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Beating a Recession – 7 November 28, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Keeping Your Customers, Local Brand Development, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics.
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David DirksHere’s a question for you:  When you made your last major purchase (car, truck, appliances, etc.) from a retailer/vendor (local or otherwise), how often have you heard from them since?  I’m willing to bet that it’s about zilch.  Zero.  None of the above.  Perhaps you have received some form of communication from a local retailer (phone, email, direct mail, etc.) on a fairly regular basis but that would be the exception and not the rule.  The rule for most locally owned businesses is, “yes, we communicate with our customer’s when they come into our store.”

Really?  Well good for you but not good when you’re trying to create more sales from your existing customer base and create new customers at the same time.  The failure to create even a simple communication strategy that provides some level of ‘touch’ to your customer base is a prescription for going out of business in time.

This concept is one that almost universally is met with applause.  Everyone can ‘get’ this concept on an intellectual level.  It makes perfectly good sense.  The truth though, again, is that few do it at all and even fewer get it right when they at least attempt to do it.

Here are my thoughts on this subject of reaching out to customers on a regular basis.  This is the stuff which Big Dogz do and do well.

  • This is a low budget item that offers high-payoff results.  You don’t need a huge marketing budget to create a simple and basic customer communication plan.  Email, direct mail, and the old-fashioned telephone offer a great way to stay in touch with customers.
  • Set some basic goals for your customer communication plan.  Helping customers get the most out of their purchases; educating them on how to do things that create value from the products or services you sell them; advising them on special buying opportunities that are exclusive to them, are just a few basic goals.
  • Once your start, don’t stop.  If you and I can agree that most businesses don’t have a customer communications plan, then we can probably also agree that the few that are willing to try, don’t stick with it long enough to see results.  Executing on your communications plan when you can remember to do it is like not doing it at all.
  • Get their contact information on every sale.  You should sell every customer on the idea that by giving you their contact info, (address, phone, and email), you can help them beyond the immediate sale.  If your communications strategy for your customers creates more value (i.e. teaches, educates, informs, and in some way creates real value for them that they will appreciate) and keeps the sales pitch to a minimum, it’s not a tough sell.  Just be sure to ask every customer or even those who come in to comparison shop, to join the list.  If your pitch sounds hollow, they’ll say no.
  • Results are long term. Yes, I know.  You’re in the fight for your life to keep sales and profits moving along through this current economic debacle (what else can you call this?  ‘recession’ seems too light a term).  You need sales to stabilize NOW.  Today.  This minute.  However, that’s no excuse for not creating a customer communications plan and implementing TODAY.
  • Ok.  There are some short term benefits.  For one, if you implement a customer communications plan and are consistent with it, you will see some uptick in sales from your current and devoted customer base.  For customers who have been buying your products and/or services over time (loyal base), you always want to be looking to expand their purchases (getting a greater share of their wallet).  If an existing customer purchases an average of $50.00 per month, you want to set the goal high, say to $65.00 per month.  Incremental increases of a share of your customers wallet is what wins the day.  Don’t expect customers to go from $50.00 to $100.00 overnight.
  • This process will cost you in terms of your TIME.  It doesn’t cost much money to create and implement a regular plan for communicating with your customer base.  However, it will cost you in terms of the time you will need to invest to create and implement it.  I believe that this is the one point that holds people back from either doing it or keep doing it.  When you where multiple hats in a business or resources are just tight, it’s tough.  However, the cost of NOT doing it is the most painful price to pay of all.  Find the time.  Keep yourself organized and on a regular schedule when implementing your plan.
  • Another immediate benefit:  word-of-mouth customer referrals.  Customers who receive the royal treatment with a solid array of customer communication vehicles are usually so positively stunned, that they just have to tell others about it.  Creating a customer experience beyond the sale is so rare these days that you’ll benefit from the effort as the word about your business gets out.
  • Timing is everything.  How often should you communicate with your customers?  Good question.  First, you need to decide what the goals of your communications plan are.  Second, you need to create the pieces (newsletter, phone calls, direct mail, email, blogs, website, etc.) and decide what the frequency of each piece is within the framework of your customer communications plan.  For instance, your newsletter might be quarterly.  Your phone check in might be twice a year.  Your email might be bi-monthly.  You can set the tone and pace of your communications plan and tweek it as you learn more about your customers needs and wants.  For example, you may find that your customers enjoy getting your newsletter that your increase the frequency to bi-monthly or monthly.  Test different formats and try new tools.

Want to survive a recession and build a business that has deep and healthy roots for longevity?  Then do this.  Trust me, chances are that your competition, large or small, isn’t.  The opportunity is all yours.



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