I spend every day talking with small business owners in nearly every vertical. In many cases I walk in off the street, eventually get to the decision maker, and then start a conversation. A lot of people also (happily!) recommend us. We work with everyone from bar & restaurant owners to doctors, chiropractors, nutritionists, retail establishments of all kinds. . .the list goes on. These are the folks who need marketing services (and education) the most. . and (usually) they’re most receptive and appreciative. (Especially after we start producing for them!)
But what absolutely blows me away. . .every. . .single. . . time. . .is that far too many business owners many times simply don’t seem to have their customer’s information. Medical professionals? Yes. Sure. But others? It’s a huge toss up. I’m not talking about vendors (Uber Eats, Open Table, Seamless, etc where they may not even let you export anything) I’m talking about customers names, emails, (and ideally cell numbers) all in one place. (PostIt notes or a Mead black and white notebook don’t count.) Yep. Have seen both.
“But this is totally common sense!” you say.
No. No, it’s not. You! You there reading this right now at night, or in your office, or in the break room? You are clearly smart enough to be reading this blog, right? ? But honestly? Unless you talk to as many business owners as I do on a daily basis? I know it’s hard to believe. . .but it’s absolutely the case. Let’s take an example from one of our best customers, Agata & Valentina. They’ve been in business for over 20 years and have a store on the Upper East Side and on University. In less than 4 months, they gathered 854 opt-in’s for their SMS marketing program. They have trust with their customers. Clearly. We’re training them on how to SMS properly. They’re going slowly but surely. . .and in no time, they’ll be at 1,000+ “Think that will move the needle on sales?” he asked rhetorically? Ha!
The ROI on SMS marketing is so ridiculously high, it’s obscene. Arguably higher than nearly every other form of marketing. Want to see some numbers? Here’s a hidden YouTube link I did running some examples. But it’s precisely because it’s so powerful that you’d better do it right. (Which is where we come in.) “With great power, comes great responsibility, Peter.” #nerdalert #longlivespiderman #sorrynotsorry. Ha!
Moving on. . . Every direct marketer knows that “the money is in the list.” They get it. That’s their life line. If they’re doing affiliate offers or a joint venture or whatever, nobody really takes you seriously unless you have over 100,000 names. But what I’m talking about here isn’t that. . .which is why it’s even MORE important for a brick & mortar, small business owner to curate–in some way shape or form–their OWN contact list.
How else are you going to send them a monthly (or bi-monthly) email newsletter. (You ARE doing that. . .er. . .right?) How else are you going to communicate with them if you move, close temporarily, or whatever. How else are you going to send them the periodic postcard or mailer? (The list goes on.)
For small business owners who depend solely on foot traffic (and there are FAR too many who do) and then wonder, “Why is business slow?” Do you REALLY have to ask? You’ve been in business for 5 years and you’ve yet to send a single email newsletter or implement SMS/text marketing or get more active on social media or. . .or . . . .? Hmm. Ok. Perhaps these are things to work on.
My all time favorite though. . .and I hear it more than I can count is, “I have enough business. I don’t need more.” To which I respond, jokingly, “GREAT! You must be a multimillionaire and you must have all the money you want! I guess you don’t need to bother, at all, with any of that pesky marketing stuff, right because, clearly, you already know your place is going to be in business indefinitely, right?”That usually works (because I manage to deliver it the right way!) and it makes them realize how utterly silly & ridiculous they’re being. Sometimes it comes at me as a polite (initial) rejection, which I eventually counter. That’s not what I’m referring to here. I’m referring to the ones that actually MEAN it.
That local neighborhood wine bar/restaurant/boutique/coffee shop that’s really cute and super busy now? It’ll subsist on foot traffic for XXX number of years if they’re lucky, but if owner really thinks relying on just that will take them through 10 years, 20 years, or whatever the case is. . .well. . .lets just say that on more than one occasion, clients I’ve met with who didn’t buy on our first consultation have come back and said, “Um. . .hey. . .I saw another place doing SMS marketing (or social, or SEO or whatever.) Can we talk?
Happens all the time. I take no joy in being “right” or saying “I told you so!” (Ok. Fine. Maybe I take a little joy. . I am human after all and nobody’s perfect!) But seriously? I really feel sorry for them because that’s 3 years, 4 years, 5 years. .of absolutely LOST customer information. The money is in that list–regardless of whether you’re a brick and mortar place or an online guy. And as a business owner. . .you need to do this all day, every day. You kind of need to be a hard charger about this. These are YOUR customers! It needs to be on the tips of your tongue and your staff’s tongue. Get your customers to fill out their email on the comment card. .. or opt-in to your loyalty program, or SMS birthday program/VIP club, or whatever. Everyone in your place needs to be trained, as a reflex, to ask EVERY customer, new or old, “So how did you hear about us?” (And track those results!)
“What about social?” you ask. Social media is GREAT, incredibly important, and should be done regularly. But I don’t care if you have 10,000 fans and massive engagement on your page. While that’s great and all, what you DON’T have is their email, address or their cell numbers and that’s FAR more important. Don’t count on them seeing your post in their newsfeed on FB or Twitter.
There’s a ton of ways to get this info without breaking the bank. . and I’ll get into it in later. But for now? If you’re not doing this. . .start now.