When we talk about new and old customers we are not referring to their age.
Instead our focus is to point out the reality that there are two distinct populations your small business needs to keep in mind when you create and implement your ongoing marketing plan.
Every business needs new customers to grow and prosper. But do not forget your existing cutomers. They need to be encouraged to buy more and to buy more often.
Your new customer is the tougher nut to crack. They haven’t had a chance to prove to themselves the quality and efficacy of your products and services. Your job is to find a way to attract their attention and then to persuade them to give you a chance.
For most businesses, it is a basic reality that most of the people in their service area will not be customers. Most probably do not need you product or services and/or find it easier to get the same from someone else. Many are already getting similar goods or services from someone with whom they have an established relationship.
What you need to do is find the handful of souls who are looking for your product or service in your market area. By focusing on your local market area it may be possible to identify a target demographic and reach it with direct mail, or use mass media with a narrowly focused message.
Another approach is to be “Findable,” by making it easy for your prospects to find you when they need your product or service.
This more passive approach has a couple of advantages. One the one hand you are not expending resources marketing to uninterested prospects who happen to live in your market place. More importantly, the people who seek you out have already demonstrated a potential interest in your goods which increases your chances of actually converting them into sales.
A nice display ad in the Yellow Pages used to do wonders in helping people find your business, but far fewer people use these today. In today’s world the role of the yellow pages has been taken over by the computer search.
The second category is your existing customers, your “old” customers. You have already gotten them in the door before and gotten them to buy. Since they have at least some relationship with you, it is much easier to get them to buy again. The stonger the past relationship, the more likely they will repeat the process and buy again.
The bottom line here is that it is important to your long term business success to conciously build a strong positive relationship with each of your customers. Doing so requires a lot more than a smile and thank you for shopping sign on the exit door. Although these are good starts.
You want to help them get to know you. If they start to care about you and your business you are ahead of the game. And it is not that hard to do. This approach is called permission based marketing, because you need to get their permission to begin and continue.
To get this going you need to ask them permission to put them on your list for email, texting or your newsletter. Typically you offer them an ethical bribe in the form of a freebie or a great coupon, useful information, or a membership of some sort. The easiest way to get them to sign up may be to include a message on the bottom of the cash register receipt you give to customers when they buy from you, as well as an opt-in form on your web site.
Reward them for signing up to your list by keeping in touch regularly but not too often. Treat them with respect and make it worth their while to be a member of your list.
You want to contact them often enough so they don’t forget you. That may be once a week or once every two weeks for most businesses.
You want to make sure these messages are relevant to them. If you are a dentist a message about teeth whitening is appropriate, but probably not one about neck ties.
That said, don’t be bashful about sharing personal events, business highlights and similar insider information about your business. Your customers will appreciate local community news and events. This is especially worthwhile if your business is helping in some way, even if it is just promoting them though the email or texts.
Finally, the messages you send should be useful. Make their memberhip on the list worthwhile by giving them occasional specials that only list members recieve. so they can really benefit from being on your list. The cell phone is going to become a larger and larger feature in the future. And texting with it. Imaging if you are a restaurant sending a text on a slow Tuesday offering, $5 off on a favorite entry to your text list if they get there by 7PM or whatever. Everyone likes special deals, and if you can offer them at least occasionally, you will have a happy list and in the process build a positive realtionship that will result in many more sales.
Marketing a business is a dual process. You need to address two different audiences. Your existing customers and those who have never bought before. Both are critical to the long term health of your business.
[tags]permission based marketing, permission marketing, email marketing, text marketing, small business marketing[/tags]