In the service industry in particular most people say that they get most sales through recommendation and word of mouth. This is great because it means that you have ” fans” who will recommend you and it costs you nothing to acquire new customers.
But realistically how many new customers can you get this way?
When was the last time you went to the garage and recommended them to friends… or a hairdresser? The only time is if we receive exceptional service… either brilliant .. or exceptionally bad.
Ask yourself what would make it easier for people to recommend you to a friend… it is worth testing loyalty cards or referral schemes, or even using online discount schemes such as groupon. A referral scheme that I have seen work very well is that you ask your customers at the end of their treatment ( or buy a product from you) if they can think of three people who will benefit from your services and ask for their names… or if people are reluctant to do that ( and I know some people hate the idea of “selling” to their friends) give a voucher that offers a discount to the friends and when those friends take up a session the referrer gets a loyalty bonus and when they reach a certain number of “points” they get a free session or an additional product.
So how do your customers come to you?
You have “leads”, that is anyone who asks for a brochure, enquires about your product or services and you convert these to customers. Ideally those customers will become fans and will keep on coming back and become long term clients. We all know that it is much harder ( and more expensive) to acquire a new client than it is to sell again to a returning client.
Different leads will come from different places and will be motivated to buy from us for different reasons – I know some of my accountancy clients have bought from me because I do “home/office” visits and if they are of restricted mobility or don’t have access to transport that can be a real bonus for some of my clients and some of my coaching clients have come to me as a result of being an accountancy client and trusting what I do and say ( and because I already know their financial position can make more informed mentoring of them to improve their business).
What will motivate different ( categories) of leads to become customers?
If you can work this out you can discover the optimum way to acquire customers. Of course you should always be testing the market to see if that has changed. Ten years ago most people would look for a plumber via the yellow pages , hence the ridiculous names of 11111aardvark plumbing and somesuch…. now people look online or consult an app that tells them where to go… and the clever apps have something where it will automatically dial the number for you, to make it easy to contact them.
For each of the different categories of customers you ned to work out:
- Where are you going to find those customers? ( you will need to look at and test many different forms of marketing, to test which is best for which market)
- What do you need to do/ say/ be to motivate them to buy from you?
- What service /product/ package will you sell to them first and for what price?
- What will entice them to keep coming back?
The trouble is we tend to neglect our long standing clients and just take it for granted that they will keep coming back. So you also need to find out the following:
Why do your existing customers keep coming back… and why do those who drop off along the way no longer come back?
It maybe something as simple as acknowledging them by name… people like to know that they are known and have a place in a community. The US companies are much better than UK companies at doing this… but it is all about giving that extra personalised service. One successful massage therapist I interviewed said that one of her clients had a “thing” about cleanliness and always asked to have the whole table covered in paper, so she couldn’t touch somewhere where someone else had been ( she obviously didn’t seem to mind about the fact that the therapists hands had been elsewhere, but that’s another issue!). Now that obviously costs more – in terms of time and cost of couch roll, but was it worth it? Yes! because that customer became a client who not only stayed for years but also recommended a number of different people.
If you have a good relationship with those who no longer return you can phone them up and ask them for feedback, or maybe offer them something to come back… my old hairdresser happened to see me in the car park… I felt slightly embarrassed and said that I thought I wouldn’t be treated the same way as I had left it so long ( I had been going to a more trendy hair stylist in Bristol in the intervening period)… but in fact they were incredibly welcoming and were much more attentive to what I actually wanted ( rather than doing what they thought I needed!).
So what is the best way to get new customers? You will need to test your specific market and find out what works for you.