As technology develops and new ‘trendy’ methods of advertising become available, we are often looking at revolutionary ways of building our business and trying to find the newest tricks to win more business. Could the multitude of novel methods be clouding your strategy?

Experience has taught me that to succeed you simply have to follow what successful people do. This logic surely applies to businesses too, and I am amazed by the simple lessons applied by major corporations, that bring great results and can be simply applied to your business too.

There are only 3 ways to build a business.

  1. Find more customers
  2. Get your customers to increase their order value
  3. Increase the frequency that your customers shop with you

What can we learn from the ‘big boys’ that can help us acquire new customers…?

Most of us are simply looking to win market share from our competitors. Our most precious assets are our existing customers and these can be our strongest ally in the quest for winning new customers. Two international brands that do this better than most are Next and Sky. Both of these businesses, at nearly every opportunity, invite their customers to introduce them to their friends and family. Sounds simple; and you will often here me say “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” But by creating a “win-win” offer, these global brands are acquiring new customers from their competitors. Are you asking your existing customers to recommend you? If not- start today and you will be amazed by the results.

In terms of helping customers to increase their order value, the Jedi masters are all on the high street. Fast food outlets like McDonalds, and Supermarkets like Tescos, make huge impacts on their bottom lines by drastically increasing the size of their average order values. They do this in some very simple ways…

  • Supermarkets place the everyday necessity items in far reaching corners of the store to ensure that you walk past the maximum number of offers on route. How could you put your offers in front of your customers more often?
  • Several multi-buy offers are positioned on the ends of aisles to encourage you to buy more than you require. What offers could you create to encourage your customers to increase the amount they buy from you?
  • Products that compliment one another are strategically positioned together to promote link purchases. If McDonalds can offer “fries” with every burger then what should you be offering alongside your product/service offerings?
  • Convenient additions of new products, that are desirable to your current customers, can prevent them going elsewhere. What are your customers buying from someone else that they could buy from you?  McDonalds produced a veggie burger and Tescos started selling clothes. What could you add to your portfolio to make your customers life easier and safeguard them from your competition?

We all know that it is easier to get more business from an existing customer than it is to find one from scratch. So, what can we do to keep them coming back? Understanding what big businesses do to encourage this leaves a trail of clues towards strategies that can work for us.

The underlying factor to continue to get your customers to return time and time again is to be genuinely great at what you do. If your service standard is below par then the techniques that follow will not work. What we are really looking to achieve is loyalty. Repeat business is based on loyalty and in the first instance this must be earned. Once you have earned loyalty to your business, I see 3 main areas where you can influence the frequency of customer transactions.

  1. Controlling the process. On of the finest examples in the world at doing this is the Hairdressing industry. Upon delivering their work they will rarely let a customer leave the salon without booking their next appointment. How could you further control the next transaction your customer makes?
  2. Membership or retained income. This is practiced by health clubs and gyms to great success; however an example you can also consider is that of the football club season ticket. A season ticket gives its owner access to all the league home matches and priority on all cup matches and away games, all for a slightly reduced investment than the combined cost for all the scheduled games. It also gives the owner a guaranteed seat at all games that results in a feeling of belonging and privilege.

These are the qualities you should look to replicate if you are to create a membership product. These customers will be your most raving fans and should receive your very best level of ‘rock star’ service. They will be the first to buy additional products and services and should not be taken for granted. All service-based businesses could offer a retained service for a fixed monthly fee, but remember to undersell and over deliver.

  1. Communication. Getting people back to shop with you is largely a case of being able to effectively communicate with them. This can only be done if you understand your customers and have their contact details. Great examples of this come from our nations banks. They are obliged to send us monthly statements and letters. In each of these communications we are encouraged to shop again with these service providers. Another great example of this just last week came to me from Pizza Hut. A few weeks ago I ordered a pizza for delivery and they requested my mobile number. The pizza was delivered, paid for and very much enjoyed. Two weeks later, at 4pm on a Friday, I received a text from Pizza Hut with a great offer to use that night. As such we ate pizza again, however, without that text we would have eaten elsewhere. How could you better communicate with your existing customers to keep them coming back?

In summary, I am hoping you can clearly see that the challenges that we face in growing our own businesses are being addressed every day by some of the biggest brands we know. It can be lonely in business, but we are in the market place every single day- from sitting in traffic staring at the back of a bus to watching TV in the evening. Successes leave clues. Keep your senses open to what others are doing around you, learn from their actions and then take action for yourself.

Phil Jones

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