March 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 18
By Jim Augustus Armstrong
(First of two parts)
I had the privilege of presenting two sales and marketing training sessions at Surfaces in Las Vegas to more than 300 floor covering dealers. The sessions were fun and dynamic, with a very enthusiastic group who asked a lot of great questions, some of which I thought would be instructive to highlight here.
How often should we market to past customers?
You want to reach out to past customers at least monthly via direct mail. For every month that goes by in which you don’t contact your past customers, you lose 10% of the value of that relationship. In other words, the list goes cold. Reactivating it is certainly possible using a customer reactivation campaign, but once it’s reactivated you need to keep it active. Monthly contact is the minimum in order to accomplish this.
Won’t people get tired of hearing from me so often?
If you are sending them nothing but advertisements, then yes they will. People sort their mail over a trash can, tossing anything that looks like a business solicitation. This is one reason I’m such a big believer in newsletters as a tool for staying in front of your customers. Newsletters should be 80% to 90% fun, entertaining and informative content such as quizzes, contests, customer recognition or testimonials. Only 10% to 20% of the content should be about flooring or your dealership.
Can I email the newsletter instead of snail-mailing it?
You can, but the effectiveness drops dramatically. The best way to use email is as a supplement to your newsletter, not a replacement. Each week, send your list a short, informative, general interest article about something other than flooring. At the end, include a short blurb about your dealership. You’ve got to make these things fun to read otherwise people will just delete your messages or opt out of receiving them altogether.
Why can’t I make my newsletters and emails 100% about flooring? All that other stuff seems silly.
All flooring is all boring. Only a small fraction of your total customer list needs flooring in any given month, so don’t bore them with content that’s all flooring related. That would be like getting a newsletter from your dentist that’s all about the latest advances in crowns and root canals. You’ll put them to sleep.
As far as the rest seeming silly, remember that you are not your customer. Just because you’d rather read 100% flooring content doesn’t mean your customers feel the same way. Those other elements act as emotional triggers that make your customers look forward to getting your letter, eagerly open it the minute it arrives, read all the content and respond with repeat business and referrals.
What do I do when I greet a walk-in and she says, “I’m just looking”?
Use the rule of reciprocity. Hand her a beverage menu and say, “Great! What can I get you to drink while you’re browsing?” Don’t say, “Can I get you a drink?” because that gives her an option to say no.
Not everyone will accept, but those who do will have given you an “in.” When you bring back her beverage say, “Tell me a little about your project.” You’ve just given her a gift, shown her hospitality and she will feel a strong internal pressure to reciprocate by talking to you. You can then engage in a dialogue about her project and guide her into your sales system.