Making nothing but customers

sunday morning

One of the reasons that I see businesses struggling (or not doing as well as they could) is that they appear to work as if the profit from a sale to a new customer is more important than getting a new customer itself.

Recognizing the difference is critical to turning one-time visitors into long-time devotees.

Devotees. Not just customers.

What’s a devotee?

A devotee will bring their family to your place when they come from out of town. Not just once, but as many times as they can.

A devotee will suggest your place both to visitors and those new to the area and make the place seem like the only place worth choosing.

A devotee considers your place the (not “a”) dependable solution to fill their wants and needs – and when recommended to others, your work secures their reputation among their circle of influence.

Testing 1-2-3

One of the little things my wife and I do to “test” a new restaurant is stop in (often late in the day) for coffee and a dessert. Sometimes we’ll do this just to get out of the house for a little while after a home-cooked meal or a long day. We get to experience a dessert we probably wouldn’t make at home and escape a little.

When we do this, we’re often asked if it’s our first time to visit their place.

What varies widely (both here and elsewhere) is how the experience goes from that point forward.

Think about how you welcome new guests and how the locals and tourists might be helped differently. Don’t leave this up to chance. TRAIN your employees in the proper ways to pull this off, things to avoid, things to always include and how to add just a little personal touch of their own.

What really gets my attention on these late evening visits is how we are treated – especially the first time – when all we order is a cup of coffee and a slice of pie to share.

What happens next?

Consider the specific differences in your customers’ experience when visiting your place for the first time, when visiting it thereafter, and when visiting it at the point where several employees know your name because you visit so often. It’s important no matter what kind of business you run.

Why is it so important?

Because that first sale – especially that dinky little cuppa joe and slice of pie – is a critical first step to creating a devotee.

You might not feel like those coffee and pie customers are worth fawning over like everyone else (assuming you fawn). The thing is, when they walk out to the parking lot (or leave the drive up) for the first time, the impression in that first-time-customer’s mind usually determines whether or not they will return.

Perhaps with tourists, you don’t care, but you should.

With social review services like Yelp, UrbanSpoon and TripAdvisor (among others) to help *future* customers make purchase decisions, one-time visits by someone with a smartphone can pay big dividends or cost you visitors. Imagine the unseen revenue loss from a few poor (and deservedly so) online reviews. You’ll never know how many people didn’t visit because of a series of unfavorable reviews.

Even if you have no desire to carry the internet in your pocket, consider that as of June 2010, 45 MILLION people in the U.S. currently carry a smartphone. Every one of them is a little review machine just waiting to create (or destroy) your business’ karma. Collectively, those reviews can transform your business.

Keep in mind that’s roughly 1 of every 4 people you see.

Doing the math

A little “What 1 new customer means” math…

  • For your cafe: One visit every other month. Average ticket size: $50 (you already know your average lunch and/or dinner ticket size – if you don’t, you better find out).  That’s $300 a year. Over 20 years, that cup of coffee and pie eventually brings you $6000 worth of business.
  • For your small engine repair shop: 3 visits per year at between $75 and $150 per visit (or whatever your per ticket average is). Call it $100 to make the math easy. That’s $300 per year or $6000 over 20 years.
  • For your oil change shop: 4 visits a year. $40 per visit. Only $160 per year, or maybe twice that if you upsell *wisely* and don’t sell stuff just because you can get away with it.

Those numbers seem almost too small for you to care about, especially over 20 years…until you realize how many first-time customers drop in each day.

Now, with that number (for this month) floating in your head, let’s look at the math again.

How many first impressions do you get to make each day?

Don’t just make the sale. Make a new lifelong customer.