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CRACKING THE INNER CIRCLE In many situations, gaining your customers’ trust requires being part of an inner circle that sometimes can be difficult to access. In a business-to-business context, one of the best ways to begin breaking down any barriers to entry is to provide valuable, quality content that gives the customer an advantage in their market, says Bill Corbett Jr., president of Corbett Public Relations Inc., a Long Island, N.Y.-based public relations and marketing firm. “If you know what their challenges are, share with them articles, videos and other materials that will help them overcome challenges, and you will build trust,” Corbett says. “This allows for opportunities to develop and for relationships to grow.” Corbett, a former adjunct professor at Iona College and occasional guest lecturer at other institutions, also touts personal communication as a way to crack the proverbial walls some actual or prospective customers can erect. Ironically, he says technology – likely the very culprit in the establishment of these barriers – can be helpful in facilitating the communication that can help marketers break through. “LinkedIn, for example, offers many ways to engage in personal conversations,” Corbett says. “The key here is listening to the specific client or type of client. If you know what they are looking for or what they need, you will have a better opportunity to reach them and provide what they are looking for. Don’t hard sell; however, this does not mean don’t communicate.” Technology, in some ways, may have gotten a bad rap in this entire scenario. “It’s not the technology that’s the problem,” Miller says, “it’s the overwhelming flood of irrelevant messages that we keep sending people and an absolute lack of connected content.” Such content not only has to be connected to a unified message, but it also must contain a thread connecting it across channels, Miller says. “That level of connection, where we’re actually connecting all the dots between message and channel, has to also connect to something that is highly relevant to our customers.”

In many situations, gaining your customers’ trust requires being part of an inner circle that sometimes can be difficult to access. TALK IN THEIR TERMS “Female between ages 22 and 34.” “College graduate.” “Mother with at least one child.” “Household income between $100,000 and $125,000.” It’s easy for marketers to think in demographic terms; after all, the analytics portion of the job almost mandates doing so. But referring to customers in such terms also accentuates the problem of relating on a personal level with customers. It’s best to start by gaining a deeper understanding of your customer, then communicating with them in familiar terms so that they aren’t reintroducing themselves at each engagement. “No one introduces themselves as, ‘Hi, I’m a woman between the age of 22 and 34. I come from the Midwest and my socioeconomic background is…,’” Miller says. “But that’s how we talk about our customers,




ways to focus on your client Get “in the dirt” with them. Go to their offices or operations and observe what they do. Talk with executives, staff, clients and partners. Attend events that they host. “Get to know them on a personal level, and see what they do and how they do it,” says Bill Corbett Jr., president of Corbett Public Relations Inc. Mold products and services to meet customer needs. Using customer insight and intelligence, deliver value based on customer experiences that really address their needs and desires, says Liz Miller, senior VP of marketing for the CMO Council.


Talk to them across channels. The social media channel is important for getting acquainted with your client, Miller says, but remember that you’re dealing with today’s Omni-channel customer. “Social media is important, but so is the live feedback that comes from websites or the voice that comes from customer-service channels, and so is sales,” she says. Get to know their industries and markets. Look at competitors and share your relevant findings, Corbett says. “This is proactive and often helpful in developing marketing strategies or finding opportunities.” Have a plan for tracking and working with clients. This is particularly important if you are a service provider. Create a calendar with themes, action items, events and activities, all the while communicating regularly and setting goals, Corbett says. “All parties must agree to the plan and system for assessing successes and achievements.”

September/ October 2016  
September/ October 2016