By Ken Okel*
Stop Treating Your Customers Like Gym Members
Imagine that you see yourself in the mirror one morning and decide it is time to start going to a gym. You research nearby fitness facilities and decide to visit one. You are taken around by staff, shown all the great features, and are made to feel special. You sign up with the gym and have dreams of a healthier life.
Did Something Change?
Before long you notice the relationship has lost its spark. You are surprised to realize that once you sign on the dotted line, the gym does not care about you. The only ongoing connection you have with the gym is your recurring credit card billing.
A Foundation of Toothpicks
While this is not true for all fitness facilities, most are based on a business model that is all about getting new customers. They want to sign you up, get any initiation fee, and take your dues every month. Gym management would love it if you stopped coming but kept paying your membership.
You Feel Stuck
You are never asked for your opinion or suggestions for the facility. As a loyal customer, you never receive any special treatment. Management does not care if equipment gets worn down or the locker rooms are not as clean as they used to be. They are happy to take your money every month and they are betting that you will not leave.
Why do you stay?
Because getting out of your contract is a complicated process, you still want to make good on your fitness commitment, and there are no other gyms nearby. In addition when you signed up, you committed to paying your dues for your final 30 days, so gym management knows no matter how poorly they treat you, they can sleep soundly at night knowing that money is coming.
Then New Competition Appears
Everything changes when a new gym opens in town. Then you start to see a mass exodus to the new facility. Suddenly, you may see the old gym get a face lift with things like balloons or some paint. New membership offers will be promoted as a way to pull in more members. But as a current member, you are not getting anything new or better out of the situation. So why should you stay?
The Challenge For All
Many businesses treat their customers like gym members. Never forget the people who helped make your business what it is and instead only focus on getting new customers. People will stay loyal to a place that they feel cares about them. But if you take them for granted, they will run to the next new thing in town. When was the last time you reached out to a longtime customer and told them that they are appreciated? Do you ever go to them for advice or guidance? Do you communicate with them about exciting products and services that are coming in the future or is your only contact with them, a monthly bill?
The Quick Buck Tends To Be Short Lived
In the current economy, relationships matter more than ever. If you treat your customers like a dumbbell, then do not be surprised if they drop you. You will be guilty of no sweat stupidity. How often to you reach out to your donors? As a rule, it is good to have at least seven, touches, with them every year. A touch can be defined as any contact, including a newsletter, a phone call, a meeting, or social marketing.
Social Media Can Help
The powerful thing about social media is that it is a low cost way to stay in touch with your customers. It is also not very intrusive, which can work well for those who want to know more about your organization but do not like phone calls or meetings. Even if they just read the headlines, they will believe that your information is a sign that you are continuing to improve your business. You can use Twitter to keep them in the loop on other developments in your area of expertise.
At a time when printing and mailing newsletters can be very expensive, why not consider shifting some of that outreach to social media sites like YouTube , Facebook, and blogs?
Stop Buying Balloons
You may want to continue doing things the way you always have. That is fine but do not expect your competition to do the same. Remember, you will only be perceived as a shiny new toy until the next one comes along.
It takes courage to go against an old sales philosophy. Instead, honor your loyal customers, give them special perks, and make sure that they are proud ambassadors for your business. Soon you will find these tactics to be the best way to bring in new faces.
Copyright 2009 Ken Okel
Originally posted by KenOkel
on 14 Jun 2011.
All contributors: KenOkel
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