Never take your repeat customers for granted.
Eighty percent of your business volume comes from 20 percent of your customers. This figure will vary depending on your kind of business but that statement strongly points out how important your customer base really is.
One of the most important things a small business owner can do to help ensure the continued growth and success of his or her company is to develop and maintain an up-to-date mailing list. People who have used your products or services in the past are the same ones who are most likely to use them in the future. It makes good business sense to remind them that you appreciate their patronage and want them to return.
Building your mailing list doesn't have to be a difficult project. It can be started by retrieving names, addresses and phone numbers from order forms. If your business doesn't use order forms, you might put a signup sheet on your counter and offer an incentive in the form of a discount on the next order to encourage the customer to give you the information requested. This can help prompt a return visit by that person. Don't forget to get an e-mail address when possible.
Once developed, your mailing list needs to be used effectively. Don't overlook the power of a thank you card. Preprinted cards with your own message are available from a number of business forms companies. Hand signing the card adds a personal touch.
If your business is one in which technology is changing rapidly, you may want to consider a monthly or quarterly newsletter to keep your customers informed of those changes.
If a newsletter is not practical for you, news of upcoming sales, special events and discount coupons to stimulate sales may be sent to those on your list.
You may want to consider asking for your customer's birth date (month and day only) so that you may send a congratulatory greeting card.
If your business sells gift items, a reminder service for important gift-giving dates is something that many busy people would take advantage of and would offer you the opportunity for more sales.
Check with your local post office to help determine what type of postal service is most appropriate and cost effective for communicating with your customer base. The e-mail address previously mentioned is an important tool because it could help you reduce or eliminate mailing expenses altogether.
In order to evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts, it is extremely important to measure the results of your efforts. Be sure to keep track of not only how many new orders you get from your mailings, but also the dollar value received. This is the only way by which you may determine how successful your programs have been.
Whatever use you make of your mailing list is limited only by your imagination. Don't underestimate its potential.
_ This column is one of a series of monthly columns by Bill Fuller which provides information supplied by Citrus County SCORE Chapter 646, which offers free, confidential counseling services to new and existing businesses in the county. The counseling covers a range of business-related topics. For an appointment, call 621-0775.