Several years ago I owned a heating and air conditioning business that we needed to sell. Quite frankly, we had it for sale for some time with no interest. We had already closed it which meant there was no money coming in, but there was still money going out. An auction would at least stop the bleeding. The nature of the business meant it would not be something that the general public would be interested in attending the auction which concerned me. Fortunately, the auctioneer I chose had been in the business for many years and had a long list of persons who had bought such items at previous auctions. He assured me he could send letters to at least 100 companies who were in the same business I was selling to invite them to the auction.
That may be why he was successful at what he did and our company was not. I never compiled a list of customers by their interests so I could send them information about new products or services they might be interested in purchasing. I often read that direct mail to past customers was one of the best marketing strategies a company could use, but my few attempts at direct mail were all sent to prospects, and none of them resulted in a single sale. When it came time for the auction, most of the vehicles in our parking lot were from companies similar to mine. His direct mail worked and brought out buyers who may not have known of the sale otherwise.
After that auction I began attending other auctions. I’ve been to enough of them that the auctioneers know what I’m most likely to buy. A few months after my auction I received a letter from the auctioneer who conducted my sale letting me know he had an auction scheduled that included a lot of items that I had purchased in the past that would be available. He even sent a list of many of the items and directed me to a site on the Internet where I could see pictures of those items. I attended that auction and bought a number of the things he had told me about.
At the same time I owned the HVAC business I was also the pastor of a small church. During that time I purchased a number of suits from a salesman in a nice department store in a nearby city. After the first or second suit I bought I began receiving notices from him letting me know about sales his department were having. He noticed I always bought my suits when they were on sale, so he made sure I knew upcoming sale dates, not only for suits but for other menswear items as well. Over the course of three or four years I purchased a new suit from him about every six months. I also bought a number of dress pants and dress shirts from that same salesman. He left for another job, and I never received another contact from that store again. Now that I think of it, I never bought another suit there either. That salesman knew me, he knew what brand suit I liked, and what I would pay for it, and he made sure I always knew when I could buy one for that price. And, I usually did.
Of course, as most of you know, I am now an auctioneer. I make sure I follow the example of the auctioneer who did my sale and the suit salesman. I maintain a list of people who attend my auctions. A second list is kept of those who are interested in particular items. I make sure I contact these folks when I have an auction coming up that will have things they buy. In a few weeks I have an auction consisting mostly of railroad memorabilia. This will be a very specialized auction so I have made sure that everyone I know who is interested in such items have been notified. I am contacting them personally to tell them about what will be sold in this auction.
How well do you know your customers and what they want or need that your company can provide? What are you doing to intentionally stay in contact with them? How often do you send direct marketing material to them? Studies find that it’s much easier to sell to a current customer than to a prospect, and it costs much less to get their business as well. If you don’t have a current client list you need to begin developing one and begin marketing to it. It will add to your bottom line.