Customer Strategy for the Days Ahead

Where you are located and the demographics of your existing customer base largely determine the amount of print business you have during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The pain isn’t being evenly spread with some companies only mildly affected so far, while others have come to a standstill. The initial focus is the safety and health concerns for your staff, customers, suppliers, and your community. The secondary focus for many is going into crisis management mode with full contingency planning and daily burn rate evaluation. The sales team has time on their hands and should be focused on customer planning for the days ahead.

 

While your customers may not be buying much print today, there will come a day when they will. Some think that the flood gates will open with all kinds of business for everyone once this is over, and I hope that is the case. But what if it isn’t and how should you best prepare? Think of your customers and prospects as assets of the business and as a leader, you have a role in maximizing the return on those assets. There are a few steps that you can be taking right now so that you’ll be better prepared to capture the right opportunities for your business when the time is right.

 

Begin by conducting a thorough customer review. This includes your current customers and markets you are in — which of them were essential and which are discretionary? Take a look at the profitability of these segments and have a good understanding of where your business makes money, and where it doesn’t, where it can grow and what current relationships can be leveraged to get access to new opportunities?

 

Your ability to retain and grow your existing business will be strengthened if you can also share best practices in re-starting your customers’ business marketing efforts. You should remember that their business has hit the pause button as well. What strategies would be helpful in helping them to successfully hit the re-set button?

 

The same exercise should be applied to how you get new business and where you think you’ll find it. The rules of engagement may be altered for a time to come and no one has a monopoly on what the final outcome will be. Start be examining how you did it pre-pandemic, what was working and what wasn’t. How do you think those methodologies will stand up to the new – new normal?

 

This business pause also provides the opportunity to build your network and customer connections. Many of them are working from home and would welcome a call from you. This is also a time to categorize your connections into three groups: those who set, or influence the marketing and new business development for your customers, those who manage the transactions, and those who can provide insight and coaching to you along the way. The goal is for your team to be well connected to all three groups. The reality is that most sales teams are primarily connected to those who manage transactions.

 

Take the time to begin transitioning their efforts. Maximizing the value and return from your best customers and best prospects should not be left to chance. Build your plan, and as the CEO make sure that it is being carried out every day. Show your team the value of transitioning from a vendor to a supplier to a trusted advisor for all the right accounts.

 

These are not simple tasks to be delegated or addressed in a memo or email, particularly during a crisis. This is a task that your business will depend on for ongoing success. Have a clear picture of where you want to go, a map of how to get there and engage your team to make it happen. If you have any comments or thoughts as to how you’ve approached these issues, please send me a note or include them below.

 

Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic advice, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.com, LinkedIn or email at mphilie@philiegroup.com.

This blog originally published in Printing Impressions

 

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