Set your sales on fire—without extravagant spending—by following these red-hot marketing tips
“In all things, success depends upon previous preparation. And without such preparation, there is sure to be failure.” – Confucius
Confucius could have had a flourishing floral business by following his own advice. Not only can preparation lead to success in marketing your small business, but it also can help you do so without spending a lot of money. After all, with careful planning, you can achieve sizzling sales without the need for expensive advertising or marketing promotions.
In this article I focus on offline marketing ideas that made my retail business stand out and be the second largest in the county for over 20 years!
Be smarter than the competition
In today’s ever-changing business climate, just keeping up with the competition isn’t enough. You have to outthink, outsmart and outdo them. How? By getting to know what they do and how they do it.
Find out your competition’s strengths and weaknesses and what products and services they offer. If the shop down the road sells gift baskets, offer more choices than they do—or better products. If the competition opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m., consider opening earlier or closing later.
Look for ways to make it easier for customers to do business with you. The slightest increase in customer convenience will yield larger and even more frequent purchases. Plus, providing the products and services they want will keep them coming back.
Reward repeat customers
Design a customer-appreciation program to recognize customers who repeatedly purchase from you or who refer others to your business. Send them thank-you notes or small bouquets. Thank them in your company newsletter. Pick up the phone to thank them, then offer a special discount for their loyalty during your conversation.
One day a long-time customer came into my shop, Eden Florist & Gift Baskets, to purchase flowers. When I thanked him for doing business with us, he said, “I buy so many flowers here, I should get frequent-flower miles.” He was right! In fact, soon after his visit, I began creating a computer-generated Frequent flower petals card for that very purpose. The card rewarded customers with a free bouquet after they purchased 12 $25-minimum-price floral arrangements.
If this idea won’t work for your shop, create an offer that will. For example, rather than a minimum purchase price for arrangements, offer a program where the customer earns credit for every stem he or she purchases. Then, give a free stem when customers reach a specific goal, such as 10 or 12 stems.
The card-punch program has been one of the single-most successful marketing efforts used at Eden Florist. The first year alone, the program accounted for more than a 15-percent increase in regular customers’ purchases. Not only that, but new customers have indicated that they appreciate it also.
To more easily track customer purchases, our computer records each transaction. Thus, if a customer orders by phone, we still can track the number of purchases. When that person reaches 12, the employee taking the order asks the customer to whom they’d like to send their “free” bouquet. It’s not unusual for customers to send the arrangement to themselves.
If they choose this option, don’t forget to enclose a card thanking them for their business. Customers who appreciate your gesture are likely to recommend your business to family, friends and business associates.
Rainmakers are people who connect other people through referrals, whether it is friend-to-friend or business-to-business. Referrals are the easiest and least expensive way to make your business grow. Start by instilling a referral mindset into your friends and customers. People don’t necessarily know you want more business unless you tell them. And even though your friends may buy from you, they may not think to tell their friends and family.
Though one of my greatest sources of referrals today is my friends, that wasn’t always the case. In the past, I had one or two friends who constantly sent business my way. However, the majority of my close acquaintances did not. One day, I mentioned this to a friend. Her reply, “I didn’t know you wanted more business.” She is now one of my best references.
Some people are hesitant to ask friends for referrals. Why? If you believe in your product and have a passion for your business, it’s a simple request. After all, friends want friends to succeed. And, if they know they have contributed to your success, it makes them feel good about themselves.
If you feel uncomfortable about tooting your own horn, consider the idea from the perspective of finding a great restaurant. After having a wonderful meal, most people are eager to share the experience by telling their family and friends about it. Flowers and food are both emotional purchases—purchases generally made with the heart, not the brain. When you want to eat out, you go to one of your favorite spots, or you try a new place that offers your favorite dish. The same applies to flowers. People go where they know they can find the flowers they want or people who understand their needs.
Based on emotion alone, referring your shop will be easy for your friends and family. And, when the referrals come in, don’t forget to thank the friends and family who made the suggestions. Send them notes and flowers. Make sure your thank-yous reflect your appreciation for the extra business. An added bonus to this technique is that you’ll surprise people when you thank them, putting you at the top of their minds when the opportunity to make a referral happens again.
Follow-up and follow-through
One of the surest ways to keep customers is to follow up after a purchase. Follow-up accomplishes two important things: It helps you find out whether the customer was satisfied, and it gives you the opportunity to build a positive relationship with that person.
Happy customers may tell as many as three people about their positive experience at your business. This may not seem like it can have much of an impact. But when you compare it to the number of people who will hear about a customer’s unhappy experience—typically estimated as eight to 10—then the number of those passing on their positive experience becomes that much more important.
Besides, if you don’t follow up with a customer, you may never even know he or she had a negative experience. Those people will simply take their business elsewhere. Taking the time to inquire about a purchase after the fact shows your customers you care about their business. It also helps build a lasting relationship with your customers. Not only that, but when you resolve a complaint favorably, you’re likely to increase the chance that the customer will refer you to others.
If your shop is too busy to follow up with every customer after the sale—especially after holidays—then at least do some random sampling of your customers. Although a random sample may be less accurate, it will nevertheless provide you with an idea of how a portion of your customers views your business.
To make the task easier, call two or three recipients and two or three senders each day. You’ll impress the recipients, who will want to do business with you, and both the sender and the recipient will know you care. In fact, on more than one occasion when an employee at Eden Florist has called a sender or recipient, that person has ordered an arrangement during the thank-you phone call. So your efforts definitely will pay off.
And don’t forget to follow through on anything you promise you’ll do for a customer. Make it a habit to deliver (over-deliver). When you do, your customers will trust and respect you. And your offline marketing efforts will make your sales sizzle!