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Nick

Managing customers

How do you manage your relationship with your customers?

Making stuff is relatively easy. Materials, skill, time, and, for many here, a love of doing so. It doesn't matter if it is jewellery, or beef, software or singing lessons, the tough bit is selling it.

Your past customers are your greatest asset. They score highly on several fronts. Firstly, they clearly wanted your stuff enough to buy it, they thought your price, approach and stall or website were good enough, and they helped you pay the bills. Assuming they're happy, they're also an independent voice who might well do some of your advertising for you, especially if they wear your t shirt, hang your print in their cafe or yell about your sausages on Facebook.

I spent a large amount of time shoving information into a database, about every contact, every sale, every customer I deal with, so it's all there for later. I have to, I'm part of a team, and when marketing want to email all users of a certain technique about a shiny new product, they need my information. When we need to do a recall, or service, or upgrade, it's there. Got a great offer for people who always spend money at the end of March? The CRM knows when my customers' financial year ends. When someone needs a phone number or email, it's there. If I get hit by a bus, or go on holiday, the customers don't suffer. And the more that is in there, and not in my head, my notebooks and my email inbox, the more time I save, the less stressed I am, and the better served my customers are.

You all have customers, people who've trusted you with their hard earned cash before. Do you keep records of them, organised, and go back and harvest them sensibly? How many are repeat customers? I know this will vary from business to business. I guess people are unlikely to buy a new Lino cut from the same artist every month, but certainly they need firewood, or bacon routinely.

Do you contact them afterwards, with offers, premium lines, discounts, suggest a friend rewards, or news they might pass on?

Everyone may already be doing this, but it might be food for thought. I thought about this, reading an article today, and exploring some free CRM packages, and thought I'd share.
Bodrighy

Nick, please shut up. My conscience is bad enough as it is without you throwing truth at me. Yes I ought to spend more time being proactive, reaching out etc but as you say it is much easier to disappear (in my case) into the workshop and make things. I have a record of each customer and could contact with new things I have made but feel pushy doing so, am never fully confident that my work is good enough etc etc etc.

Pete
sally_in_wales

what he said! Seriously though, I did try sending out a newsletter a year or so back, but some people got it three times and some not at all, and I was so embarrassed I haven't had another go Embarassed
Nick

Nick, please shut up. My conscience is bad enough as it is without you throwing truth at me. Yes I ought to spend more time being proactive, reaching out etc but as you say it is much easier to disappear (in my case) into the workshop and make things. I have a record of each customer and could contact with new things I have made but feel pushy doing so, am never fully confident that my work is good enough etc etc etc.

Pete


But, aren't some of your things, the buttons, the craft supplies, the blanks consumable items? Or at least the kind of thing people will want to buy again?

If you get complaints, or stuff returned, it might not be good enough. Are you getting lots of complaints? Thought not. Smile

Chase up button buyers with a mail with photos of some different ones. Maybe they've finished knitting the next cardigan. Maybe they forgot where they bought the last ones from.
Rob R

Well, I've been in touch with you many times over the years, but you still haven't bought any sheep Rolling Eyes
Nick

Well, I've been in touch with you many times over the years, but you still haven't bought any sheep Rolling Eyes


I've delivered a few for you, I've bought cows and pigs from you, and dead sheeps. I've helped crowd fund and I even gave you nine pigs once. I'm pretty much the perfect customer!

Haven't had a newsletter recently, tho. Wonder if my email address is current...
Treacodactyl

what he said! Seriously though, I did try sending out a newsletter a year or so back, but some people got it three times and some not at all, and I was so embarrassed I haven't had another go Embarassed

I get a few newsletters and some very large companies send the same thing twice, and I get them daily!

These days many people will be used to getting daily, weekly and monthly updates so, provided you give people the option to opt-out of them, I wouldn't worry.

What annoys me in dealing with small scale/family run businesses is the people who don't bother reply to emails and the chases when I'm trying to order stuff. Mutter, grumble...
JB

Companies contacting me with offers is something that is guaranteed to annoy me even if they are companies I have used before. Just because I bought a reciprocating widget mangler from you last year does not mean I am desperate to know about your new line of hydraulic wurzel manglers and you will just annoy me by sending me that information so I am more likely to go somewhere else.

