A challenge facing many businesses is how to maintain a constant stream of customers in order to provide a regular cash flow.
One method is to choose a location that ensures a steady flow of traffic past the door, creating a constant awareness of the business. While position is important, it is not always possible to afford or be lucky enough to occupy a prime location.
Another method is to advertise sales or other specials, which are designed to bring customers, both new and existing, into the store or business. While this method may prove successful in increasing sales in the short-term, often the true ongoing value of the sale is overlooked. That is, one of the desired outcomes of the promotion should be in capturing the future business of those customers.
It is a commonly overlooked that a customer’s true worth lays in their value in subsequent business dealings. This can be demonstrated by a reverse view, in that poor service, low quality goods or other undesirable factors in the customers eyes, is quick to bring the business into ill repute. Business failure or a dramatic downturn in turnover can result. Equally, a favorable outcome for the customer means they will not only be more likely to come back, but also to tell their friends about the experience.
Therefore, it is a disconcerting fact that many customers leave a store without any attempt being made by the business at capturing their vital information. This information, if gathered, not only allows the business to communicate with that customer at a later date, but to also begin to refine its view of its customer and their needs. This principle applies whether the business be a retail outlet, a service firm or a manufacturer. Typically a business can use a variety of methods to capture customer information.
Say you have a shoe store. Using a computerised system, you can capture the size, style and colour of shoe, plus its value (and therefore profitability). It is also not uncommon these days to ask for a person's name and telephone number as part of the transaction process. Be upfront, say you are using the information to build a better understanding of customer's needs to provide improved service. Sure some will refuse, but most won't. You can now start to build a profile of your customers.
Other questions to ask include how the person found out about the business (if by advertisement, which one), have they shopped there before (in which case you have some data already). Don't forget to ask if they would like to be informed of new shoes that meet their size/colour/style needs.
This information can be used to determine the recency and frequency of sales to particular customers, enabling specific promotional programs to be offered to those identified as most desirable.
Ongoing communication with clients gained through data capture when they are visiting your business is vital to ensuring they are constantly aware of the goods and service you provide. This can be via letter, email or SMS.
Future business direction can also be gleaned through recognition of customer requests, especially if they are for items not normally carried in a store’s inventory, or included in the overall service package.
By better meeting your client’s needs, many businesses find location less important and customer loyalty and repeat business far more valuable.
Matt Eliason is CEO of PlusOne Marketing a business offering Marketing, Media and Communication services and advice. Read the regular blog for Ongoing Tips
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