’ is a four-letter word to you then having communications that make it more comfortable for you to invite and offer value will make a difference to your bottom-line. You need to have a way to identify who you are speaking to and you must be able to connect efficiently with groups of people. This is how you leverage your time in your business and keep your costs down.
We know we want to be able to communicate with our clients, prospects, and past clients in a way that gives them what they need and helps us create an experience that is valuable for them. Understanding what to say is a topic for another article, and once you know what that is, how to reach them is the next question we want to address today. I am going to look at three things that you need to identify that will help you decide what tools will be best for you to manage your communications: 1) Your List, 2) History, 3) Costs
1) Your List
When managing your marketing and customer support communications it is important to be able to connect with the right person or group of people with the message they need to hear from you. Having a list or lists of names that you can effectively reach is imperative so your communications tools need to be able to manage those names efficiently for you.
I use 1Shopping Cart (1SC) for my mailing campaigns and my program communications as well as my online purchasing portal. I can group people by their purchase or interest and communicate with those groups of people. This allows my communications to be much more specific and targeted and increases the likelihood of a person reading the message. It also helps ensure that they will receive value, as I am not sending mass emails to everyone one all the time.
For my clients, this allows me to talk directly to people in small groups, like those in my Power of Leadership. I can let them know when their next call or event is. I can offer them specific help with their work, links, and specials, as well as additional information that may have been discussed in our meetings. It makes my communications with them more about them then about selling, and that is more comfortable for me as well as them.
The challenge with lists is that we often have lists in different places. My main communications for groups is through 1Shopping Cart (1SC) but I have a database using Microsoft Business Contact Management for Outlook (BCM) to connect to individuals. Of course our social media connections create other lists and all of these are not integrated. The challenge with lists is to have a system for how you connect with people so you are able to follow up later on. Knowing the history of communications with a specific prospect or past client helps you to better meet their needs and turn them into a repeat client.
I rely heavily on BCM to keep track of past conversations with individuals, including offers, personal situations, and conversations we have had. When you speak to thousands of people it helps you to remember what was special about a specific person. It also allows me to throw out business cards after I have them put into the database and keep track of sales and prospects.
I use 1SC to track groups of people. I can look up people by their interest or our past dealings. Someone that has opted-in to a free MP3 may be interested in an upcoming event. Someone that was in a past workshop may be interested in a personal VIP day. I can connect with people individually after I identify who they are and what they may need based on what they have signed up for or purchased in the past.
Whether it is a Contact Management Software (CMS), like my BCM or social media, like Facebook, use the history of your relationship to continue to offer things that are valuable to your clients and prospects moving forward.
Even if the tool is free, managing the tool effectively is not. Don’t mistaken something that is free online as a way to do business for less. To be able to effectively implement and maintain communications with your clients and prospects every tool must be evaluated for the time and dollars it will cost or save you. If your time is limited and you hate being online, then using free Facebook pages to connect and invite your prospects would be the wrong fit for you unless you hire someone to manage it for you. You see, free just incurred a cost. I find that anything that is free costs me more in time and often does not have the features I need to manage my communications to the level I expect.
For new businesses that are not ready to invest, my recommendation is to write out what you hope to have in place in your business, evaluate what it would cost to invest in the tools (both time and money) and what kind of income your business would have to be making to support that investment. This will give you an idea of when you should look at investing. Also note that making changes to a larger program can be painful. If you have the ability to start with the larger support, that you have identified as a future need for your business, you will have less growing pain by eliminating that transition.
I started with Constant Contact. It is free up to 200 contacts. Unfortunately I never had less than 200 so I started with the basic plan, which was $20 per month. I paid to have it initially set up, lists imported, and my ezine and email templates created. I quickly realized that there were a lot of limiting challenges around this choice and I needed features that could only be found in an application that could both handle email campaigns (including my newsletters) and online purchases. I had to make the change to 1SC which lost me almost 50% of my list, several hundred more dollars to move to the new applications and a $120 per month plan, plus all the sales I felt I had lost because I could not track them easily in the smaller, less expensive choice.
Overall I would suggest that you understand as a small business owner you will likely have several lists to manage. Know which list is critical for which type of communications and how to evaluate & use the history you have with the people on that list. Most of all, start by knowing what you will want to do with your lists so you can evaluate which software to initially begin with. Understanding your costs up front can save you loses and additional costs in the future.
Some Resources (Both free and paid)
Contact Management Software (CMS) (Microsoft Outlook, Business Contact Management for Outlook, salesforce, Act)
Shopping cart (1Shopping Cart, Infusionsoft)
Payment software (PayPal, Merchant account)
Mailing program (Constant Contact, AWeber Email Marketing, MailChimp Email)
Survey software (Survey Monkey)
Social Media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Hangout)
If you have an application, mobile app, or software you recommend, please let us know. Put your recommendations in the comments below along with a link to the company so we can all check it out.