If you don’t tell your customers, how are they to know?


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Customers should be the first concern of every business, as without them there is no income. Gaining and retaining customers is therefore of prime importance which requires effective two way communication. Initial contact with potential customers is generally thorough some form of advertising which initiates interest, and thus invites and encourages the potential customer, to contact and enquire of the advertiser for further information. How easy it is for the potential customer to make contact with the advertiser and the response obtained is crucial to the successful conclusion of a sale.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb “advertise” as, “to make publicly known especially to encourage sales.” Advertising tells the potential customer that there is a product or service that can address their problem. Generally advertising is thought of as a visual and or aural medium, involving posters, television, and radio. However, advertising covers many other forms of communication, which convey a message to a potential customer, such as retail window displays, the set out of wares on a market stall, product information literature, a list of hotel services, and now social media. All convey to a potential buyer that the supplier has products or services of potential interest.

There has been a recent tendency for businesses to refer potential customers to their respective web-sites for information, or to require them to scan a QR code. This is a lazy attitude on the part of the supplier, and assumes that the potential customer is equipped or has the time to access a web-site or QR code. The supplier must invite the customer to be interested in their product or service and make it easy to do so. If the potential customer finds access difficult, they will go elsewhere. The easier it is for a customer to engage their interest, then to access and assimilate information, the easier it is for the supplier to engage and close the sale.

Advertising informs customers that web-sites exist. Web-sites inform potential customers about what the organisation does, and frequently how to make an order or request standard information.. However, when it is necessary to contact the organisation and identify a responsible individual, there may be difficulties. Contact information on web-sites can often be hidden away so that it is difficult to find. Customers may be invited to contact a customer service centre via e-mail or telephone which may in fact be out sourced to a different organisation entirely, rather than be part of the company’s own office structure. In such a case, the customer will have great difficulty in finding and accessing the responsible individual that they seek.

When customers telephone business organisations, they are frequently answered by call management systems, rather than a person. Such systems are often installed by organisations on the grounds of efficiency and cost effectiveness, but they frequently create irritation with the customer, especially when they are subjected to multiple menus, which create confusion and frustration. When callers are able to facilitate a connection to a specific individual, it seems that they are frequently connected to a voice mail system, regardless of whether the individual is present or not. Worse still, is when the customer is confronted with a company policy that refuses to identify responsible individuals on the grounds of its “security policy”.

For the commercial manager, responsible for producing profitable income, anticipating and satisfying customer demand is essential. Managing an organisation’s effective communications regarding its image and its offer to its market is essential, but it is equally important to maintain and improve the channels of communication from the customers and potential customers to the organisation. Most organisations if asked, will state that they have good two way communications with their market, but the question is, “how do you know?” For the commercial manager, it would be wise to assume that the channels of communication from the market are probably not as good as may be thought, and probably need improvement.

There are a number of things that a Commercial manager should do;

• Conveying a message about a product or service must be done in the simplest manner so that it is easily conveyed and understood without effort on the part of the recipient.
• Information for a potential customer must create interest which initiates their further enquiry.
• Don’t put barriers to access information, by limiting information to web-sites and QR codes.
• If a potential customer has to work out the message of the advert the advert has failed
• Make contact details easy to find and access. so that interested parties are able to ask questions and receive relevant answers easily.
• Have the organisation’s web site independently evaluated for clarity, coherence, ease of access and contact information.
• Ensure that all company brochures contain full contact details.
• Ensure that all communications from existing and potential customers are answered promptly.
• Use secret callers to establish the ease of access via telephone and to evaluate the response, as well as the response to e-mail and letters.
• Use the information from secret callers, and website evaluation to formulate a clear company policy for receiving outside contact to improve customer perceptions and channels of communication.

Advertising is there to engage the interest of the potential customer, in order for facilitate enquiry that results in a sale and income. The way that a company responds to communication from its existing or potential customers indicates the level of importance that they give them. If customers consider that they are regarded as of little or no importance, from the response or lack of it that they receive, they can quickly go elsewhere and take their money with them. If you can’t be bothered to make the message clear and easy to understand, why should the customer have to make the effort to find out?

© N.C.Watkis, Contract Marketing Service 20 Feb 23

Nicholas Watkis, AE MA DipM CMC FCIM
Nicholas Watkis set up Contract Marketing Service in 1981, providing professional interim marketing management for a wide variety of businesses. Over 30 years practical experience in organizations, large and small, national and international, led to the development of Business Performance Maximized specialist in marketing performance measurement.


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