Customer Marketing for Small Business
# 50: 10/2004
Drilling Down - Turning Customer
Data into Profits with a Spreadsheet
Customer Valuation, Retention, Loyalty, Defection
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In This Issue:
# Topics Overview
# Best Customer Retention Articles
# Customer Marketing for a Pedicure Spa?
# Customer Marketing for a Carpet Store?
Hi again folks, Jim Novo here.
This month we're looking at Customer Marketing for (really) small
businesses. Yes, from a pedicure spa to a carpet store, small
business can also take advantage of customer marketing concepts - and
they can do it on the cheap, without any fancy hardware / software.
I'm taking a slightly different course on the article links this
month, instead of "how to" stuff we're taking on the
corporate politics of data-based marketing, including the (gasp) accountability
that comes with a data-based approach. Look folks, if
you want a seat at the corporate strategy table, you have to play by
the numbers, just like the CFO and the ops guys. You either
prove marketing is strategic in nature with hard facts or you don't.
Either way, it's time for some Drillin'!
Best Customer Retention Articles
September 15, 2004 CMO Magazine
"Companies are beginning to realize that it's important for
their marketing strategies be aligned with their business
strategies." This is a pretty unusual statement coming from
a CMO, I mean, isn't marketing a strategic function? I guess
things may have changed, but one thing is for sure, if you want a seat
at the strategy table, you may need something like Six
Sigma Marketing to get you there.
October 4, 2004 CFO IT Magazine
You know, it must be because I have always worked in technology-driven sectors
that this kind of thing astounds me. This is a new idea, that the CFO and
CIO should work together? Perhaps the adoption rate of data-driven
marketing (see also article above) is being influenced by all of this "old
school" thinking. You can bet that in companies that live and die by
the data that the CFO and CIO are joined at the hip, the glue joining them is
the CMO, and marketing has a
strategic seat at the boardroom table instead of the lunch table. Got
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Questions from Fellow Drillers
Customer Marketing for Pedicure Spa
Q: I came across your website while researching
customer loyalty programs and I am hoping that you may be able
to give me some feedback on an idea that I have.
I run a small home-based spa that specializes in pedicures, and
have had great feedback from my clients. So far I have relied on
word of mouth and am now ready to do some advertising as I need to be
busier. I have come up with an idea for a program to help with
my pedicure loyalty and referrals. This is a rough idea of it,
customers will earn Points in the following ways:
For each friend or family member you send to me, earn 8
points. You will receive 7 points if you pre-book your next
pedicure within a before leaving. For each pedicure you receive,
earn 5 points (except those paid by Gift Certificate). When you
have earned a total of 50 points, you will receive a $25 Gift
Certificate!! (my pedicures are priced at $35). Your Point
total is maintained on your individual file. The total is
updated whenever you earn or redeem points.
I am new to the marketing aspect of all this and I would love to hear
your opinions on such a program and also if it seems fair from a
customer point of view. I am also looking for suggestions on a
name for it or any other suggestions towards it and presenting it.
A: A loyalty program is generally a good idea, I
think. But your execution of it (the details of how it works)
sounds a bit complicated for this
kind of "relationship" business, it strikes me as a bit
"cold". In other words, you may risk creating
hassles which damage the experience by creating too much complexity.
I know when my wife goes to get a pedi she does it as much for the
overall experience of it as needing her nails clipped, and if on top
of that you throw in a lot of "rules" and "things to
remember" you might damage the experience. Like I said, I
think the overall idea works though, so how about doing it this way:
Print up some "pedi gift cards", could be just like a
business card, same size, only less formal. Name of business,
address, telephone number at the bottom. At the top, maybe your
logo and something like:
"You've been given the gift of a pedicure by:
(your customer writes in their name here) a $35 value! Please
arrange your appointment by calling the number below..."
That's just an example, use any wording you feel works with the
image of your business and your own personality. After all, this
is a personal services business and a big part of the service is
you. Print up a stack of them, and give them to your repeat
customers in a personal way. Tell these customers you would
like to try an experiment in growing your business, then ask, would
they help if there is something in it for them?
Tell them about the cards and how you want to bring in new
customers. Explain you'd like the current customer to hand cards
out to people who don't currently have pedicures done with you, and
every one that comes back to you with a new customer holding it
that you will give your customer (that gave away the free pedi card)
25% off their next pedi (or whatever discount you feel is appropriate
- use your own judgment).
This approach has three benefits versus the format you proposed:
1. It is deadly simple for both you and the customer.
You don't have to track points, customers don't have to remember
points and rules, etc. yet it still creates the "stored
value" idea that is at the heart of a points program - customers
hate to abandon "credits" they have earned with you.
