Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Customer is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Joseph Jaffe kicked off a B to B Magazine virtual trade show, “Demand Generation in the Digital Age,” which we watched yesterday. His presentation was based on his latest book called Flip the Funnel which sounds like it may be worth the read. The theme of cultivating customers came up in several other presentations during the show.

The notion of using new media to move prospects into and down the “sales funnel” has been repeated ad nauseam lately (often with the same thin anecdotes as “evidence”). It is refreshing to have the argument turned upside down.

Young marketers, like teenagers, need to discover “new” truths for themselves. And marketing consultants are in the business of promoting “new” truths. So as ascendant marketers begin to discover that customers are tough to acquire and hard to please, a renewed appreciation has arisen for keeping and cultivating existing customers. The self-effacing Jaffe, to his credit, advocates an integrated balance of customer and new business marketing resource allocation, not a complete rejection of the sales funnel models.

Jaffe points out that existing customers often provide the lion’s share of revenue and profit and can also provide the bulk of referrals and new business. This reality has been well understood for a very long time but we now have a new set of tools to address these opportunities.

In for-profit real events, the big money has always been renewals – returning attendees, exhibitors and sponsors. Now, with cheaper ways to connect with customers, we have no excuse for letting these relationships atrophy while we work on the urgencies of the moment. The “show must go on” year-round regardless of how often we stage the physical event.

For industries that use face-to-face media as a marketing tool, event goals should include customer cultivation as well as prospect generation.

A real, live customer is a terrible thing to waste!

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