The answer’s yes. Sometimes you have to spend the money to keep up with the times. Otherwise you fall behind in the times. And your competitors, who are keeping up with the times, pull ahead. Once in a while we all need a facelift.
I still prefer to read a newspaper then get all my news online. Yes, that’s old and out of touch but that’s just the way I like it and I’m the guy who writes the checks OK? When it comes to my high school kids they prefer to conduct all communications with me and my wife via text messaging, which is just fine by us (you seriously don’t want to spend too much time talking to high school kids…it’s not healthy). I have clients that don’t care to speak to me…but don’t mind getting emails. I have other clients who HATE emails and, like my grandmom, only want to hear from me by phone or not at all. And then there are those crazy, crazy people who actually like to read a letter once in a while. My God, what century is this?
It’s the 21st century. And there are choices. Inexpensive choices. And many clients of mine are taking advantage of these options to stay in touch with their customers. “We ask our customers how they’d like us to communicate with them,” Randy, a manufacturer, explained to me. “And we do what they tell us to do.” The customer’s always right. And the customer should always get what he or she wants. And if he or she wants to be like my grandmother, eat prunes and watch roller derby on Sunday afternoons (and get phone calls from me rather than emails) then that’s what smart managers are doing. The good thing is that in 2013 it’s so easy to do.
For example, for those clients that prefer email communications Randy’s got an account with MyEmma There are other email services like Constant Contact and MailChimp. They’re inexpensive and simple to use. He can upload a spreadsheet of these customers and send out targeted communications from templates that he creates herself.
Randy also uses a text messaging service called Tatango. Some people prefer to get their information by text. Again, it’s inexpensive. And again he keeps a spreadsheet of these customers (usually generated from a central database or customer relationship management (CRM) system) that he uploads and sends out mass texts.
Then there are the customers who actually enjoy interacting with other humans. These are the people who want to hear their information by phone. Sure, Randy talks to them. But to help him communicate en masse he uses VoiceShot. Same deal with the spreadsheet. And similar procedure as the text messaging, but this time he records a message by calling in and the service sends out a bunch of calls all at once.
And of course there are those old timers who still like to get their information by mail. For those customers, he likes to use a service called PrintPlace where she sends out custom letters and postcards to a list from his database.
It’s part of the procedure. Ask your customers how they prefer to be contacted. Note their answers in an appropriate field in your company’s database and that’s how the lists are generated.
I’m not ignoring social media either. That’s because a growing number of people are ONLY getting their messages via Facebook and Twitter. They live there. Their friends are there. Their community is there. If your customers are there then you need to be there too.
Does this cost? Yes it does. To have an effective communications facelift you first need that central database for storing everyone’s information and indicating their communication preferences. This is usually a CRM system. These things can run from a few hundred dollars per user or $25-$75 per user per month if you use a cloud based option. And then you’ve got to have someone be the master of the data. That person’s in charge of the data entry and updating. He or she is the one who generates the lists, sends out the mails, posts the updates to Facebook, schedules the mass calls.
It’s a whole new age of communication. And like those store owners at that strip mall who have to share in the cost of the facelift you too may need to invest a few bucks to keep up with the times. Your competitors are doing it.