“Without customers you have no business, you have absolutely nothing”. The best way to get customers is from referrals and sales leads. A sales lead or prospect is a business opportunity to gain a customer and make a sale. The best sales leads are from referrals. The best referrals in the world are word of mouth recommendations from friends and associates. Other referrals come in the form of personal endorsements from well known people. These well known recognizable people are often in the movie and sports industries.
“Example isn't another way to teach, it's the only way to teach”… Albert Einstein.
Let's look at the customer loyalty programs that can produce word of mouth referrals. There are many successful programs presently being used. Here are some examples.
Customer appreciation programs:
• Some coffee shops offer a free cup of coffee after a certain number of cups have been purchased. The customer is issued a card that is stamped every time a coffee is purchased. This is an easy way for the customer to keep track of purchases, and is an incentive for them to keep coming back. The customer is very likely to tell their friends. With regular customers come other perks, such as a free donut or other discounted food item.
• Most restaurants have daily specials on their food and beverage menus, but some give out coupons that offer a discount on their next meal. Often restaurants will do some direct advertising in the form of flyers with discount coupons to attract new customers. It is the quality of the food and service that will keep their customers coming back and referring them to others.
• Some large grocery stores offer a customer appreciation day. On a certain day each month, the customer will receive a 10% off all purchases (usually with a minimum purchase of $35.00). Other shops have senior day discounts, often one day per week (usually the slowest day, Tuesday) and the discount is 5% off everything with no minimum purchase.
• Other stores often have scratch cards where the customer scratches off an immediate discount ranging anywhere fro 5 – 75% off all purchases. While some will offer, buy one item and get the next one at 25% off.
• Most of the major gas stations offer loyalty programs offering points that can be redeemed for free gas or other items the station sells.
• Financial and retail stores usually offer points that can be redeemed for just about anything from travelers cheques, air travel, hotel accommodation and or a catalog of items.
• Service industries often outsource to marketing companies to acquire leads. Have you ever been phoned by a carpet cleaning company offering you a special deal?
It seems today, that most customers collect points, coupons, and other incentives, as a normal or expected way of doing business. Marketing through service is always the best way to get referrals and sales leads.
The hospitality industry is huge and extremely competitive and will come up with many innovative and creative ways of getting customers from sales leads, advertising and referrals. Most companies have affiliate programs and can put together vacation packages that include everything. Including transportation to and from residence to departure terminal (train, bus, ship or airport) carrier, destination hotel (all inclusive, food, drinks, and entertainment) all taxes, gratuities, transfers for one payment on a credit card. Each component of the package is important to the overall success, as everyone who goes on vacation will tell their friends all about it. For example, if the local taxi rides to or from your residence was enjoyable, you would more than likely use that service again and also recommend them to others. The same is true for all of the other components.
Every facet of the vacation/tourism business offers incentives to their customers. However it is the service they receive from the vendor that will determine whether your company gets any referrals or bad press.
Other business, besides advertising for customers, can purchase sales leads from marketing companies. Marketing companies often use telemarketing centers and direct mail and door to door campaigns to acquire these sales leads. Companies that outsource this function to professionals often get the best results.
As you can see, there are many programs being used to attract customers, keep them coming back, spending more and “Referring” your business to others. Some programs that worked well in the past, but are now forgotten, should be revived. At the end of the day if you want referrals, make sure your customers are completely satisfied. “Offer them great service, and make what you want to sell easy for them to buy”.