Ineffective marketing could destroy a small business – part one

We all know why we do marketing: to attract more people to buy a product or service. Yes, it can be expensive, but even worse… if not done properly, it can be expensive AND ineffective.

For new and established businesses with relatively small budgets it’s a real concern… they must market themselves to raise awareness and start to sell, but to really work, marketing must be carefully targeted at the right target audience.

Over the next two or three weeks, I’ll offer you a few pointers, ‘must do’s’ if you like, and highlight some things to definitely avoid.

First… the obvious one! Your best and most valuable assets are YOUR EXISTING CUSTOMERS and not communicating with them effectively is a cardinal sin in my view. They are your best source of increased business and profit.

You’ve sold them something after investing time, energy and money in them and started creating that all important relationship … they know you, trust you and with any luck they’ve enjoyed the experience of doing business with you. Research suggests that it’s five to ten times easier to get them to buy from you again than to get a new customer to buy for the first time.

Great you say… so why do so many businesses communicate so poorly with existing customers? Consider this example – local newspapers or their websites carry a fair number of ads for restaurants, so take from that they are spending a pretty penny advertising.

Now ask yourself some questions:

– When did you last receive a letter or an email from a local restaurant you’ve been to once or maybe a few times, inviting you back, offering you a free bottle of wine or discount if you bring your family and friends?

– If you liked the restaurant would you be happy to give them your email or address at the end of your meal so that they could keep you informed on special offers, incentives, or perhaps to enter you into a prize draw for a free meal (in my experience only the larger chains (e.g. Beefeater) do this)?

– What would happen to the first local restaurant to start doing this in the months and years ahead?

Now if you apply this principle to your business. Ask yourself the following:

– How often do I communicate with my existing customers?

– What do I have to offer my existing customers that would entice them back?

– When did I last send a letter or email to my customers?

– What would happen if I increased my contact with them over the coming months?

– What more could I be doing to clearly explain the specific benefits and increased value for money they will receive?

I know of an independent car dealership group who recently increased retail sales turnover by 40% year on year by simply communicating (mainly by email to keep costs down) with customers with relevant and interesting monthly newsletters with referral offer; timely special offers on services, parts and accessories; invites to on and offsite events and a ‘drop in for a coffee’ while we give your car a free wash and vac (on certain days)… in addition to the usual annual service and MOT reminders.

What happened is their satisfied customers referred them to friends and family… then they in turn referred them to their friends and family, and so on! So simple isn’t it… but sometimes we are all too close to our businesses that we don’t step back and look at the obvious?

Here’s a few other options to maximise the relationship with existing customers:

– How often do you communicate with your customers by direct mail or email?

– Do you test and measure any response?

– Do you spend at least 30 minutes each month coming up with an exclusive offer for your existing customers?

– Do you say ‘thank you’ to your customers either by letter, email or telephone?

– Do you ask your customers for referrals (almost another subject on its own)?

I hope the above is food for thought… needless to say, if you want any help or support establishing a customer programme, you know who to speak to!

Next time… the subject will be ‘Focusing on the benefits of your product or service’.

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