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Developing a database

Marketing instead of advertising

While speaking at an industry trade show this past week, the discussion I was leading came around to advertising. Or more specifically, what were the better ways of advertising a business. One of the participants asked about the television ads they had recently seen.

In this ad, the nationally known business has an unusual twist to their ad. The voice states the retailer will no longer ask for your name and address when you come into their store. The oddity to that commercial is that they are giving that remark as a reason to come into their stores and do business.

The audience was asked as to why they thought that commercial existed. One participant said, "Because they have annoyed everyone for so many years with their asking for that information to build their mailing list."

Several other participants agreed and told of their personal experiences. They had gone into that business looking for something and had the experience that many people have while shopping in businesses. No one said hello to them as they walked in the business, and no one came up to offer assistance to them as they attempted to find what they were looking for. People working in the business would help when asked, but not until they were asked.

For those shoppers that managed to find what they were looking for, their first interaction with someone from the business was when they took the merchandise to the checkout counter to pay for it. And at that point, as the sales clerk began the cash register procedure, the customer heard, "Can I have your name and address, please?"

Skipping past any questions with regard to the obviously poor customer service, the audience was asked, "Why do you think they want your name and address?"

"To add me to that annoying mailing list!", was the quick and strong answer given by the audience.

"And, why don't you want to be on their mailing list?", I asked.

"Because, it is just another piece of junk mail."

Asking further questions, I stated, "Would there be a good reason why they would ask for that information? Or, is there a possibility that there is a reason YOU would want them to have your name and address?"

And, the same question is asked of the readers of this column today. However, let's have the situation unfold differently. What if you went into that business and picked up a couple of packs of batteries (a product that this example business does sell)? As you approach the checkout counter the sales person asks you this question. "Did you notice that the batteries are on sale today? You are going to save about $2.00 per package. Is one enough or would two be better?"

Oddly enough, by asking that one question the business will see a double digit increase in sales as that small suggestion for two packs instead of one traditionally produces increased sales.

It is the next part of what the sales person says that will get our attention. "You know, we have an advertisement in the newspaper telling customers when the sale begins on these batteries. And every time we have a battery sale we are sure to sell a lot and be out of stock on one or two sizes for a couple of days. However, our preferred customers always get first choice. We actually send them a sale flyer about five days before the sale begins to let them have the first opportunity of getting the batteries on sale before the general public gets them. Would you like for me to add you to our 'preferred' customer mailing list?"

Hearing that explanation, wouldn't you be more likely to let the customer add you to their mailing list? And of course, they are going to be sending you other material during the coming year. That is one of the advantages of having a name and address list of customers that have done business with them.

This comes into play in our industry, but with a slightly different twist. To begin with, hopefully you have never had to tell your customers that you are not going to annoy them any more. And, you probably do not have customers walking up to your checkout counter with several pieces of power equipment in tow, asking you to ring up their sale for them. As for the, "Is one enough or would two be better?" question, it does work on many of the accessories you sell. But what about the name and address?

In our shop, we tracked the name and address of every piece of equipment sold. Our tracking began on 3 x 5 index cards and dated back to the 1960's. Customers gladly gave their name and address as we gave a simple explanation of why we wanted it.

As we took their name and address, we also listed the make, model, serial number, and purchase price of each piece of equipment they purchased. These 'preferred' customers received several benefits.

We did not need any information when the machine was brought into our shop for warranty work; we already had all of the information. If their equipment was stolen, they could easily call us to get the information to share with the police department. And if the equipment was not found, we could assist them with the insurance claim as most insurance companies wanted a proof of purchase.

Of course, many customers did not hold onto this material. But by their coming into our shop we could create for them a duplicate invoice to send to the insurance company. And better yet, with either of these last two scenarios, we were the first to know of their misfortune - and their need for a new piece of equipment.

Customers are glad to share this personal information with you, and not see it as an annoyance just as long as there is a benefit to them. Do you have a reason why I should share my personal information with you?

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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