Principle 7: First Call Advantage

Book Discussion:
“Sticky Branding” by Jeremy Miller

I’m back! The past couple of weeks were a tour de force, but I’m happy to report that we are in our new home. We packed and emptied a lot of boxes. There is still much to be done, but each day more and more boxes disappear, and our new home looks better and better.

So, let’s get back to where we left off: Principle 7 of Jeremy Miller’s book Sticky Branding or First Call Advantage.

Before we dive into Principle 7, let’s allow for the next sentences to sink in for a moment: “The best time to initiate a client relationship is three years before your services are needed.” “When you connect and build relationships with your customers before they need you, they will seek you out when they are ready to buy.” (page 109) This is what Miller calls building a “First Call Advantage.” Why is this time so crucial in the buying process? Because one of the key building blocks in the buying process is trust, and trust takes time to build.

Let’s step back for a moment and have a look at how Miller categorizes customers and the various actions related to each category. I adopted his graph of the 3% Rule below. He distinguishes between five customer types:

Of the Top 10%

  1. 3% of your market segment are Active Buyers: these companies have a need, they made a commitment to change, they’re actively shopping for solutions.
  2. 7% of your market segment Intend to Change: this category needs your service or product, but they are not actively looking for a solution yet.

The remaining Lower 90% are companies that

  1. have a Needor problem your company can solve, but they’re not ready to act on it yet (approx. 30%).
  2. have a Need and may benefit from your product or service, possibly at some point in the future (approx. 30%).
  3. are simply not interested in your company at all (30%).

The top 10% are your sales leads. It is your window of opportunity to make a sale now. Best case scenario: these companies know you already and feel comfortable doing business with you. If they don’t know you, your best option is to put yourself in their “Path of Search.” (page 112) Where do your customers find you? What channels do they use to search for purchase information? Do they find you on Google? Do you attend networking events for xyz? Are you exhibiting at trade shows? The long and short of it is: You have to stand out and make sure to be highly visible. You have to be where your customers are searching for services or products you offer. Even a well-timed and well-done cold call may lead to a sale.

According to Miller the Lower 90% are where the magic happens, where you build that “First Call Advantage.” It is the time during which Sticky Brands are extremely active. They go out of their way to build a relationship with their prospective customer and in doing so become their customer’s first choice when they are ready to buy. The sky’s the limit for your imagination. What can you do to stay front and center with your customers? Do you acknowledge birthdays with a birthday card? Do you share relevant information with them in a blog, podcast, newsletter? Do you surprise them with a small gift? Do you inform them about new developments in your industry?

Here is an example from the book:

ProVision IT is a staffing company for IT professionals. They publish a short monthly report on where IT jobs are available. In the winter of 2014 they used the headline “Hiring Freeze” and continued “the long cold winter was great for winter sports, but it has taken its toll on the hiring process…” (page 117) In their newsletter they provided insights into what havoc the cold Ontario winter had wreaked in terms of hiring new staff; many missed interview appointments due to inclement weather or sickness. It was important information for their audience and led to a spike in their readership.

It is easier than ever to nurture your customer relationships as long as you play to your strengths. You can reach your customers through social media channels, with podcasts, vidcasts, speaking at events, sending a newsletter, making infographics… again, the sky’s the limit. “There are endless ways to engage your lower 90 percent of your market, and countless vehicles for creating and distributing content.” (page 119) Content that will establish you as the perfect solution for prospective customers and keep you in mind with current customers. Miller goes as far as to say you’ll create “competitive immunity” because humans are creatures of habit. As long as we are happy with the product, as long as we like the service we receive, and as long as we like the company we are buying from, we don’t tend to look for alternatives. 

Now it’s time to get to work. What can you do to stay top of mind with your current customers, and how can you build a relationship with prospective customers? What channels are the right ones for you and your company?

As always, let me know in the comments below.

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