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A virtual ‘no-cost’ marketing program to help grow your businessNot all marketing programs require extensive analysis or an R&D investment to aid in the growth of the business. Some are simple, easy and cost as little as the time it takes to make a phone call.One practice I wish that every CEO and senior executive within any company would learn is the importance and power of routinely communicating with the customer. I didn’t learn this lesson until late in my career, but I can tell you it became a valuable business habit. Weekly I would call between 3-10 customers. Even when I was traveling, I would carve out the time to make my customer calls. My targets were accounts that recently received products from us. I found it to be a golden opportunity for me to take the customer’s pulse on how we performed. At the same time I would have senior people that reported directly to me do the same. Our company had about 5000 total accounts. Between my staff and me we were able to make about 30-40 calls per week. This meant we could essentially contact about 50% of our accounts per year. I can assure you we learned a tremendous amount about our customers and our customer service level. And did so at a negligible cost – basically the price of a phone call.When was the last time your CEO really talked with a customer? Think of the possibilities that could generate from a CEO-customer conversation. Why stop at the CEO? What about any senior executive at the director or VP level? Wouldn’t it be nice if the VP of operations picked up the phone and talked to a few customers per week? Or what about the Quality Assurance manager speaking directly to the customer. Not because he has a problem, but to find out if he was satisfied with everything. A pro-active approach to customer service. These contacts always turn out to be a win-win situation. If you find that something is wrong, then it can be corrected quickly. After all, who better to solve a customer problem, then a senior executive in charge? If nothing is wrong, then the VP can smoothly end the call by asking if the customer has the latest literature or knows about the newest product released. The VP could take one more impressive step and offer the customer his telephone number to his office in the unlikely event that the normal company support system fails. Think about the ‘walk-away’ message the customer has about your company. Over the years, studies consistently suggest that customers’ vote with their feet when confronted with poor service. I call this the silent vote because you don’t know the customer is gone until it’s too late. Most likely after he begins purchasing from your competitor. These same studies state that a direct correlation exists between business shift and the depth of your business relationship. In other words, the less you know about your customer, the higher the probability and the faster he will turn to your competitor when he has problems. And most business people know it takes more money and effort to get a new customer then to retain an old one. Therefore, finding ways to strengthen the bond you have with each existing customer will pay dividends time and again. Customers tend to remember conversations from non-selling people. Sales people still have a slight stigma attached to them. However, when customers know more people within a company it gives them a ‘cozy’ feeling and provides added flexibility to communicate problems before turning into lost business. An on-going customer calling program is an easy and effective way to add more glue to the customer-company relationship.Down in New Orleans, they have a wonderful word: “lagniappe” (LAN-yap). It means getting a valuable extra at no extra charge, sort of like 14 donuts for the price of a dozen. You should find ways to give your customer more value. Talking with him on a regular basis will make your company standout. In today’s fiercely competitive world giving a customer more than they expect is a sure way of retaining him for future business.Start your executives calling customers today. The value proposition is immense!