There are of course exceptions to this. The garage that contacts me once a year to remind me about the MOT is OK, the optician contacting my wife every other year to remind her that it's been two years since an eye test is OK. Those are items that I should do not things that they would like me to do and they are also so rarely contacting me that I pay more attention. Other exceptions are where I actively choose to subscribe to newsletters, so if I get a monthly newsletter from someone selling telescopes that's OK because I asked to receive that. But unsolicited contact from companies even if I have used them before is generally annoying.
NorthernMonkeyGirl

As a customer, I would much prefer an "opt in" system. I enjoy seeing facebook updates, for example, because I have actively chosen to follow that person/business. They also tend to be short and sweet.

Any generic email newsletter will probably drown in my epic inbox, and if it comes too often or I'm just swamped that particular day then it does leave a bad mark I'm afraid.
Nick

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting a generic, constant barrage of mailing, but the more information you have, and the more you organise, the more tailored and specific and useful your follow up stuff can be.

And, there isn't a legal newsletter that doesn't have an opt out option on it. If you're getting too many, opt out. Takes seconds.
Cathryn

You beat me to it! Smile I was wondering about a step back from this, how do you want to relate to customers and whether because of the sort of person you are, you should look at adapting to reflect that.

Have to go and sell things to people now. I like people and even when I am feeling grumpy about having to go into work, I nearly always come back having enjoyed seeing everyone. I think that its key to selling face to face as well.

Only marginally off topic....
Rob R


What annoys me in dealing with small scale/family run businesses is the people who don't bother reply to emails and the chases when I'm trying to order stuff. Mutter, grumble...

I'm guilty of that - not because I ignore people but because my e-mail was bouncing back some messages at least a week after failing to send it. I've sorted it now but it took too long because I don't really fully understand email and I kept putting off sorting it out.
Behemoth

Anybody use twitter? I can't stand it but for those who do it's a very quick and easy way to let people know that you have, meat or buttons available or a new exhbition/fair this weekend etc. Users opt in. Rob R

Anybody use twitter? I can't stand it but for those who do it's a very quick and easy way to let people know that you have, meat or buttons available or a new exhbition/fair this weekend etc. Users opt in.

Yep, and that's why Nick hasn't received a newsletter recently - newsletters are time consuming to put together and initially resulted in a handful of sales from the small number of people who opened them, but then this ebbed away to nothing.

We now encourage customers to use facebook and/or twitter to stay up to date with our latest news and offers. We also use the hashtag #FreeMeatMonday to promote our regular weekly offer, and that works, sometimes.

The biggest problem with small businesses is that people easily forget that you're there, so they need reminding, and that's why Tesco, McDonalds, etc. spend a lot of money getting their logos in people's faces.
Rob R

Well, I've been in touch with you many times over the years, but you still haven't bought any sheep Rolling Eyes

I've delivered a few for you, I've bought cows and pigs from you, and dead sheeps. I've helped crowd fund and I even gave you nine pigs once. I'm pretty much the perfect customer!

Very Happy OK, I'll let you off the sheep.
Green Rosie

Anybody use twitter? I can't stand it but for those who do it's a very quick and easy way to let people know that you have, meat or buttons available or a new exhbition/fair this weekend etc. Users opt in.

Yup - great way to keep in touch with previous guests and get (a few) new bookings. @ecogiteslenault
I encourage guests to like our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Ecogiteslenault and use this to keep in touch with them.

I send 3 or 4 emails a year to previous guests, reminding them we are here and of any updates or special offers etc we have. I usually find I get a repeat booking from that email 3 out of 4 times.
Bodrighy

Nick, please shut up. My conscience is bad enough as it is without you throwing truth at me. Yes I ought to spend more time being proactive, reaching out etc but as you say it is much easier to disappear (in my case) into the workshop and make things. I have a record of each customer and could contact with new things I have made but feel pushy doing so, am never fully confident that my work is good enough etc etc etc.

Pete

But, aren't some of your things, the buttons, the craft supplies, the blanks consumable items? Or at least the kind of thing people will want to buy again?

If you get complaints, or stuff returned, it might not be good enough. Are you getting lots of complaints? Thought not. Smile

Chase up button buyers with a mail with photos of some different ones. Maybe they've finished knitting the next cardigan. Maybe they forgot where they bought the last ones from.

I have only ever had one complaint (maybe my customers are very polite LOL) and that was due to the misuse of the object (leaving a goblet overnight full of red wine and complaining because it stained) I do get repeat orders from people but not as many as perhaps I could if I was more pushy. Not something I have ever been good at.

Pete
vegplot

Our last two 'previous' customers died of natural causes. Sad earthyvirgo

Personal, individual contact makes a huge difference.

I never send out a one-size-fits-all mailshot because they don't - I get them and they feel impersonal

If I'm exhibiting somewhere new, I'll generally know (or can check) if someone in that neck of the woods has bought my work previously and I make sure they're invited by the gallery to the PV but they'll also get a one-off email from me.

