I don’t have to tell you that the U.S. economy is slowing precipitously… unemployment is rising… and consumers are spending less on the discretionary products and services most of us sell. But you can create explosive growth in your business – even in the face of these economic realities.
I learned the following principles the hard way: through nearly four decades in the trenches. They have served me very, very well – and if you abide by them, they’ll do the same for you…
I. Everything can be improved.
The three most idiotic things any marketer can say to a new idea are:
- “But this is how we’ve always done it. Why change now?”
- “That’s how our competitors do it, and it works great for them.”
- “We tested that once. It didn’t work.”
Ignore the idiots: Test everything. Let your prospects and customers give you the right answers.
II. A dollar delayed is a dollar forfeited FOREVER.
Every week, day, or hour a sales promotion is delayed during the year pushes more money OUT of the year. Those dollars will never be recovered. They’re gone forever.
Look at it this way: Let’s say your mission is to send 12 promotions to your customer file in 2008 – one at the end of every month. But your January promotion is a week late. It doesn’t go out until the first week of February. February’s promotion is a week late, too. It goes out March 15. And every other promotion takes just one week longer than you planned.
By the end of the year, those delays add up to 12 weeks. Which means three of the promotions you planned to send to customers in 2008 won’t happen. That’s 25 percent of your revenues and profits gone with the wind.
Creating procedures that move promotions through conception to creation to execution as quickly and as efficiently as possible is absolutely critical.
III. “Optimal” response and “maximum” response are two different things.
Marketing strategies, sales copy, and offers that compel prospects to buy – but leave them annoyed with or distrustful of your company or your spokesperson – only produce new customers who will avoid your future promotions like the plague.
And using overly aggressive or coercive or deceptive tactics with existing customers is the best way to destroy the bond you’re trying to build between them and your company.
A great rule of thumb: Think about every promotion – whether to prospects or to customers – first and foremost as a bonding tool.
Then, do whatever you can short of weakening the good will you’re creating to get the sale and maximize the size of the purchase.
IV. Every customer contact is an opportunity to make a sale and increase customer lifetime value.
Take a long hard look at every scrap of virtual or actual paper your customers get from you. Every order form… every thank-you page or letter… every package insert… every renewal or customer retention letter… and every telephone conversation they have with your customer service people.
At the very least, every one of these events gives you a great opportunity to strengthen the bond with your customers. At the most, it may offer you the opportunity to introduce a complementary product in a way that makes customers feel special.
V. Every sale is an opportunity to make another sale.
The simple fact is, customers are most likely to make another purchase immediately after they’ve made a purchase.
You offered them a product they’re excited about. Ordering was quick, easy, hassle free. The order confirmation/thank-you letter or e-mail answered every question about the delivery of the product and reminded them of your guarantee. The product was delivered in far less time than the customers expected. The product itself surpassed their wildest expectations. And, of course, you threw in an unadvertised freebie or two as icing on the cake.
You now have some very happy customers on your hands. So wouldn’t this be a great time for a follow-up mailing to every customer who ordered this month? Wouldn’t this be the ideal moment to send them a customer satisfaction survey along with a discount coupon for a complementary product?
VI. Every customer complaint is an opportunity to engender lifetime loyalty.
Something went wrong. Your customer is dissatisfied. And his experience tells him that setting things right is going to take forever and be a royal pain in the neck. So before you even hear from him, he’s already ticked off.
And then, you surprise him! You apologize abjectly and issue an immediate refund. You give him a discount coupon for a future purchase. You have the head of your customer service department (better yet, the owner himself) CALL the customer to ask for his help in trying to figure out what went wrong. And you send him a nice letter with a questionnaire to make sure the matter was handled fairly and efficiently.
RULE OF THUMB: Be willing to spend at least as much to keep a customer as you spend to create one. Better yet, be willing to spend double, triple, even quadruple if the customer has a long buying history with you.
It’s what you do at a time like this that proves your company’s character… and proves that he can trust you implicitly. Your customer will never forget how you handled his problem, and will never cease being grateful for making this easy for him.
VII. Never shoot in the dark.
Direct response is all about measuring and reacting to results. But you can’t do that if your IT department is doing a half-fast job of capturing or reporting the response, average sale, and ROI (return on investment) for every promotion.
Other numbers matter, too. Like who’s on your customer list. Where each customer came from. How long each has been with you. How many times each one orders per year. The average and largest purchase each one has made from you – and the cumulative value of those purchases. How long each customer continues buying from you. And, of course, average customer lifetime value.
Study your promotional history. Look for messaging/product/offer/price combinations that typically yield the highest ROIs for each segment of your file. Determine how the timing of the promotion and the delivery mode (e-mail, snail mail, overnight mail, etc.) affected results.
Think about the best ways to handle each file segment in order to progressively increase recency of purchase, frequency of purchase, and average sale – and to retain each customer longer. Then, determine how you can best stratify – carve up – your customer file in order to extract optimum response, average sale, and ROI from each segment.
If you can internalize these seven simple commandments, you’ll have the power to transform yourself into a world-class business builder.[Ed. Note: As a direct-marketing consultant and copywriter, Clayton Makepeace has helped four major direct-marketing firms at least quadruple sales and profits to well over $100 million per year each. Clayton publishes the highly acclaimed e-zine The Total Package (www.makepeacetotalpackage.com) to help business owners and copywriters accelerate their sales and profits. Check it out.
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