Customer outreach best practices

“How do I find the best customers?” Perhaps the most common question I come across in social media and discussion groups. Sometimes it’s more direct “how do I find customers?” Unfortunately, there is no short answer to this question, but there are specific answers once you define the details.

Step One: Target

Identify your target market. No, this is not the same as your addressable market as defined in your business plan. The addressable market in your business plans tends to be pie-in-the-sky, stretch reality, potential customers. What we want here is that small segment of the addressable market where your core competencies will resonate the loudest.

Step Two: The Approach

Now that you know who you’re going after, next is identifying how to approach them. It’s amazing how many sales/marketing leaders tend to think about the most efficient way to deliver messaging without ever considering how their customers want to receive it.

The easiest way to learn how your target customer base prefers to receive marketing information is by asking your existing customers. Of course, assuming you have current customers – so how about the startup that hasn’t sold anything yet? If you can’t make an educated guess by looking at your prospects’ details, or perhaps by asking some “friendly” competition – then the only suggestion I can offer is small-scale testing.

Step Three: Messaging

Messaging is the most challenging part for me personally. Think about sending a cold email – you have maybe four, perhaps five words in the subject line to make or break the campaign. Engaging outside resources to conduct A/B testing may be your best approach – at least initially. The same goes for any paid advertising you may utilize.

Step Four: Follow-up

Do you realize most sales won’t close before the fifth or sixth contact? Just getting an initial response typically takes at least two contact points. I’ve fallen into this trap myself. I spent thousands of dollars on a direct mail campaign but didn’t budget any resources (money nor time) to conduct any follow-up whatsoever. I probably don’t need to detail how disappointing the results were.

I am by no means a marketing expert, and customer outreach is in that grey area between sales and marketing. These are my thoughts, based primarily on painful lessons learned. I’d love to hear some other ideas on best practices.

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