Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Finding reasons to write to your customers

Electronic communication is not just between friends

Many retailers have made concerted efforts to gather personal information about their customers. The retailers have worked to gather names, addresses, phone numbers and their e-mail addresses. If you are like most people shopping in a store, you will resist their efforts to obtain that personal information.

These efforts have been made by the best of merchants because they recognize there is a substantial difference between the public and their customers. The public consists of those who see, hear, or read your advertisements on the radio, television and in the newspaper. Unfortunately, the response rate to advertising is fairly low. This occurs for several reasons: your business is too far away or they aren't interested in what you are advertising today. It is very hard to convert the public into customers. On top of that challenge, most businesses are attempting to convert the public into customers by attracting them with low prices.

The downside to this strategy of advertising with low prices is that the person who responds to a low-price ad is likely to want you to continue providing them with low prices. Do they ever change their buying habits and pay full price for anything? Perhaps they just continue to watch the newspaper or other advertisements to see which store has the next low price.

Customers are those individuals who have previously done business with you and return to do more business. Compared to the public, these people are highly desirable. To succeed with these customers, you have to work hard to develop a relationship with them. You get to know many of them on a first-name basis.

Most important, you are likely to know more about the needs of these customers than they know themselves. If you can find a way to let these customers know about these needs - and that you have the solutions - you will have a customer who will spend more money with you. They will make more visits to your store, be less likely to look for sale items, and refer you to their friends.

What we need is a manner of communicating exclusively to our customers. We need a technique of communicating that provides a timely message that does not appear to resemble advertising. We also have to find a way to get customers to share with us their personal contact information. Let's look at how we could accomplish this.

Imagine that this summer there is a heat wave that lasts for several days. Any product you sell that can keep customers, their homes, their cars or pets comfortable provides a solution to their problem. Of course, putting this in the form of an advertisement goes back to that problem we discussed earlier; so how could we get around this?

If you sent an e-mail to your customers, you would be creating the most timely e-mail they could receive. Imagine customers hearing about the upcoming heat wave on the television evening news and then seeing an e-mail from you the next morning! Do you think your customers would see this as an advertisement? Or will they see it as your providing a customer service with this bit of news? The answer lies in how you word the e-mail. Make a strong sales pitch and customers will see it for what it is. Keep the customer's well being foremost in mind as you write the e-mail, and customers will see this as a service.

As you create this e-mail, you can explain the weather, your concern for them, and then your suggestion for a solution. When you add the suggestion of a product that will help them deal with the heat, you can tell the customer that they can see a picture of what you are talking about when they visit your web site. To get the customer to go immediately to your web site, you put an active link in the e-mail. An active link is that bit of type that you see in blue in the e-mail. When the customer left-clicks his mouse over the blue area, they will immediately see the page you are talking about.

It doesn't need to be the front page of your web site, but it should be the page featuring the product that provides the solution.

Customers see this as your providing an informational service. You know that this is very accurately targeted promoting. Try talking to your customers with e-mail. They are eager to hear from you.

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179