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Keeping in contact – but how much?

Are you giving your customers the love and attention they deserve? Do you contact them regularly with relevant news and useful updates? If not, why not?

You could be in danger of neglecting them and, as with any relationship if you ignore it, it will eventually end. But by the same token how much contact should there be?

If you’d just met the love of your life you wouldn’t ignore him or her until the next time you fancied a little TLC would you? That would be just rude – and the relationship probably wouldn’t last long as a result.

Yet, that is exactly what many businesses do to their customers. They take their money and assume that they will automatically come back if they want something, or even worse, the company only contacts the customer when desperate for the next sale. Meanwhile, the competitors are circling and making them feel special.

Not just when necessary

Your customers don’t have to be the love of your life but it does help if you give them some attention – especially when you don’t want something in return.

Taking the example of your new love, calling them every hour on the hour would be considered too much for most people; however, a quick conversation once a month might be considered too little.

How often you contact your customers will depend on the circumstances. For example, a manufacturer selling materials to builders’ merchants might be contacting them once a week to let them know about the latest products or special offers.

They might also remind them to stock up for a particular seasonal period (say, for the influx of DIYers during the bank holidays).

Alternatively, the company selling heavy plant machinery might only speak to their customers once every year or two – around the time when they might be considering an upgrade or adding to their fleet.

Timing is everything

If there is something to say then that’s the time to contact your customers. If there’s nothing to say that will add value to their experience, then they are best left alone.

It shouldn’t always be about you – unless for example you’re sending them the latest product manual or telling them about new product training they could be interested in. Ideally, ongoing customer communication should be all about the needs of the customer and what’s in it for them.

When contacting your customers make sure that you add value by telling them something they didn’t know they needed to know, such as updating them on the latest health and safety regulations.

Media factor

The channels you use when communicating with customers will also have a bearing on their perception of how often they hear from you. If you’re tweeting you may be interacting a couple of times a day; if it’s a blog then maybe once a week.

If it’s direct mail or email it could be once a month. The likelihood is that it will be a combination of all those things, including the occasional follow-up call, and it may well be from different people in the company.

If that’s the case your communications need to be coordinated to ensure your customers are not inundated with lots of different messages.

Ultimately, how much contact you have with your customers will depend on their needs, whether or not you have anything to say that helps to fulfil those needs, and how often your customers have said they would like to hear from your company.

If you get it right customers will be happy that they are being kept up-to-date in a way that suits them – and they won’t even notice. Get it wrong and they certainly will.

The trick is to get the right balance and if you’re not sure, you could always start by asking them.

Deborah Rowe is principal consultant of Sheba Marketing is a member of the organising committee for the Chartered Institute of Marketing Construction Industry Group

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