Your new customer, the one you worked so hard to sell, the one that loved their commercial, the one you were so proud of, just called and cancelled their advertising. You sit there stunned, speechless, wondering what just happened. Why did the customer, all of a sudden, decide to cancel without warning? Chances are your new customer found themselves in The Zone of Doubt and Blame.
One of the most overlooked factors in building long-term repeat business is the activities of customer engagement and retention. Getting a new customer on the air is one thing. Keeping them on the air is another thing altogether.
During the first few months of the new customer’s advertising schedule, they will go through a range of emotions. At first there will be some initial excitement for the advertising plan. They will enjoy hearing their commercial on the radio. Some of their friends will comment on the commercial. They will initially get some customers who say they heard the commercial too.
But after a few weeks, they will forget to listen for the commercial on the radio. Their friends will stop commenting on the commercial and those initial customer comments won’t be as frequent. That’s when your new customer becomes most vulnerable for a cancellation.
Your new customer has just entered The Zone of Doubt and Blame.
This window of time — after the initial public reaction to the advertising and the process of becoming known before they are needed — is building up audience awareness. The new advertiser may start to wonder if they made the right decision. They question whether or not the advertising is working. They start to think of an intelligent-sounding way to let you down easy and cancel their advertising.
How did this happen? What can you do to prevent this from happening again?
In most cases, your customer found themselves in The Zone of Doubt and Blame because they were essentially left out in the cold. They were left to fend for themselves as doubt, anxiety, and buyer’s remorse set it. You can prevent this from happening again by increasing your knowledge about consumer psychology.
The traditional view of the sales process as a funnel, your advertiser starting out with a pool of advertising vendors and methodically eliminating one-by-one until selecting you, doesn’t fully explain the full extent of vendor interaction your new customer is looking for. Making the sale is just the beginning. Now your new customer is looking for engagement and validation. Research indicates that a majority of consumers continue to research the product category after they make a purchase.
Face-to-face visibility with your new client will help ensure that they can weather The Zone of Doubt and Blame and get to the other side without cancelling.
You need to build up a schedule of activities — valid business reasons to maintain a personal weekly contact over the first few months of the new agreement with your new customer. Here are some suggestions:
• Hand deliver a Thank You card signed by you and the department heads.
• Hand deliver a personal letter from the Business Manager that explains the billing process with examples of what the invoice will look like when it arrives.
• The sales person and the GM take the client to lunch or coffee and conduct a Tune Up presentation, a progress report CNA.
• Prepare a sample testimonial letter you think the client would agree to and ask them to sign it.
• Do all of these things in person, not over the phone or email.
While engagement and retention is an ongoing part of continuing customer service, the reasons behind the decision to buy in the first place is built on a solid foundation of successful advertising knowledge.
We do a far better job of keeping the new client on the air when we sell them an annual contract based on good fundamentals. The new client now understands that their goal for this advertising plan is to be known before they are needed.
They begin their new advertising plan knowing why consistency is so important to success. They realize they are building reach and frequency so potential clients will choose them when they have a triggering event. They now understand how an emotionally engaging creative message can help their name reach the consumer’s long-term memory.
But you have to be there, personally be there, to help them make it through the critical first few months.
Good luck to you. Remember, you are only one decision away from becoming the person you deserve to be.