How to bring customers back to your store once they have strayed.
By Rick Segel, CSP
When was the last time you saw Bill or Sue or Charlie in the store? They loved you! They loved your merchandise. They were such great customers — what happened? Where have they been? Maybe you should call them and see where they have been. Or what about having a customer appreciation sale and inviting them back with a great incentive?
You could send them a letter and tell them that if they bought something, the second item would be half off. That would do it. So you send out an email, make a post on Facebook, and the promotion is OK, but you never see Sue or Charlie.
Now you say to yourself, “It’s time to go back to some of the tried and true forms of advertising that built my business.” Maybe a radio campaign? Nah, too many people are listening to the commercial-free stations. Maybe a half-page ad in the newspaper? The rates are less then before. But who is really reading newspapers today?
Why not offer a better price incentive? You could, but doesn’t that go against everything you have ever believed? You would always say, “First we sell ourselves, then the store experience, the store itself (reputation and what your brand represents in the mind of the buyer), and then the merchandise (which, of course, price would be a part of).” So that is what you believe, but business is off, and you have to do something.
“It must be price,” you say to yourself. But in your heart of hearts, you know that is wrong. So what do you do? You decide to call Charlie and Sue, and you get similar reactions on the calls. You will say something like, “We have missed you in the store. We haven’t seen you in the longest time.” They will be just as shocked as you that so much time had slipped by. Then they might say that they were traveling and picked this or that up. Then they hit you with the real issue, when they say, “I needed a certain type of thing–a-ma-jig that I know you could get for me, but I went online, and there was a store that specialized in that, so I bought it. I saved you the hassle of tracking it down. By the way you should check out this site. They have some really cool stuff. I just bought a _____________, and they don’t even charge for shipping.”
Your heart sinks to the floor. You have that feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. What are you going to do? The one good thing was you were right. It wasn’t just price. What you just experienced is what I call “customer migration.” Customers are migrating from one habit (buying from you) to another habit of turning to the Web to fulfill their everyday (and beyond) needs.
So what do you do? The answer is simple but as complex as global economics itself. Here are my rules to combat customer migration:
1. If you want word-of-mouth advertising, give people something to talk about. Be outrageous — dare to be really different.
2. Create a promotional calendar of something happening in the store every other week.
3. Include a variety of activities including price promotions, wacky contests, serious contests, awards programs — whatever activity that creates buzz.
4. Be the authority. Become the expert in your area. Be the resource by collecting information about the products and companies you do business with.
5. If you can’t write articles about your area of expertise, collect everything that is ever written about it. (There are lots of free and paid services today that can collect articles from every source possible.)
6. Devote one hour every week to learning and another hour to shopping various businesses online. Make it a habit.
7. Keep in touch with your customers using a vehicle that they, not you, prefer.
Rick Segel, CSP, is a seasoned retailer of more than 25 years and the author of 13 books. As a Certified Speaking Professional, he offers keynotes, seminars, training sessions and breakouts covering every aspect of growing and running a business. Learn more at www.ricksegel.com.