I took time out from a trade show one year to drop into Saks on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. I wasn’t playing hooky – well not intentionally – because the show I was attending included visits to exhibitors’ showroom across New York, and walking from one showroom to another took me right by Saks main entrance. Anyhow, I purchased a really nice summer suit.
About a month or so later, I got a card in the mail from Saks explaining that they had just taken delivery of a range of “business casual” shirts that would work well with my new suit; a month after that, an offer on silk ties. I even got a card on my Birthday… suggesting a few things I might treat myself to.
Over the course of the next few years, I made other purchases and more postcards followed up. And as part of every business trip I took to NY, I’d drop into the men’s department in Saks and usually buy something. And bit by bit I became a regular customer in spite of making my home about an eight-hour drive west of New York City.
Today, more than 25 years after that initial purchase, I still hear from Saks about deals they have in their men’s department. Of course now their “calls to action” come in the form of emails, but the principle is exactly the same, and over the years they have done a great job of keeping me loyal.
I would have to guess how much money they have earned on their initial investment of a few minutes needed for that first sales associate to collect my name, address, birth date, and so on. I would also have to guess at the shape and size of the Sak’s customer database – or the ones I am in for L.L. Bean, Johnston & Murphy, Bass Pro Shops and so on – but it must be worth millions.
I would put good money on a bet that your customer database is not anywhere near the size of the one at Saks, but it is worth a considerable whack of money and hold the potential to make the coming year your best ever. You just have to invest a little time.
Now, most of you are meticulous when you process a customer sale be it for service, training, equipment purchase, or anything else. And you follow-up with seasonal reminders of the deals you have throughout your store, you let them know about special events like “try-it” gear days, pumpkin carving, site clean-ups and so on. You send them a card on their birthday telling them to drop by for a cup-cake and a special birthday boy or girl offer. You let them know about special trips.
No, this message is for the few of you who do not collect email addresses, street addresses, birth dates or even what type of gear your customers have purchased. YOU ARE MISSING THE BOAT, and kissing goodbye to good potential business, if you do not invest in a basic Customer Management System… even if it’s 100 percent manual.
During the past 12 to 18 months, I have spoken with a number of dive centers here in North America as well as overseas and without exception, the ones who are doing well, pushing 50 percent con-ed rates, and thriving even in the poorest economic environments, work hardest at building customer loyalty and following up on even the smallest sale… like the store in the North of England that collects email addresses from customers who buy a nitrox or air fill.
The most successful retailers make sure their customers understand that their contact details, and especially their email address, will never be sold, lent or abused, BUT THEY DO EXPLAIN TO THEM TO EXPECT AN EMAIL FOLLOW-UP.
We try to do part of that job for you. We send a monthly eNewsletter to your customers and we sent their invitation to download their FREE e-Zine (Underwater Journal, a Diving Adventure Magazine). And we try to drive them back into your store. But it’s up to you to cement that customer loyalty and all it really takes is a few key strokes and hitting the SEND button.