What have you done for me lately?

A few weeks ago, I signed my daughter up for an activity at a place we really love. My family members have been going to this place for years. The instruction and staff are wonderful, so we not only frequent the facility, we recommend it to friends (and pretty much anyone we meet who has kids who need activities). So it’s fair to say that we have given this company a lot of business. If I add it up, it amounts to thousands of dollars over a period of 5-6 years.

A few weeks ago I got a coupon in the mail from this company for $20 off a program. YAY, I thought. Now I can keep participating and stay within my budget! Maybe I can even sign up for more programs this year! Come to find out, it’s for new customers only.  I asked (pleasantly) “So, what are you doing for your loyal customers who already love your programs and have already put hundreds–even thousands–of dollars into your business?”

They didn’t have an answer for me.

So my of excitement about saving money and my grand plans about multiple purchases stopped cold. I did still sign my daughter up for the program—after all, it’s a great place and she loves it, and I’m not one to bite off my nose to spite my face—but it got me thinking.

When a company decides to put in place a marketing strategy to attract new customers, does that mean the old ones get left out in the cold?

Before you answer that question, answer these three:

1)      How will my current customers react if they see this promotion? In my professional capacity as writer and marketing consultant, I usually advise people to avoid programs that only focus on new customers because it’s a surefire way to annoy regulars. Your regulars are your bread and butter, so why would you want to annoy them?  Why should they feel like their business is less valuable to you, when in fact, it is valuable and could be even more valuable than a new customer’s?

2)      How do I want to position my company?  Many companies will resort to coupon programs and new customer bonuses because they are desperate to bring in new business. They think they have to send out discounts just to get people in the door. I call this the “warm bodies” approach. Anyone will do, just get some people in. I urge you to stop thinking this way. Any customer is not necessarily a good customer. So think more about your company’s value, and who will most benefit from that value. Numbers are important, but you can get more quality numbers by truly thinking about what type of customer you want…which brings me to the third question.

3)      What kind of customers do I want?  Because if you want customers who are like the ones you already have –similar socio-economic profile, family size, even personality or philosophy on life–the best way to reach them is through your current customers. Birds of a feather flock together—they also go out to dinner together, join clubs together, go on trips together. Then they start families around the same time and send their kids to the same camps, schools, sports teams, dance lessons together…are you getting this? So if, for example, your business caters to families, it behooves you to tap into a circle of friends who will flock together…to your program or product.

You are one step away from a pool of customers just like the ones you want to attract. If you are attracting the right customers but you just want more of them, don’t ignore your regulars. Now, if you want to change the makeup of the customer base you’re attracting, that’s another article entirely…stay tuned!

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