Is it me being stupid or are the vast majority of small businesses just plain lazy (or worse, dumb) when it comes to marketing? For the big boys, are advertising agencies to blame as they need to keep their revenue stream flowing?
I can't comprehend why this American (penchant for shopping), mother of six (lots of different retail needs), well heeled (willing to spend), technologically fit (can be communicated with by email, txt, mms, mobile, podcasts, streaming videos) shopper (at malls and stores at least four times a week) is so rarely asked for my contact details when out spending.
During the past 12 months, I've bought at least 30 pairs of shoes. Two lounge suites. Two TVs. I've banked. Hoteled. Moteled. Taxied. Flown. Petroled. Eaten out numerous times - fast food, slow food. Manchester. Clothing for men, women, children, teens. Books. School supplies. Computers. Music. Lamps. Office supplies. Coffee here, there and everywhere. Need I go on? Not once have I been asked for my contact details so the establishment could communicate with me and bring me back again.
"Ah, no problem Debbie. We have loyalty cards," you might be mentally responding.
Don't fool yourself. Who has loyalty nowadays? I have no loyalty; I just collect cards. My children laugh at my wallet and ziploc bag stuffed with promotions, offers, coupons.
Loyalty programmes based on handing out pre-printed "come back to us" cards are a misnomer. Perhaps "passive freebies" is a better name. How can you control bringing your customers back to you when you want them back, if you have no way of communicating with them? With "stamp 'em" cards, you can only wait passively for your customers to return to you.
Who am I? Amazon knows. Qantas and Air NZ know. Visa knows. I pay for everything on credit card - from my $350+ and rising weekly Pak'n Save grocery bill to a $2 Whitcoulls purchase.
Again I ask: how could I have lived, shopped, interacted with and purchased from so many businesses and retail outlets in the past 15 years here in New Zealand (and Australia, by the way) and only on the rarest of occasions have been asked for my contact details for further "personal" communication with me?
From the self-employed professional, to the trades, to the small business owner to the national retailer, how can New Zealand businesses be so short-sighted? How can boards or management not see what should be so blatantly obvious?
The larger the company, the larger the open bucket pouring fabulous amounts of money on "mass advertising". Commercials. TV and print advertising. Circular drops. Radio. Inserts. While these strategies accomplish their goal of bringing customers to the front door, everyone makes the fatal mistake. The tap is then turned off.
How sad that there is no money, no thought and no time invested. Invested in what? In trying to capture information about your customers with your goal being to personally communicate with them again and again and again - bringing them back to you in a cheaper, targeted, more personal (what's in it for them) way.
"But we do have a data collection programme," you say. Nine times out of 10, the importance and training to collect the information hasn't been followed through to frontline staff - the ones who face the customers every day.
"But we use Flybuys." How clever. You give all your customer details away to Flybuys and then if you want to mail or email your customers, you graciously pay Flybuys to get hold of your information.
Consider adding a new three-step process to your marketing programme. You'll vastly improve sales, customer service and add value to doing business with you. Plus, you'll save lots of money.
Create a communication plan that is well rounded. Be sure to include information that is of value to the customer. Brainstorm what you can write, email, text or telephone that will bring in good word of mouth. Cheaply improve your perceived level of customer service, to add value to doing business with you.
Information. This is the key, the source of the future goldmine. What information do you need to collect from your customers to implement your communication strategy in a targeted manner? Targeting is the pivotal word. There's a fine line between asking too much or simply asking for contact details. You don't want to advertise children's clothes to a senior. Unless you know they have grandchildren.
Automation. The marvellous fact is, you can use everyday software inexpensively to weave your information and communication together to create a stunning fabric of targeted, personal, what's in it for them communications. The choice is up to you on distribution - using mail or email (or txt messages when appropriate).
Finally, train every staff member who interacts with your customers - by phone or in person - to ask this solid-gold, million-dollar question: "Why don't I put you on our emailing/mailing list for special customer offers and information?"
Ask an accountant how to measure the value of a business and naturally they'll say it's fixed assets, inventory and goodwill. Ask them what goodwill is comprised of and they'll mention that a vital ingredient is the ability for someone else to step in and be able to use and profit from customer information. Are you missing out on this vital component of your company valuation?
Debbie Mayo-Smith is a best-selling author and international speaker.