I find it doesn't really take that long to personalise a generic email. A few changes to the opening and final sentence is all it takes.

EV
Nick

There is a line, but it's not always pushy to ask someone if they're interested, especially if it's a consumable item. A quick mail with relevant, interesting items is the answer, and allow people to opt out.

Of course, easy to say, much harder to accurately define the line, relevant and interesting. Smile
Rob R

Personal, individual contact makes a huge difference.

EV

As does remembering someone when they ring up.
Chez

I think it's the difference between scatter-gun marketing and rifle-shot marketing. Knowing your customer base makes it so much easier.

I've opted to use the 'notes' bit of facebook as a newsletter, every couple of months. That gets seen by people who have opted to follow my fb page and twitter account. That suits me - I didn't like the idea of doing an actual 'sent to your inbox' newsletter for the reasons other people have set out upthread - if I get them business I've bought stuff from, I usually just delete them.
Cathryn

Knowing your customer and use yours and others imagination to find new ones. Ty Gwyn

Good thread Nick,thanks.

I usually phone previous customers from my order book,3-6mths after initial order,depending on what and amount they ordered,repeat order`s is not my problem,
Its gaining new ones is the hard slog as you know.
Nick

It sort of linked to the business ethics one, and was prompted by an article I read this morning.

I don't have answers, or at least all of them, but discussing these things can't be bad.

Specifically for you, with your repeat orders, they're clearly happy. So, how do you drive them to work for you? Can you offer them 10% off their order for every friend of theirs that orders? Three for two options so they can get theirs free if their sister and mum orders too?
Bodrighy

Selling food products can be relatively easy I would have thought as far as getting repeat orders from satisfied customers is concerned. Getting the new ones is as said the hard part and for me is a sort of permanent dilemma. If my products wore out quick enough to need replacing or replenishing I doubt that people would come back to me for a new one, more likely to complain. I freely admit to being lousy at the selling side of things and always feel pushy promoting my work online. Suspect that I am never going to make my fortune being a wood turner LOL

Pete
Nick

Well, you can certainly be sure that people will eat again, yes.

When you ship an item to a customer, or hand it over on a stall, what else do you give them? Anything? What else could you give them?
Rob R

Selling food products can be relatively easy I would have thought as far as getting repeat orders from satisfied customers is concerned.

Yes, it can be, but it is adouble edged sword. There is a lot of competition out there and as soon as you produce it the clock starts ticking away, after which it can't be sold so planning how much you will sell in three years time is the hard bit. If you produce too much it's worthless, if you produce too little the customer will be forced to go elsewhere and there's always a chance that they won't come back, just out of habit.
Lorrainelovesplants

Really good thread.

I went to a Social Media workshop the other day - 2 hours FULL of really useful stuff....done in a way that was relevent, punchy and made me think.
Im not into all this SM stuff, but I can appreciate how it really helps. They also helped me determine that different types of businesses need to market differently.
Facebook and a blog on the website are apparently good for what we do, but Twitter wouldnt be, but Twitter would be good for restaurants, bars, hairdressers etc.

Some notes I made:
What is the return on your investment? - how much is the marketing costing me and what return can I expoect from it? How am I measuring this? Google/facebook analytics?
People buy People - What is my online personality? Am I getting recommendations? Am I really networking to my full potential.
Content is King What are you saying & why? What is my key message? Is this making me sales?
Lorrainelovesplants

Im trying to get on a full day event, the speaker was excellent, and I can probably get funding for it, so Im keen to embrace what, to me, is a new area of techie stuff, but as the speaker said - this is the market place of the future - you'd better embrace it, cos its here to stay. RichardW

This thread is very timely for me as I am just about to launch a new venture.

Our customers will in the main be very time limited as once they have used our service it is very unlikely they will need it again.

One of our plans is similar to the offer Nick mentioned to Ty Gwyn, IE give existing customer free stuff if they bring in a new customer that stays long enough.

The free stuff could at its worst cost us 20% of the initial new order but research says that if the new customer stays long enough to hit the level of giving the free stuff away then they will stay for the duration of their need & then the cost will be more like 2.5%.

That looks much better than the industry standard way of gaining new customers by giving a big intro discount (over 50%) on a new customers first orders. With that model lots walk after the deal ends to find new deals with other suppliers.

In the end this cost the customer as they need much much longer to not need the service.
Cathryn

Selling food products can be relatively easy I would have thought as far as getting repeat orders from satisfied customers is concerned.

