We looked at five steps to better understanding your market – analyse customer demographics, analyse customer needs and wants, calculate total prospective market size, map competitors and map your services to the NDIS price guide.
We then gave some examples of what service delivery looks like for some of the successful NDIS service providers. Designing a service that appeals to customers’ choice and control trigger is essential. The next critical step is to get people to actually pull that trigger and buy.
In this second instalment, we look at marketing and sales pipeline.
Marketing and sales pipeline
Many people in the disability sector struggle with using words such as sales, profit and customers, however these words are par for the course in the NDIS world. In fact, if you had to sum up the key difference between the pre-NDIS world (business to government) and the post-NDIS world (business to consumer) in one word, you couldn’t go too far wrong if you said ‘sales’. There couldn’t be a more stark contrast between selling a bundle of services to one customer (government) and selling disaggregated services to many customers (individual NDIS participants).
We will explore six key phases in the sales process or ‘customer funnel’ – reach, engage, enquire, propose, sell, retain.
Planning targets for your sales funnel
The starting point is to define your targets. How many units of a product/service do you want to sell in a year? OK, so you’ve decided you’re going to deliver 10,000 hours of ‘Assistance to access community activities’ on weekdays at a price of $45.54 per hour.
Assuming the average customer is going to buy 3 hours per week for 40 weeks per year, you will need 83 customers who stay with you all year. This is your “retain” number. Let’s assume you have the resources and capability to deliver.
Allowing for ‘churn’ – customers who start but don’t stay – gives you your target “sell” number. For example, to get your 83 customers you might need to close 100 sales if 17 might try your service but not come back.
Then you need to consider how many proposals you need to make, to close your sales; how many enquiries you need to receive to get those opportunities to propose, how many people need to engage with your messages to generate that number of enquiries, and how many people you need to reach to generate sufficient response.
The actual steps in your sales funnel might vary, and the ratio between each step (also called a ‘conversion rate’) might vary too. But the principles of making your funnel work efficiently are pretty universal!
Reach refers to the number of people who are exposed to your message, brand or value proposition.
To make sure your investment of time and money goes further, it’s a good idea to spend time working out exactly who you need to reach, where they are, and what media they consume. To build your brand, your message will need to reach more than just your potential customer. You will also need to reach the people who influence them – their friends, family, advisors, the media etc. A strong reach strategy will strike a balance between targeting (trying to get a direct response from your target customer) and broader brand awareness to build your brand’s reputation. Having good brand awareness means you are known, and that means people will be more likely to respond to your targeted messages.
In determining your optimum means of reaching prospects, it is tempting to try to save money by using ‘free’ channels like social media or PR. The fact is, that to make these ‘free’ channels work well you will need to invest a lot of effort – and perhaps hire specialist support – to generate strong reach. That’s why channels you don’t pay for are known as ‘earned’ media – you have to work for reach!
A strong reach strategy will use a combination of paid media (advertising) and earned media (PR, social media, word of mouth, partnerships). The best combination depends on your brand’s circumstances and resources – talk with us if you’d like help to make a plan to reach your market.
One reach strategy that works for everyone is referral. If you really do a fabulous job of servicing your customers, they will tell other people, who (based on personal recommendations) may go straight to making an enquiry. Think about what you can do to make it easy for the customers who already love you, to spread the word.
If you are marketing well, you will invest your energies in designing content that appeals to your target audiences and placing your content in a medium, time and place that meets their needs. That’s right – good marketing and sales is all about meeting people’s needs!
Marketing that is effective will also have a clear call to action – once you have people’s interest, you give them an easy way to take the next step in the sales funnel – an enquiry.
This means directing people to your ‘owned’ media – either your premises, your website, or your phone line. It’s important that this process is easy and that the place they land delivers what was promised in your ‘reach’ communication.
Think of the activities you do to engage your audience as part of your Customer Service. Particularly in this digital age, you need not wait for a phone call or visit to start serving people well. So think about how you can use your website, social media presence, search engine listings, and any other touchpoint that lets people engage with you to give them an experience they value even before they enquire.
There are multiple channels through which prospects will make enquiries, and you need to have a well understood and super-efficient means of dealing with each:
- Walk into office
- Face to face in community
- Social media
It is critical that when a prospect makes that very first enquiry, you make them feel welcome and important. If you can, give the prospective customer a surprise/delight moment during the very first interaction. Doing so will significantly increase the chance that they proceed to the next step in the funnel.
There may be many people within your organisation who find themselves in a position of needing to respond to an enquiry, so all of them need to be equipped with the skills, knowledge and customer service ethos to respond consistently. It will only take one sub-standard interaction for a valuable prospect to quietly take their bag of money and spend it elsewhere.
Even if a prospect doesn’t reach the ‘propose’ stage of the funnel, make sure you have a system to maintain regular contact with them in case they are simply tardy, or if turns out that they are not happy with the provider they choose.
For some prospects, you will move quickly from the enquire step to the propose step.
For example, if you answer an incoming phone enquiry from an NDIS participant within three rings (and without having to put them on hold or transfer them to someone else), were able to answer their question/s satisfactorily and they like you, they may proceed to ask for a quote before hanging up from that very first call.
For other prospects, they may come back to you to seek a quote at a later time.
Either way, this is your opportunity to put forward a quality, value-for-money proposal that meets the customer’s precise needs. Timeliness is important – ask the customer when they need your proposal by and make sure you meet their deadline.
During the ‘sell’ phase, you will execute a service agreement and conduct on-boarding activities.
At this point it should be noted that you should never pressure a customer at any phase. When was the last time you bought something from a high-pressure salesperson, and would you recommend that experience to a friend?
Before NDIS came along, this was the easy bit. Win the customer and they’re yours for life.
Under NDIS, a customer may be yours for just a few days if you don’t deliver what you promised. The power to ‘hire and fire’ providers is one of the best parts of NDIS, if you’re a participant.
There are two other changes to the ‘retain’ dynamic brought about by NDIS.
The first is that the insurance principles of NDIS mean that the average customer will receive an NDIS package for part of their life, but not all of it.
The second is that with the disaggregation of services and emergence of provider specialisation, customers will increasingly start to spend their NDIS funding with two or more providers, so the piece of the pie you get may be smaller than previously.
So, not only is it harder to find and retain customers, but they may spend less than they used to and you will do such a good job of building their capacity that they will exit NDIS and you will do yourself out of a loyal customer. Customer for life? Hardly. But a good outcome for your customer. Welcome to NDIS.
Where to from here?
It’s one thing to understand your market and come up with an appealing service delivery model, but it’s quite another to sell yourself and convert prospects into loyal, paying customers. And harder still to make the financials work, which will be covered in our next instalment.
If the content of this blog has piqued your interest and you think your organisation might benefit from an NDIS health check or some strategic or practical guidance, CBB has a team of specialist NDIS consultants available to support you. For further enquiries, contact: