Some small business owners are so focused on attracting new customers they forget to take care of the ones they already have. And neglected customers will certainly be ripe for the picking by the competition. Bob Green, president of The Verdi Group, an advertising agency in Rochester, N.Y., offers some easy and inexpensive ways to make sure your regulars keep coming back--and get some more along the way:
1. Trade-ins for a good cause. Ask customers to bring in food, clothing or school supplies for the needy, and in return give them a discount off any of your products. People love to support a good cause as well as get a good deal. Cooks' World in Brighton, N.Y., asked customers to bring in old pots and pans to donate to soup kitchens, and in return offered a 20 percent discount for a new item. "The response was overwhelming and we got many new customers as well as the current ones," reports owner Chris Wiedemer.
Shoe stores all over the country participate in Soles4Souls campaigns where customers exchange their old shoes for a discount on a new pair. The exchanged shoes are then given to charities that clothe the poor all over the world. Mark Allard, who owns New Balance stores in Raleigh and Durham, N.C., believes "If you just run a lot of sales all the time it can affect the integrity of your brand. A campaign such as Soles4Souls helps a good cause as well as provides discounts for my customers."
2. Loyalty cards. A study by research firm Colloquy, found the average American household belongs to 14 different loyalty programs. It seems like just about every coffee shop and hair salon you enter offers something for free once you accumulate a certain number of purchases. Jerry Lewis, owner of Sports Clips barber shops has seen a high percentage of customers use their "get five haircuts and the sixth is free" card and believes his business has increased at least 20 percent because of this.
There's another way to capitalize on this trend--paid membership for discounts. Well-known names such as Barnes and Noble, Starbucks and f.y.e. charge customers an upfront annual fee of about $25, and the cardholder then gets a 10 percent discount or more on products every time they shop. Another benefit is every time the card is swiped the business can track what items customers are buying and build a member profile. Executive vice president of marketing and merchandising at f.y.e. Fred Fox says, "We can then send members customized offers via direct mail, e-mail or phone based on their favorite products."
3. Keep in Touch. Green believes it's very important to consistently keep in touch with your regulars to ensure your business stays on their "radar screen." One of the best ways is to send out an e-newsletter at least once a month. Here you can announce new products, offer money-saving tips, advertise upcoming sales or talk up recent accomplishments. Jim Timberlake, owner of Donnelly Euro Footwear in Mount Dora, Fla., reports he has "a 90 percent success rate getting people's e-mail address by telling them about the company's green practices and promising special offers." Customers respond to his invitation-only sales events and birthday coupons and Timberlake knows it encourages them to return to his store, as opposed to wandering over to the competition.
4. Follow up. The best sales people keep track of the customers who buy from them, and then frequently follow up. Jim Greene, sales manager of Closet Maid, reports his dealers always call the customer after three days to make sure they are satisfied with the work and ask for referrals. "30 days [after installation], we call the customer to find out if they need any accessories for their closets, and a year later, we call the customer about future work and again ask for referrals."
5. Get their opinion. Make the effort to invest customers in your business. At least once a year, send out a survey with your newsletter or have clients fill one out on site. Ask their opinion about the quality of your product or service and how they can be improved. And make sure you actually implement some of the suggestions; don't just conduct a survey for surveys' sake. When customers feel vested, valued and heard, they are bound to keep coming back.
To take it a step further, Green also recommends forming an advisory board. These hand-selected panels should consist of your big spenders, and can be asked their advice on future products or current marketing campaigns. Treat them to a dinner or breakfast meeting and you are sure to get good attendance as well as future loyalty.
6. Good ol' coupons. A simple coupon in the local paper, a direct mail piece or a discount offered on your website can help keep your current customers coming back as well as entice new ones. A study by the Manufacturer's Coupon Control Center found that 75 percent of customers who believe themselves loyal to a particular brand would consider switching to a competitor if they received a coupon for it.
7. Rewards for referrals. If a current customer recommends your product or service to someone else who ends up buying, give them a reward. That way you not only get a new customer, but you virtually assure another sale when the regular customer returns to use that reward. And most importantly, don't forget to send a thank you note.
8. Conduct on-site classes. Whether it's cooking lessons, car repair workshops or gardening tips, offer classes at your place of business. While customers are there they can peruse goods and purchase everything they will need in order to duplicate what they've learned at home.
Do these classes right and you'll also reap positive word of mouth. Owner Anne Clowe of The Topiary Florist in Pittsford, N.Y., offers flower arranging classes at her shop, and finds that "many of the attendees refer me to spouses and friends for future business."
9. Target local companies. Whatever your business, if you offer a service that busy, full-time workers could use, extend special discounts to the local human resource departments. Employees will appreciate being able to run some of their weekend errands on their lunch hour.
10. Offer a freebie. "Every so often, we give our clients something extra: a free taste--something exciting they would never have thought of by themselves--and something they neither asked for nor paid for," Green says. "It pays off, not only does it make our clients happy, they look forward to working with us. And more often than not, the 'free' idea we present inspires a project that does bring in some revenue for us, if not immediately, often in the future."
