"You should go see people in their habitat," Arno Langbehn, CEO, B. Behr's Verlag GmbH & Co. KG., told attendees last year in his Pre-Conference workshop on new products at SIPA Annual 2016. (Check out the three excellent Pre-Conference workshops at SIPA Annual 2017 here.)
In-person visits to customers and/or members are not always the easiest to orchestrate or arrange, but the benefits can be significant. Here are five examples of the benefits of on-site visits.
1. To better find out how your customer uses your products. Stressing this, Langbehn showed a video clip of a middle-aged daughter visiting her father in his kitchen and asking how the iPad she gave him is working out. He said he was thrilled with it and then proceeded to make a salad with guess what as a cutting board—and even placing it in the dishwasher after.
2. Run an engagement day and hold on-site product how-tos. In an interview earler this year, Michelle Godwin, head of enterprise sales for London-based Incisive Media, told me that their increase in sales could be traced to more face-to-face meetings. Incisive now challenges sales people to schedule five in-person meetings a week.
"The idea is not just to sell but to make sure customers are engaging with our products," Godwin said. "[That engagement] used to be less than 10% and now it's 60%. Our sales team is going out and seeing customers, making multiple visits. It also gives motivation to current subscribers to renew. We'll spend a whole day on-site demonstrating the product or service, showing features, running an engagement day. Or we could just take up a couple of hours of their time where they book a room for us within the clients' office and current users and potential users drop by for one-to-one sessions."
She added that by having these meetings, "we've learned a lot [such as] you need multilayered contacts throughout organizations. Because if you have just one and he or she leaves, you're a bit flummoxed."
3. Find out some things in person that you wouldn't have otherwise. During a SIPA webinar last fall, Krystle Kopacz, CEO, Rev, recalled visiting a client only to find out that their marketing budget was completely tapped, "We were pitching a solution for account based marketing, a new product we were offering.
"But then we found out that this would actually come from the company's sales budget, which had a ton of money in it. So [you need] to ask the right questions about where budgets reside. Try to be a strategic partner—even if you have to cobble together to do something special."
Kopacz, who will lead a session titled Moving From Publisher to Partner at SIPA Annual 2017, June 5-7, also stressed the importance of face-to-face meetings for selling high-ticket items.
4. Conduct a "listening tour" with members as a way to understand their deeper needs and challenges. You wouldn't associate dentists with making house calls, but for Stephanie Moritz, the chief communications officer for the American Dental Association, it's a different story.
Their two- to four-hour office visits are part of ADA's design thinking approach—"a concept that starts with the end user's experience and builds out from there," Moritz says in an article in AssociationsNow. "The first step is our listening tour to better understand our members' unmet needs and motivations, as well as where, when, and how to best reach them." So far, her team has visited 10 dentist offices with a diversity of backgrounds and experience.
"Ultimately, what we're hoping to do is develop new products and services that will help better meet needs today and tomorrow," Moritz says. Her members are very busy but she discovered that they still find time to check Facebook. That led her team to try Facebook Live video streaming. ADA is currently testing this platform and hosting conversations regarding dental guidelines and procedures. "It's a really cool way to engage differently with our members," Moritz says.
5. Lead customers to the next level. "What's the last question that you want to leave your client with so they're going to move forward?" asked Leslie Laredo, president of the Academy of Digital Media. "It's really interesting how many people haven't prepared enough to know that question." Laredo said you need to have your "ask" ready. "How are you going to advance the conversation?"