Yes, it can be, but it is adouble edged sword. There is a lot of competition out there and as soon as you produce it the clock starts ticking away, after which it can't be sold so planning how much you will sell in three years time is the hard bit. If you produce too much it's worthless, if you produce too little the customer will be forced to go elsewhere and there's always a chance that they won't come back, just out of habit.

Please can I have some of your worthless beef? Has there ever been a glut of beef? Do you mean selling it to a different, commodity market is unethical and doesn't fit with your business aims?
Nick

This thread is very timely for me as I am just about to launch a new venture.

Our customers will in the main be very time limited as once they have used our service it is very unlikely they will need it again.

One of our plans is similar to the offer Nick mentioned to Ty Gwyn, IE give existing customer free stuff if they bring in a new customer that stays long enough.

The free stuff could at its worst cost us 20% of the initial new order but research says that if the new customer stays long enough to hit the level of giving the free stuff away then they will stay for the duration of their need & then the cost will be more like 2.5%.

That looks much better than the industry standard way of gaining new customers by giving a big intro discount (over 50%) on a new customers first orders. With that model lots walk after the deal ends to find new deals with other suppliers.

In the end this cost the customer as they need much much longer to not need the service.

Your customers will be one shot guys, obviously, but the vast majority of them will be 17/18 and everyone they know will be looking for the same service. Manage and incentivise them right, and you're made of gold; but get it wrong, and bad news spreads, I guess. So, what's a lesson, 20 or so? Half price lesson for every friend you introduce? Only you know the figures, but I'd guess its a no brainer to attempt to network through your clients.
Rob R

Selling food products can be relatively easy I would have thought as far as getting repeat orders from satisfied customers is concerned.

Yes, it can be, but it is adouble edged sword. There is a lot of competition out there and as soon as you produce it the clock starts ticking away, after which it can't be sold so planning how much you will sell in three years time is the hard bit. If you produce too much it's worthless, if you produce too little the customer will be forced to go elsewhere and there's always a chance that they won't come back, just out of habit.

Please can I have some of your worthless beef? Has there ever been a glut of beef? Do you mean selling it to a different, commodity market is unethical and doesn't fit with your business aims?

No, because I'm good at my job Wink But I produce Dexter beef, which has next to no value in a commodity market.
Nick

Personal, individual contact makes a huge difference.

EV

As does remembering someone when they ring up.

Do you rely on your brain for this, or have you notes you can find instantly? Clearly, out in the field, it's harder, but with a smart phone it's easy enough.
earthyvirgo

Personal, individual contact makes a huge difference.

EV

As does remembering someone when they ring up.

Do you rely on your brain for this, or have you notes you can find instantly? Clearly, out in the field, it's harder, but with a smart phone it's easy enough.

Me, or RobR?
I seem to have a memory for people who have bought

I surprised myself and a previous buyer the second year I did the N Wales Art Trail when I remembered a couple who'd bought the year previously.

I was able to greet her by name and knew what print she'd bought.

In the studio, I have a book with all the relevant info in date order.
No spreadsheet/DB -maybe one day

EV
Rob R

Personal, individual contact makes a huge difference.

EV

As does remembering someone when they ring up.

Do you rely on your brain for this, or have you notes you can find instantly? Clearly, out in the field, it's harder, but with a smart phone it's easy enough.

Most of the time I use my brain, sometimes I use Quickbooks & call up the info when I answer the phone. I don't take calls out in the field because the signal is so rubbish, I'm usually working in either a noisy or mucky environment and I don't have access to any form of records. They either leave a message with someone in the office or on the answerphone. I try to use e-mail for this reason & as I'm sometimes away from the office for the day the smartphone has been invaluable for accessing e-mails. It also processes CC payments.
Chez

A lot of my sales are through facebook or twitter and it's easy to track correspondence. For the phone, I have a Book Of All Things that people's names, phone number and what they want goes in to.

I also try to keep a diary, with hatches, orders and sales, which makes it easy to look back. That doesn't come naturally to me though.

I think it's easier to stay memorable when you are selling livestock; I'm always going to be 'the lady with those nice araucanas' or 'the woman who had the rat in her feed bin' and people will come back to me when/if they want new birds.

I think a genuine desire to help, even if it doesn't result in a sale; and a friendly attitude to both customers and competitors is essential. My mother is brilliant at the 'symbiosis with competitors' thing and I've learned a lot from watching her.
RichardW


Your customers will be one shot guys, obviously, but the vast majority of them will be 17/18 and everyone they know will be looking for the same service. Manage and incentivise them right, and you're made of gold; but get it wrong, and bad news spreads, I guess. So, what's a lesson, 20 or so? Half price lesson for every friend you introduce? Only you know the figures, but I'd guess its a no brainer to attempt to network through your clients.

