Dave Buchholz presented “How to SQUEEZE More out of Your Marketing” workshops across the state for our REAP Women’s Business Center. He shares his best advice with you right here!
Small businesses continually seek surefire ways to grow. But there is no one answer for where and how to advertise, how much to spend, or how to reach the people who are your most likely prospects. All of these depend on where you are, what you do, your position in the marketplace, and the types of problems you solve for your customers.
While there is no silver bullet that works for everyone, there are three guaranteed ways to increase your business.
The first – and most obvious – is to get more customers. Every business needs a sustained new business effort designed to educate and attract prospective customers.
The challenges with getting new customers are manifold. Where are they? Who are they? Are they already doing business with someone else – and if so, what will it take to get them to change?
Attracting new customers takes effort, money, and advertising. You have to convince them that you’re worthy of consideration. You have to set up their account. You have to get them used to doing business with you and vice versa.
Bottom line: New customers are critical to your growth, but they don’t come easily or cheaply.
The second way to increase your business is to increase the frequency with which your existing customers purchase from you. For example, if your average customer purchases from you once every four weeks—and you can implement marketing programs that get them to come in every three weeks—you’ve just increased your business.
The third business-builder is to increase the average purchase when existing customers buy from you. If your average sales ticket is $10 and you can bump that up to $12, you’ve just increased your business.
And if you can get existing customers to buy from you every three weeks instead of four—and spend $12 instead of $10 when they do—you’ve just increased your business exponentially.
The interesting thing is that two of three ways to increase your business involve people who are already doing business with you. In other words, your existing customers are your greatest source of wealth.
So you need to love them, nurture them, and take really good care of them. Because if you don’t, they will leave out the back door while you’re out hunting for new customers. As a result, the new business you bring in the front door will simply be replacing that which is leaving out the back. You won’t be building your business. You’ll simply be replacing lost business.
The good news is that today’s technology allows you to understand more than ever about your existing customers. You can keep track of who bought what and when they bought it. You can determine the customers in the top 10 percent and reward them in ways that keep them coming back more often and to spend more when they do. Their purchase history can help you anticipate their future needs so you can reach out to them and make special offers or remind them they may be running out of their current supply of what you provide.
You can have names and addresses for direct marketing promotions. You can include a coupon or special offer in the bag when they shop in your store—or in the package you ship to them.
You can also create referral or reward programs that encourage your existing customers to tell others about you. Word-of-mouth and customer referrals are still the most powerful and effective form of advertising. Your story is much more credible when told by someone other than you! When you have existing customers evangelizing for you, new customers will reach out to you.
As a small business, getting closer to your customers is absolutely critical to your success. You can get to know them well – and they get to know you. The opportunity to build relationships of this nature can be the difference-maker between a small business and a large competitor.
The advantage is that you are small. The big guys don’t need to make this kind of effort. But you can and you must. And as a small business, you are in a unique position to create a connection with your customers that larger competitors simply cannot establish.
When that connection is made, value is created as well. And creating greater value ends up on your bottom line.
The moral of the story: Take care of your existing customers. Continually remind them they have made a good choice in doing business with you. Provide them opportunities to do business with you more often and spend more when they do. Learn as much as you can about them, and then leverage that information to anticipate their needs, solve their problems, and reward your best customers.
If you invest most of your time in hunting for new customers and ignore your current customers in the process, you run a great risk of seeing your business erode as those people you worked so hard to attract in the first place exit out the back door.
Your existing customers are the reason you’re doing as well as you are. Don’t forget that.
When it comes to taking care of your existing customers, remember the title of an old country song: “Dance With Who Brung Ya.”
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