Chet Bowling: “Customer outreach is about creating value”

IMG_13386I frequently talk to CEOs of foreign companies operating in Russia, and with increasing frequency, we discuss how to reduce the cost of attracting new customers and keep the loyalty of existing ones. In solving these issues for Alinga I have developed an approach that has proven results: a quarter of our potential customers become actual customers, and more than half of them come back to us again. So I often tell people what I’m about to tell you.

There are three rules to client outreach that I hold to and that I teach my team.

Be proactive

Our managers and I regularly meet with clients regardless of whether they are experiencing any problems or have any questions. We talk about a client’s goals and the projects they’re currently involved in. For an outsourcing business this is especially important since a provider generally gains information on clients’ transactions after the fact. If we learn about them in advance it’s possible to have an impact on the result, for example by advising on how to better close a deal or consulting on compliance with legal standards. This is undoubtedly valued by our clients and increases their loyalty.

It’s clear that it’s physically impossible to meet tête-à-tête with each client and partner. I do try to meet up with them at events held by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), the Association of European Businesses (AEB), and others. Chief executives are among those who attend these events, and a lot of issues are taken care of quickly.

Active participation in business life undoubtedly creates new opportunities. For a long time Alinga served as the auditor of AmCham and is now the auditor for AEB. I attend various business meetings once or twice a week. Networking takes up about 60-70% of my time.

Establish, maintain and analyze your contacts

Business breakfasts – meetings in a small circle of people to share experience and discuss pressing challenges – provide another good opportunity for communication. We regularly hold them for CEOs from our client companies and other foreign companies working in various industries in Russia. Recent meetings have been devoted to HR policy, risk management, working with management teams, and opportunities for growth. Our function leaders and invited experts hold webinars on professional topics for employees at our client companies. This is how we create a community of leaders and specialists who take an interest and have confidence in our expert assessments.

At Alinga we have more than 8,000 contacts in our client database. We maintain it using a CRM system that contains all the important information and is constantly updated, serving as a source of data for a monthly report on client outreach. A group made up of the CEO and department heads analyzes this report and decides how to make cooperation more effective. For example, it plans cross sales and explains who from a potential client has the best contact, who it’s better to negotiate through, etc.

Be useful

Companies that have already become your clients should feel added value by collaborating with you. We actively share our knowledge during business breakfasts, webinars, and in our newsletter Vestnik. It’s devoted to the practical aspects of doing business in Russia and comes out every two months in both Russian and English.

As for business acquaintances, one of the most valuable things is to analyze them. It’s not worth selling your services aggressively. Your task is to express good feelings and trust, and be a competent and useful conversation partner. You need to find common topics, express interest, and share your experience solving relevant problems. This works when it comes to building any relationship.