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Marketing: Respect Your Prospects And Make More Money by Lisa Packer

It costs eight times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to keep an existing one. So if your business is constantly churning through an ever-changing sea of new customers, you're wasting money.

But when you make respect for your prospect a goal from the beginning, it's much easier to retain more customers. And every purchase those customers make means multiplied profits.

With that in mind, here are some concrete steps you can take to make your prospects feel your respect:

  1. Avoid hype at all costs. Never make a claim that you can't prove in the next breath. Give the reason why what you say is true. Not only does that make it easier for people to trust you, it also helps them justify to their mind the decision they've made with their heart - to buy what you're selling.
  2. Make it easy to buy from you. Online, make sure your web site is easy to navigate. And keep in mind, that easy for you does not necessarily mean easy for your customers. Ask yourself this: Could my 80-year-old grandmother, who's never touched a computer in her life, figure out how to order from me? If the answer is "no," you've got work to do.

    Offline, make order devices in your sales letters easy to understand. Give the option of calling, mailing, or going online to purchase. Accept as many forms of payment as is humanly possible. And have a live person who knows about your product or service pick up the phone when someone calls to order.

    Invest in good employees. Make sure your sales staff is friendly and courteous, and that customer service is knowledgeable and kind. And here's a novel idea: Let it be known that rudeness to a customer will result in immediate dismissal, regardless of the circumstances. The number one reason people take business elsewhere is a bad customer service experience. One rude employee can do more damage to your bottom line than almost any other mistake your business can make.
  3. Treat complaints like pure gold. Don't get defensive, get excited! Most unhappy customers slip silently into the night, never bothering to tell you they've gone. Of course, they will be telling everyone else who'll listen why you stink, and why no one else should ever throw another penny your way.

    But the customer who calls to complain is doing you a supreme favor. They're taking time out of their busy schedule to act like a consultant for you. They've used your product or service, and they're going to tell you - for free - what needs fixing.

    If you or your employees are rude to the person doing you this favor, or even indifferent, or if you accuse them in any way of being at fault, let me just tell you bluntly: You deserve every calamity that comes your way.

    Be grateful to this kind soul. Give her something for her trouble - on top of what you do to make her problem right. Because if you handle the situation correctly, not only will you not lose her, you'll make her one of your most loyal customers.

    Unless you are the world's only provider of an absolute necessity (like air or water), you just cannot afford to disrespect your prospects. There will always be someone else with a similar offering at a cheaper price for them to defect to.

    Courtesy, on the other hand, isn't just it's own reward. It has the power to turn prospects into loyal - and profitable - customers.

This article was published on Friday 10 November, 2006.
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