So instead of the obligatory Thanksgiving post where we talk about gratitude (don’t get me wrong, I think gratitude is awesome), I’m going to assume you know enough to stop for a second and remember how much amazing stuff is in your life. How many fantastic people, how much material abundance (even when it doesn’t feel that way), how much freedom.
Instead, today we’re going to talk about a dumb mistake that lots of businesses make. Big businesses are actually dumber than small ones on this topic, but if you think I was going to pass up the chance to use this photo, you’re nuts.
Anyway, most big businesses are too inflexible to turn this around. But you’re small and maneuverable, which is why you’re going to clean up.
The Easiest Way to Make Money
Even in the midst of all this financial panic and freefall, there is a nice big pot of delicious money sitting on the table for you.
No painful mountains to climb, no spiteful deities to appease, no hefty entrance fee to pay.
That pot of money is held by the customers who already trust you and know that you’re cool. They would like to give you some more money. But they need a little bit of help to do that.
Let Them Know They’re Appreciated
Customers drift away because they don’t think you love them. They don’t hear you saying how grateful you are for their business, and they don’t hear that they’re valued and cared for.
So many businesses think “marketing” is the same thing as “lead generation.” In other words, that marketing equals chasing down strangers so you can wrestle them through a conversion process and turn them into customers.
Lead gen and conversion are expensive. They’re either costing you time, money, or most likely, both.
Lead gen and conversion are important. But if you want to make life a lot easier and more enjoyable, set aside some of that time, money and attention and put it into existing customers.
Existing customers already know you’ve got good things to offer. They’ve demonstrated that they’ll pay for what you provide. But they need to know you appreciated their business last time.
Keep Making Yourself Useful
One of the smartest things you can do is to consistently and systematically put yourself in front of customers. Not to keep hammering them with requests for business, but to offer a hand of friendship and support.
If you can call your existing customers up regularly to ask how they’re doing and if they need anything, that’s great. But most businesses can’t scale that kind of individual attention. Instead, create a warm, personal-feeling communication system that reminds customers of why they bought from you in the first place.
My free e-class on email marketing walks you through all the basics on how to create this kind of communication. And you can use the same steps for blogs and paper newsletters as well.
In fact, a paper newsletter, while obviously more expensive to send, is also very likely to gain you better response and put more dollars into your pocket. Could you create a quarterly snail-mail newsletter for customers, with email editions to fill in the gaps?
Don’t let your perfectionism kill you on this one. Make it simple, print it up on your photocopier or at Kinko’s, and get it out there. Unless you’re a graphic designer, your newsletter doesn’t need to win design awards. It needs to communicate with your customers.
Ask for Their Business
No, you don’t want to pound your customers (or prospects, for that matter) with nonstop messages to buy-buy-buy.
But don’t neglect to make the offer, either. You never know when any given customer is going to be in the perfect place to buy from you.
Keep wrapping up your stuff in attractive offers. You might offer a special free gift to existing customers when they buy from you. (Special free gifts don’t have to be expensive, but, please, they can’t be lame.) Think about how you can wrap your expertise in interesting new boxes and ribbons. Offer those up regularly.
When you do make an offer, don’t mumble. Be incredibly clear about what you want them to do, how you want them to do it, and what they’re going to get out of it.
If you think you’re being overly specific, you probably have it about right.
Ask for Referrals
Make your newsletter content irresistible, then invite your customers to forward it to their friends. Let customers know that their friends are your very favorite source of new business. Give a nice, thoughtful thank-you gift for a referral. (See the note above about non-lameness of gifts.)
When someone spontaneously thanks you for doing a great job, immediately ask if you can turn those words into a testimonial. Nearly everyone will happily say yes. Then quickly work up some wording that gets the essence of what they said, send it to them, and confirm that you may use it and their name in your marketing.
What if You Don’t Have Any Customers Yet?
Find someone who has the customers you want. If you’re a nutritionist, maybe this person is an acupuncturist or a personal trainer or the manager of a health food store.
That person is not following up with their customers either. Show them this post and help them put together some great customer communication. Work through the email class together. (Let’s face it, you’re a lot more likely to act on what you learn if you’ve got a buddy to work with.)
Introducing you is a great way for your new partner to kick off a customer communication program. And you and your partner can come up with twice as much tasty, beneficial content, split the work, and double your customer base.
Happy Thanksgiving, all!
7 Dumb Things Small Businesses Do
- #1: Deciding You’re “Just Not Good” at Marketing
- #2: Going Without a Business Plan
- #3: Getting Upside-Down
- #4: Thinking It’s About You
- #5: The Worst Number
- #6: Ingratitude
- #7: Following the Herd