Just keep the cards you get back and announce the discount when the
customer comes in for what they think is a full price pedi. They
will be excited! In marketing, this is called a "surprise
and delight" strategy and it is proven to work, especially in a
business that is based on personal service.
2. This program turns your customers into salespeople of a
very special kind; they aren't selling anything, they are giving!
Do you think your customers will have a problem giving the gift of a
pedi to their friends?
3. This is very important. People generally travel in
circles of friends who are like them. If you focus the program
on your best repeating customers they are likely to hand out gift
cards to people who are like them - likely to become repeating
customers. A nurse who tells all the other nurses on her shift,
the office worker who tells all the other workers on her floor, etc.
Typically a person's friends are like the person, they enjoy the same
Now, could there be potential problems with this idea? Sure,
there is with any marketing idea, including the most frequent one -
the idea just doesn't work. I don't think you will have that
problem with this idea. But here are 3 issues you need to watch
for and adjust the program as needed:
1. The people who use the gift cards come in for their free
pedi and never come back. I'm assuming most will come back at
least one more time for a full price pedicure. So part of the
success of this program lies with you and your "perfect
These potential new paying customers have to like the service
enough to switch to you from whoever they go to now. You can
certainly sell them on coming back. Try to book a next
appointment during the free pedi. If you can get them to commit
for a paid pedi next time they need one and they complete that paid
appointment, they are very highly likely to continue on with you well
into the future.
In addition, some of those who won't commit during the free pedi
may come back as well. Not all will convert to repeat customers,
so don't be disappointed by that. But think about it, if only
50% of them convert to full time repeating customers, does that pay
for your time doing the discounted and free pedicures?
Over time, you will recognize which kinds of best customers
(example, nurses) that you give cards to end up handing them out to
people who come in for the free pedi and continue as customers.
You will also realize other kinds of best customers (example, office
workers) that you give cards to end up handing them out to people who
come in for the free pedi and never come back. This is what I'm
referring to when I say "adjust the program" - you can tweak
it a bit based on the actual results you get over time.
2. Some of your customers may try to "game the
system" by giving each other free pedi cards. In this kind
of "personal" business, I don't think that is too likely,
especially if you handle dispersing the cards on a personal basis, as
opposed to printing them up and leaving a stack on the table for
anyone to grab - do not do that. You may also get the
occasional current customer (as opposed to new customer) coming
in with a free pedi card, but as long as it doesn't get out of hand
you should be fine.
3. You might also get customers that hear about the program and ask
for cards when you normally would not give them one because they are
not "best" customers. That's OK, try giving them some
cards, see what happens. A lot of successful marketing is about
testing new ways to execute the idea. Don't sweat it and do what
they want, the customer is (almost) always right. You might find
the program works for most off or all your customers, it really just
depends on who they are and the perception of your service.
Generally, it is "safer" from a financial perspective to
start something like this with your best customers and then expand it
as you learn how it is working for you.
I think it is great you are thinking creatively about marketing
your business in a unique way, that's exceptional and unusual in a
personal services business like yours. Let me know if you have
any questions and how it ends up working for you!
Jim's Note: This type of program can work in the personal services
business where the costs and overhead are basically your own time and
effort and you need a "no cost" (other than your own time)
method to attract new customers. I wouldn't do it for a business
with "hard costs" such as retail; the danger of loss through
subsidizing best customers is too high.
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Customer Marketing for Carpet Store
Q: Like most of your readers and visitors, I am
absolutely bowled over at the prospect of what can be achieved by
studying customer behaviour on a simple database/spreadsheet and using
the resultant insight to drive unique High ROI customer marketing
programmes to increase profits and reduce marketing costs.
A: That's a mouthful! Welcome to the club.
Q: I have to say that prior to meeting you, on your
website and in your book, I had been intrigued by Arthur M. Hughes'
Strategic Database Marketing, but regretfully had reached the
conclusion that its inspirational techniques were just not capable of
being actioned by me, an Access/Excel illiterate and not so good on
the figures either.
A: Arthur Hughes is a hero of mine though I have never
met him. Some very nice folks have told me my material reminds
them of Hughes, sort of a "next generation" Hughes.
That's very good company for me to be in...
Q: But your Drilling Down methods and the possibility
of your consultancy help, has revived my enthusiasm to learn all I can
about these wonderful techniques and to make use of as many of them as
I am able.
