Too many marketers waste their budgets on traditional spray-and-pray blasts of mail, e-mail and phone calls that garner a 1% or 2% response rate.
So says Ernan Roman, whose "Voice of the Customer Marketing" book title's message — ask shoppers what they really think — could help boost those numbers.
Deliver. Value tops the consumer's shopping list, Roman says. Value can be in the form of information, tips, education and service. It could be facilitating a connection to others that share a similar interest in the product. "By using socially responsible marketing, marketers pay no price, but achieve what Microsoft (MSFT) described as unprecedented response rates," he told IBD. "Rather than traditional 1% or 2% response rates, companies can achieve consistent double-digit increases in that and revenue."
Go to the source. Check with consumers to understand their new level of expectation.
The only way to learn that, Roman says, is to engage customers to self-profile their preferences.
"The heart and soul of a company's marketing is its data base," he said. "Companies only know transactional information — what did you buy and when did you buy it? What they don't know is the most important stuff: What is the customer thinking about in those long gaps between purchases?"
Communicate their way. How do you get people to share their preferences?
Figure out their favorite media. Some people prefer a phone call. Others would rather engage by e-mail or social sites. Still others respond to direct mail.
And grasp how often they mind being contacted.
Keep learning. Richard Schroder, author of "From a Good Sales Call to a Great Sales Call," advises marketing teams to let shoppers know someone will follow up with questions. This helps you find out buying patterns. To get the best data, use a fresh voice to debrief instead of original one.
Be professional. To get candid feedback from people, make sure follow-up questioners avoid any defensiveness, frustration or anger.
Use a guide. "A questionnaire maximizes feedback and keeps the conversation focused," Schroder said. Research has shown that customer service and salespeople wind up with a 15% higher close rate than those who do not."
He offers sample debrief guides at theanovagroup.com and says the average follow-on questions should take 10 to 15 minutes.
Take notes. Tell the prospect that you'll be doing so.
"This will make them feel important and compel them to talk more," Schroder said.
Further, take the information by hand. Typing is distracting to prospects, as is checking your e-mail and shuffling papers. This can negatively affect discussions, he says.
Probe for specifics. Ask questions like "how do you mean?" Or ask prospects to expand answers.
Schroder said: "Other great ways of getting candid feedback include asking 'How can I improve on this?' Or 'Can I get your advice?'"
Roman said: "By engaging the wisdom of the customer, you're increasing repeat customers by 40% and increasing the amount spent as a result of understanding self-preferences by double. You're talking huge multipliers that are documented by these corporations as a result of using the voice-of-the-customer process."