Build value with your preferred customers Print
Written by Harold Herring   
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 02:53 PM America/New_York

Simple steps encourage shoppers to frequent your business

Harold-HerringChange, downsize, sell out or close—these are the options for Christian retailers in light of today’s economic challenges. For our store, I choose change—as opposed to the slow onset of rigor mortis in sales and profits. What about you?

Here are seven suggestions that may help guide your outlook and future:

1. Never take any customer for granted. Remember, your goal is not to have satisfied customers but raving fans. You want your customer base to be as excited about visiting your store as you are happy to have them. (I recommend you read Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard.) I never get tired of hearing customers say, “This is my favorite place to shop.”

2. Develop a list of preferred customers. You may have 20,000 names on your database, but if you haven’t communicated with them recently, they’re as dead as the 8-track tapes you may still have in your garage.

Your best customers are your most recent ones. Make sure you offer them a chance to become a preferred customer. Offer your preferred customers special sales and events not available to anyone else. As you show these customers they are special to you, you cause them to build value for your store through choosing to shop there frequently.

3. Join a marketing group where you become part of something bigger. It’s not a matter of whether or not you feel you can afford to mail the monthly sales flyers because, truthfully, you can’t afford not to. Mail only to preferred customers.

In life, there is always an immediate and a progressive benefit to everything you do. The progressive benefit is always greater and more profitable—and this applies to your stores too. Your preferred customers may not come in during every promotion, but you are creating lasting impressions about your store being the place to shop.

4. Be present on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

All of these social media sites can contribute to customer goodwill and potentially sales. For example, we’ve built our Facebook page with ads drawing “likes” from a 50-mile radius of our store. If each Facebook like costs about 20 cents (my average) or $200 total, you can build a potential sales base of 1,000 rather inexpensively. This list will allow you immediate access to promote every event, sale and happening at your bookstore. You’re getting to communicate directly with qualified prospects in your area.

Your posts on Facebook should be varied and entertaining—inspirational quotes, rich thoughts and fun videos created for your store. Customer testimonies about your store—its products and service—also make great videos for social media.

5. Send weekly emails to your preferred customers, promoting your sale items. These emails should correspond with what you’re promoting in your monthly flyer. You can also use email to invite preferred customers to special events.

6. On a selective basis, use “phone blasts” to contact your preferred customers, promoting special sales and events. Give them an incentive to participate in what you’re promoting. We’ve given away a personalized, laser-engraved pen to everyone who attended an event one hour before our store would usually open.

I highly recommend the service Each phone call that is answered live or by an answering machine or voice mail will cost you 3.5 cents per minute. Of 1,000 phone calls you make, normally 70% or sometimes less will either answer live or be picked up by an answering machine or voice mail. That’s a cost of $24.50 to touch base with 700 people. CallFire is an inexpensive way to communicate with a 70% reach, whereas if you’re fortunate, your emails will have a 20% open rate.

7. Reach out with fresh ideas to pastors. When pastors are excited about your store, their congregation will know it. For instance, give a 15% discount to every person who brings a church bulletin (from the previous Sunday) to your store on a specific day. Consider crediting the church’s account with 5% of their total purchases.

Allow me to conclude with a few simple but significant thoughts.

First, think outside the box to grab the attention of your customers.

Second, as famed NFL coach Vince Lombardi said, “Plan your work and work your plan.” Create your plan for the year. Detail every promotion, flyer drop, social media outreach and special event. Include any and everything you can think of to draw traffic to your store.

Third, stop looking in the rearview mirror at the way things used to be. Those days are gone. However, your store’s future can be brighter than you ever expected. Your decision to put these steps into action goes a long way in making it so. CR

Harold Herring is the owner of The Christian Soldier, a Covenant Group store in Goldsboro, North Carolina.