The business was a manufacturer of fascias for shop fitters, made from moulded chipboard and then laminated. For obvious reasons the majority of the work was bespoke and other than the name of the company, there was no branding of the product.
For a start, we looked in some detail at the sales ledger, a boring exercise on the face of it but very necessary. We looked at the past three year’s activity and found that they had dealt with a total of 815 customers in that period.
In the previous twelve months, they had done business with a total of 235 of the customer list.
Question – where had the other 580 customers gone for their supplies?
So, there was always the possibility that some of them were no longer in business, some had placed an order on a one-off basis and some had changed their requirements but all 580 of them? It seemed very unlikely, so we hired two very experienced people to undertake a telephone exercise to see why customers had forsaken the client.
The results were surprising and, at the same time, obvious. The great majority said that “we hadn’t heard from you” or that “another representative had come in to see us so we gave them the business” or that “we thought that you had gone out of business”..
The simple exercise of calling apparently dormant customers resulted in over 60 coming back and placing orders again. We didn’t need to run the marketing study.
It was a great learning experience. The customer list is a gold mine and we ignore it at our peril. Yes, I know that Pareto would reveal that 20% of our customer base generates 80% of the turnover and probably the profit but if we don’t keep in contact with the customers. We will never know which of them are in growth mode and could well join the 20%.
Keeping in touch with customers is far easier than it used to be. Social networking and judicious use of telephone marketing can ensure that we are up to date with what is happening in the market, and more particularly, to our customers.
Never forget that one of the most important functions of the leader is to visit customers from time to time, just to keep in touch and make them feel that they are not forgotten. When there is little or no brand loyalty, this becomes absolutely essential.
That sales ledger is a gold mine of information and should be treated as such. If another mixed metaphor can be allowed, build a wall round your customers so that they only think of you when they are in the market.
Great service, good products and constant contact will help you build that wall.