Timing is Everything: Knowing When to Contact Your Customers

I don’t need to tell you that maintaining contact with your customers and prospects is important. On the off chance that you didn’t know already, it seems like you can’t throw a (virtual) stone on the internet without hitting an article about the importance of lead nurturing.

The trouble is, there are a lot of details that get left out when all you’re being told is how important the topic is. One of these details – and perhaps the most important, since it can cause your customers to ignore you, or even go all-out and start to hate your guts – is how often you should be in touch with your customers.

 Lucky for you, we have the correct answer right here in this very blog! And that answer is…

It Depends

That… may not quite have lived up to the hype I gave it. But it’s true. How often you communicate with your customers depends on how often they want to hear from you. Communicate too little and you’ll be forgotten, but communicate too much and you’ll start to irritate people.

So how do you know how often your customers want to hear from you? Well, the simplest way is to give them the power of choice, and to make them aware that you’re doing this.

Example One: The Confirmation Email

You know how, when you sign up for a new mailing list, you get a link to click to verify your subscription? Most of these just lead to a page that says “congrats, you’re now signed up,” or something to that effect.

It’s a wasted opportunity.

You could instead put on this page a selection process. Ask your customer “Would you like to get mail every week, every two weeks, or once per month? Would you like to see information on articles? Special sales? Special events?”

Have default options, of course, because not everyone will want to choose, but most people will be glad that they have control over how you talk to them.

This even has an added benefit for you, as you can more easily track what percent of your customers are interested in the portion of your website devoted to potted plants, as opposed to the part on monster truck rallies.

Now, when they see communications from you, they’ll know they’re getting something they chose. They’re more likely to enjoy it, and to appreciate you, and as long as you make it clear that they can change their communication preferences whenever they want, it becomes difficult for them to actually become irritated with you.

Example Two: The “As You Like It” Mailing

When you saturate an area with direct mail, you know that some of it is going to end up in the trash. Why? Well, people are busy, for one, but they also don’t know who you are. They haven’t asked to get mail from you, so you’re seen as intruding.

 The next time you want to send direct mail to a list – and have a bit of time to spare – instead send out an “As You Like It” mailing. This is something small and simple – generally a postcard – saying something like “Hello, we’re Company ABC. We’re new in town, and we’d like to know how you’d like us to keep in touch with you. Call 555-555-5555, email, or go to our website to let us know! It should take 2-3 minutes of your time.”

You’ll notice that nowhere in this postcard is any sort of sales pitch given. This is because this mailing relies on triggering people’s curiosity to get them to act. You can, of course, add an incentive, but incentives can sometimes make people less likely to call – is it worth the trouble for whatever you’re offering?

 Curiosity, on the other hand, is a universal human instinct, one that is nearly irresistible.

Regardless of how you get them to act, though, you then proceed to offer them options just as in the confirmation email example, above. Now you’ve got their opt-in and their preferences!

Guidelines

When you’re setting up your options for time, of course, it never hurts to have some guidelines. Every week or every two weeks is often your safest bet. Less frequently than every two weeks, and you run the risk of being forgotten. If they specifically opt for this, it’s still better than getting on their bad side, but not optimal.

More than once a week, though, and you will come to be seen as a nuisance – people have enough communication cluttering up their lives as it is.

So there you have it. The key to knowing how often to communicate is to give the power to decide to your customers. Make sure that you have the power to create the options, of course, but when they feel like they got to make the choice, they will be much more responsive to the consequences.


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