Locally the base price for 1 lesson is 23-25 then you get the block booking discounts that reduce that to about 22 on average.

As you say word of mouth (or FB) is key. I am looking at one lesson free if the introducee takes 5 lessons or more.

Will look at the implications of doing half price for every person introduced & see how that pans out.

I have been told that actual "cash back" is a great one for them too. Get nice new tenners or twenties depending on the level its set at.

I have a few customers already lined up. Longer term I have a 14 year old, so in 3 years her & all her mates will be wanting to learn. As she is at the older end of the year group she could be passed before they all turn 17.
Chez

I have been told that actual "cash back" is a great one for them too. Get nice new tenners or twenties depending on the level its set at.


Parents pay, the kids get the cash back Smile
RichardW



Parents pay, the kids get the cash back Smile

Yep lol so better than free lessons.

But then it is their mates they are selling.

Thinking about it you have a very good point.

I could offer either a free lesson or a lesser amount as cash back.

The kids will take the money & older pupils will take the lesson.
Rob R

On the subject of getting new customers, your service seems very personal, given the name, but the first thing I look for is an 'about me' page to say why I should use you that seems to be missing? Not even a photo. I feel like I know the car intimately (which is fantastic) but the person could be anyone. RichardW

On the subject of getting new customers, your service seems very personal, given the name, but the first thing I look for is an 'about me' page to say why I should use you that seems to be missing? Not even a photo. I feel like I know the car intimately (which is fantastic) but the person could be anyone.

Its on the list of things to add.
Rob R

Oh good, otherwise it looks good & good luck with it all. RichardW

Oh good, otherwise it looks good & good luck with it all.

Thanks.
Nick

Personal, individual contact makes a huge difference.

EV

As does remembering someone when they ring up.

Do you rely on your brain for this, or have you notes you can find instantly? Clearly, out in the field, it's harder, but with a smart phone it's easy enough.

Me, or RobR?
I seem to have a memory for people who have bought

I surprised myself and a previous buyer the second year I did the N Wales Art Trail when I remembered a couple who'd bought the year previously.

I was able to greet her by name and knew what print she'd bought.

In the studio, I have a book with all the relevant info in date order.
No spreadsheet/DB -maybe one day

EV

Well, I meant Rob, but it applies to everyone. A smartphone allows you to see notes or memory joggers when someone rings. Allows you to add that personal touch, and everyone likes to be remembered.
Mistress Rose

A very interesting thread, and plenty of food for thought. Are we the only business that is postal address and phone based in the main? We have a web site, and we get a lot of orders from it, but I find those that order by e-mail are generally less satisfactory because they expect instant delivery outside their working hours. Unless we have a show or market, I prefer not to work on Sunday and delivering firewood to a dark place at night is not my idea of fun; believe me, I have tried it.

Son deals with most of the web page, and has a FB page as well. I leave that entirely to him. Not sure FB actually brings us in anything.

From this am wondering whether a postal mail shot might be a good idea, perhaps once or twice a year, just to remind our customers about ordering firewood and the other things we do to cultivate the other sides of our business.

As far as contact is concerned, people tend to leave a message if nobody is available to take the call, and we phone them back, usually that evening. Some customers I remember, either by their name of address, but when you have several all with the same surname, you have to find out where they are before you can take the order. I also get them to remind me of their phone number as some have changed and forgotten to tell us. The rest I get from my paper records as I find them easier to deal with than computer.
Rob R

From this am wondering whether a postal mail shot might be a good idea, perhaps once or twice a year, just to remind our customers about ordering firewood and the other things we do to cultivate the other sides of our business.

Yes, I'm guessing firewood is seasonally autumn/winter, and the other things more spring/summer? For something like that a small leaflet is something I, as a consumer, would pin to the notice board.
Nick

I have no idea, but I guess firewood is very seasonal, and if that's ALL you do, business is lumpy. So promotions and offers would be done in the quiet months. Mistress Rose

We delivered some firewood every month over the last year but of course we do deliver more during the winter. Charcoal is mainly summer, but we do have the odd order all year. There are also seasonal things like pea and bean sticks, and other things like cards and wood turning that go all year.

A leaflet or card is probably a good idea Rob. We are sometimes afraid that people lose our number and although we are very easy to find on the internet, we may lose some people that way.
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