“-My Competitor Is Opening A New Store NEXT DOOR!”
Earlier in my career, I was faced with this statement from a business owner having a store located in a very small town.
This was a major issue for the him and I had to answer him quite urgently. The competitor had much more resources than the business owner, who had no resources in terms of time, money and manpower. He was stressed about the situation and wondered how he could possibly keep the current customers and continue to generate new business in to the store.
He turned to me for help since he realized that he needed marketing skills and did not have the knowledge himself. He had skills in what he was doing and is very resourceful within that segment. A nisch that I didn’t know anything about. But since marketing is a skill that you can apply to any industry, segment or business – I, of course, came up with a lot of ideas. (I will not specify all of them here, but I will probably talk about them later in my other blog posts.)
I started to ask the business owner what he knew about the customer and the efforts he was making with the current marketing activity:
- what age are the customers?
- gender of customer?
- what interests do they have?
- what do they read?
- are they active online?
- why are they buying at your store?
- what is unique for your store?
- how do you communicate with them?
- how are you getting the current customers to return to the store?
- why should they buy from you?
- and so on (I think that you get the idea)
It took a while for us to go through these questions and clearly identify his target market. We quite soon found out that if he had a customer come in to his store, they would usually stay loyal to his store due to the knowledge, competence and service that his business provided. We also understood that the little marketing he was doing was via word-of-mouth among his current customers. His customers were recommending his store to other people! He was practicing relationship marketing without even knowing it. So we had a great opportunity to increase that activity even more. Which, by the way, also is one of the cheapest way to generate loyal customers and new customers.
I am sure that you have heard about the saying “getting a new customer is more expensive then keeping an old”, this means that to develop your current customers business and increase an income through them, is easier and cheaper, because you already have them and need not finding new resources or funding to find new customers through expensive advertising. You can sell other products and know that they will trust you from day one, because they know you and your expertise from previous purchase.
What if I don’t know the answers
A lot of the questions above, the business owner could not answer. He had no clue. I knew that he had a database with his current customers and asked if he was communicating to them regularly online? Which he didn’t do and almost never. By communicating with your customers, you can make your customers loyal to your business, even if you would raise costs on products. It gives you an opportunity to provide your customers with offers, know-how and information about your business and why they should come back and buy from you time and time again.
We had to “walk” a different path.Â So I asked, –“What do YOU like to do in your spare time?”. It was a bit of an awkward silence and then he said -“I like baking“. He was interested in baking odd bread from Germany! WOW!! (I thought), that was a great angle to attack customers and have them to remember him and his business. It could definitely start the talk that would to the walk to his store. Â What an opportunity!
What I suggested he would do (besides a long list of many other ideas) was to write down the recipe of his favorite bread. Of course he started to wonder why …
Well, I continued, what you can do is to write a letter (digital or snail mail) and wish your customers “Merry Christmas” and share with them something that you love, being personal. After Christmas, you invite them to a breakfast seminar/workshop, for an hour and a half (since the customers are morning people) and serve this bread at the same time as you are presenting a product related to your business that you know would benefit the customers in their business. They will recognize or start to wonder if they are having the same bread that you sent a recipe for earlier to eat for breakfast. Of course you will remind them. You will grow personal engagement with your customers, which then in return will give you more loyalty when building a relationship among your customers. From the customers perspective, they will have learnt something about your business and/or product and what you can offer them and possibly consider to purchase an item or service from you.
This particular incident happened around Christmas and it was a perfect way of giving something to the customers, sharing something personal, building a tighter relationship and growing your business. Relationship marketing is practiced every day, and most customers enjoy coming back to a store where they know someone a little more personal. This is not something that a major, larger competitor will practice, since they often are focused on selling products – fast and often doing traditional advertising.
He had to dare a little. Go outside his old way of thinking with this marketing. Would you have dared to be different?
Of course, you could practice an advertising campaign around this as well, but his budget was tight and he had no resources for advertising. This was just one idea of many that he could have practiced and of course he had to look at it as a long term strategy and continue to build his relationship marketing into the business to get even more successful loyal relationships with his customers.
My point is – dare to be different. Be Unique In Your Marketing!
Best of luck,