Even small businesses can retain customers like the big guys


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Bella & Daisy's Dog Bakery, Boutique, Daycare,...

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Twice today, I have been asked how small businesses can use No Excuses Marketing to help their companies identify and retain customers. In this tough economy, sometimes it seems like the “big guys” are the ones winning the war, despite the superior service and customer experience smaller businesses can provide.

How can small companies retain their customers and grow, when larger companies can spend millions on the latest technology and provide cutting edge offers and benefits?

The answer is that now, with software as a service (SaaS) (such as email) offered to organizations of all sizes, and technology becoming cheaper, even small companies can support their customers out of store, and support long-lasting relationships. All you need is a spreadsheet and an email program to start retaining your customers. Here’s how:

  1. Collect email addresses. No form of communications is as inexpensive as email, right now. And if you train your customers that your emails have value, and not just a bunch of coupons (although discounts are not bad), you will do well with this medium.
  2. Use spreadsheets to track customers by the types of products they purchase and how often they come to your store (or web site). For example, if you sell pet food, you can make a list of customers who purchase food for older dogs (like my family). Then look at how often those customers come into the store on average for the past year, and how long it has been since they last came in. For example, a customer might purchase pet food every 8 weeks, but it might have been 12 weeks since you have last seen them. Other customers might be new to your store, and only have their first purchase on file with you. To do this analysis, all you have to do is ask customers for their name and address the first time they come in, and then look up that contact info when they come back.
  3. Customize your marketing by using customer insight. Note that I do not say “personalize;” you can gain much of the value simply by bucketing up customers and then creating emails with content and offers directed to that bucket. For example, for your senior pet owners, you could offer pet ramps and vitamins for older dogs, and support that with articles from magazines, etc, on how to best care for an older dog. All of that takes little cost and not too much time at all.
  4. Make use of other people’s content (and money). Many of your suppliers have content already created to address the needs of your customers; you just have to ask them for it and make sure the content is not “too salesy”. Your print house probably has artists on staff for corrections; see if you can use them to help you design email to go with your next direct mail program.

Finally, I recommend hiring interns, preferably paid, from a local college or business school. They want experience and you want great services at not much more than minimum wage. Bring 1-2 on each year to help you manage the workload, and to help measure the results (which is always critical to knowing whether your marketing actually works).

I can go on about how you can market effectively with limited resources; that is the premise of No Excuses Marketing (our business approach). But the net is this — using spreadsheets and some basic data, you can market “like the pros” and perhaps even better, since the names in your email will be the actual names in the store. The connection of marketing to customer experience in your store, on your web site, with your sales calls, etc. will make the final difference.

When you use email to connect customers to your actual store staff or sales people, then size is actually an advantage — just an advantage for you, rather than for the big guys, since their size and staff turnover play right into your hands.

Play to your strengths — your personal connection and service — and you will achieve big company results for your small company today.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mark Price
Mark Price is the managing partner and founder of LiftPoint Consulting (www.liftpointconsulting.com), a consulting firm that specializes in customer analysis and relationship marketing. He is responsible for leading client engagements, e-commerce and database marketing, and talent acquisition. Mark is also a RetailWire Brain Trust Panelist, a blogger at www.liftpointconsulting.com/blog and a monthly contributor to the blog of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Marketing Association.


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