Here is my challenge: Father and son business. Together
about 12 years, but moved to present premises four years ago when they
extended their product range and re-launched with new branding- under
our stewardship! They are a typical, small company turning over
just under the £1m mark and spend around £30,000 - £40,000 pa on
their marketing. Their product range has consisted of fitted
carpets, flooring and Oriental rugs. They have now doubled the
size of their store by taking the first floor too.
They plan to extend their product range, again, by adding furniture
(particularly leather) and beautiful stone tiles. We are
currently working on a Marketing Re-launch for February, 2005, using
press advertising but including a mailing to attend Preview to all
They reckon they have about 6,500 customers, but as you say in your
book, "When is a customer no longer a customer?" I
have just got hold of a disc with their "customer database"
on it. We are going to try to sort average latency for each of
the basic product categories - and set up the
"tripwire" column to end on the last day of acceptable days
since last purchase.
Please understand that my two creative colleagues do not understand
Access and Excel one bit, and I did only an Introductory Course on
them a couple of years ago at the local tech. So none of us is
very database or spreadsheet literate, which is why we shall need
outside help for spreadsheet querying.
A: It doesn't sound like we have much of a technology
base to work with here, but have no fear! I think there are a
couple of simple things you can try.
First, an angle on cost savings regarding advertising mail using
Recency. I would focus on last purchase date, with the objective
of reducing the volume of mail in any one drop so you can mail
more frequently to the people who respond to the mailings.
Perhaps you could print a code on the labels of the mailer indicating
how long it has been since last purchase - "1" for 1 month,
"2" for 2 months, "3" for 3 months, etc. I
assume these mailers have an offer of some kind; ask the customer to
bring the card to take advantage of the offer. After the initial
promotion, look at the numbers on the cards "redeemed" to
find some kind of pattern. No cards redeemed
with a number higher than 12? Then you probably are wasting
money mailing to people with a last purchase date of over 12 months
ago, and should not mail them again.
Do the numbers on the redeemed cards "cluster" anywhere,
say around 6 months? If so, you will probably get the highest
response mailing when last purchase was 6 months ago. This means
every month you should mail an offer to people whose last purchase was
6 months ago. Generally, take the same budget and reallocate the
spending away from where you get no response and towards where
response is strong; you spend the same amount but get more for it.
Very simple idea and low tech as well.
Further, over time, you may see other "clusters"; look to
see if perhaps those people bought the same kind of product, it was
over / under a certain price, was it their first purchase, etc.
Reallocate budgets and target based on these new findings. For
example, you may get the highest response for new customers / first
time buyers at 3 months since last purchase, but with customers having
over a year of buying history, higher response at 6 months since last
purchase. Look for these segments and adjust accordingly.
Second, perhaps some of the money saved on these mailings could go
into "pipeline" building. If you can capture name and
address "at the point where they are asked to visit and quote for
a carpet fitting or whatever" you can develop a "sequenced
mailer" for non-buyers - people who don't respond to the quote.
The idea is this: if they are having you quote, they are probably into
a "LifeCycle stage" where they will need similar products /
services. Even if you don't close the original quote, these
people are a highly targeted list for other business. You
creative types should have a ball with the copy on this one!
I assume when a quote is given a quote sheet with customer name and
address is created, and a carbon copy goes back to the office to a
"waiting" file or something like that. After a certain
amount of time goes buy or after a follow-up phone call, there are
quotes left which did not "close". Create a simple
list with these names and mail out a follow up card. Not
sure what the message should be, but it could be humorous, for
example. You could use the same idea as above: a single mailer
that goes out to a cross-section of dead quotes where it has been 1
month since quote, 2 months since quote, 3 months since quote, and so
on, tracked as above. Or, you could create a "campaign" series of say 3 mailers
mailed 1 month, 2 months, and 3 months after the dead quote to see if that works.
The point is, when you organize segments by using buying behavior
like this, any success you have becomes repeatable, it works again and
again. If 3 months after first purchase is the best time to mail
new buyers today, it will be next month and next year. You find
out what works, then reallocate budget away from what doesn't work and
towards what does work. Simple, low tech, and should be fun for
a bunch of creative older gentlemen!
That's it for this month's edition of the Drilling Down Newsletter. If you like the newsletter, please forward it to a friend - why don't you do this now while you are thinking of it? Subscription instructions are at the top and bottom of the newsletter for their convenience when subscribing.
Any comments on the newsletter (it's too long, too short, topic suggestions, etc.) please send them
right along to me, along with any other questions on customer Valuation,
Retention, Loyalty, and Defection right here.
'Til next time, keep Drilling Down!
- Jim Novo
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