Hopefully you already know that the very best way to keep your regulars happy is to offer impeccable customer service. Do you greet everyone with a smile and make the effort to remember names? Does a human being answer your phone or do callers have to go through a maze of automated responses to reach someone? If there is a problem with the merchandise, so you cheerfully offer a replacement? Remember how you like to be treated when you shop--many times it's the little things that will keep customers coming back.
It's hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.
Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.
But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
Dwight D. Eisenhower:
You do not lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership.
Edwin H. Friedman:
Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future.
Whoever is providing leadership needs to be as fresh and thoughtful and reflective as possible to make the very best fight.
H. Ross Perot:
Inventories can be managed, but people must be led.
A leader must have the courage to act against an expert's advice.
James Kouzes and Barry Posner:
There's nothing more demoralizing than a leader who can't clearly articulate why we're doing what we're doing.
Time is neutral and does not change things. With courage and initiative, leaders change things.
Most important, leaders can conceive and articulate goals that lift people out of their petty preoccupations and unite them in pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts.
John Quincy Adams:
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.
Margaret Chase Smith:
Leadership is not manifested by coercion, even against the resented. Greatness is not manifested by unlimited pragmatism, which places such a high premium on the end justifying any means and any measures.
The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say "I." And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say "I." They don't think "I." They think "we"; they think "team." They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but "we" gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.
Peter F. Drucker:
Leaders shouldn't attach moral significance to their ideas: Do that, and you can't compromise.
I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.
Good leaders must first become good servants.
Rosabeth Moss Kantor:
Leaders are more powerful role models when they learn than when they teach.
A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be.
The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision.
The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.
Some leaders are born women.
Leaders aren't born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that's the price we'll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.
The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.
The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
Warren G. Bennis:
The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born -- that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That's nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.
The price of greatness is responsibility.
You Have Two Choices
someone would ask him how he was doing, he would always reply: 'If I
were any better, I would be twins!'
Many of the waiters at his restaurant quit their jobs when he changed
jobs, so they could follow him around from restaurant to restaurant Why?
side of the situation.
Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to
and asked him 'I don't get it! No one can be a positive person all of
the time. How do you do it?'
say to myself, I have two choices today. I can choose to be in a good
mood or I can choose to be in a bad mood. I always choose to be in a
good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be victim or
I can choose to learn from it. I always choose to learn from it.
Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their
complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I always
choose the positive side of life.'
'But it's not always that easy,' I protested. 'Yes it is,'
'Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk every
situation is a choice.
You choose how you react to situations..
You choose how people will affect your mood.
You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood..
It's your choice how you live your life.
Several years later, I heard that
are never supposed to do in the restaurant business. He left the back
door of his restaurant open and then in the morning, he was robbed by
three armed men.
nervousness, slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot
After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care,
released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his
was, he replied, 'If I were any better, I'd be twins. Want to see my
scars?' I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone
through his mind as the robbery took place. 'The first thing that went
through my mind was that I should have locked the back door,'
replied. 'Then, after they shot me, as I lay on the floor, I remembered
that I had two choices: I could choose to live or could choose to die. I
chose to live.'
'Weren't you scared' I asked?
great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they
wheeled me into the Emergency Room and I saw the expression on the faces
of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared.
In their eyes, I read 'He's a dead man. I knew I needed to take
'What did you do?' I asked. 'Well, there was a big nurse shouting
questions at me,' said
'Yes,' to bullets, I replied.
Over their laughter, I told them: 'I am choosing to live. Please operate
on me as if I am alive, not dead.' '
his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude.
I learned from him that every day you have the choice to either enjoy
your life or to hate it. The only thing that is truly yours - that no
one can control or take from you is your attitude, so if you can take
care of that, everything else in life becomes much easier.
The Manager says: "Do you have any sales experience?"
The Indian says: "Sir, I was a salesman back home in India."
Well, the boss liked the Indian chappie so he gave him the job.
"You start tomorrow.. I'll come down after we close and see how you did."
His first day on the job was rough but he got through it.
After the store was locked up, the boss came down.
"How many sales did you make today?"
Rocket Sing says: "Sir, Just ONE sale."
The boss says: "Just one? No! No! No! You see here our sales people average 20 or 30 sales a day." If you want to keep this job, you'd better be doing better than just one sale. By the way, how much was the sale for?"
Rocket Sing says: " $101 237. 64"
Boss says: "$101 237. 64? What the hell did you sell?"
Rocket Sing says: "Sir, First I sell him small fishhook. Then I sell him medium fishhook. Then I sell him large fishhook. Then I sold him new fishing rod and some fishing gear. Then I ask him where he's going fishing and he said down on the coast, so I told him he'll be needing a boat, so we went down to the boating department and I sell him twin engine Chris Craft. Then he said he didn't think his Honda Civic would pull it, so I took him down to our automotive department and sell him that 4X4 Blazer. I then ask him where he'll be staying, and since he had no accommodation, I took him to camping department and sell him one of those new igloo 6 sleeper camper tents. Then the guy said, while we're at it, I should throw in about $100 worth
of groceries and two cases of beer.
The boss said: "You're not serious? A guy came in here to buy a fishhook and you sold him a boat, a 4X4 truck and a tent?"
Rocket Sing says: "No Sirji, actually he came in to buy Anacin for his headache, and I said: Well, fishing is the best way to relax your mind."