Keeping Your Pipeline Full - Sales
The term “pipeline” is is often used to refer to customers going through the various stages of your sales process. The general idea is some customers are just getting acquainted with your business, all the way to loyal, raving fans. But in order to become raving fans, they first had to start at the beginning of your pipeline.
First thing first. Before you go out and tell the world how amazing your store is, make sure it is truly amazing. Now I know this seems obvious, but seriously, take a fresh look at your business and see if it is worthy of telling the world (or at least your local market) about it. Better yet, have your employees, friends, even some Mystery Shoppers, evaluate your business and give you an HONEST assessment. You might want to use an anonymous tool for this so people can give their unfiltered opinion - you’ll find you get MUCH better feedback this way. There are many ways to do this, but I prefer using an anonymous Google Form (http://forms.google.com), although you can also use a service such as Survey Monkey.
Spend the time getting your store in order first - you only get one chance to make a first impression, so you want to make sure it’s a good one. This process should include a thorough review of how you treat your current customers. Are your current customers getting 5 Star Service? What percentage of the time do you think this happens? Keep it real here. If you think you or your staff are giving 5 Star Service 100% of the time, you are deceiving yourself. If you can deliver 5 Star Service 80% of the time or more, you are KILLING IT! I (In this context, “Killing It” is a good thing :)
Your realistic expectation is to deliver 5 Star Service 90% of the time, with the occasional 4 Star mixed in. You WILL have times where you deliver 2 and 3 Star Service - but these should be rare, and should prompt a thorough and honest investigation and correction on your part. Your staff must know your goal is 5 Star Service.
DO NOT GO ON TO THE NEXT STEPS UNTIL YOU ARE SURE YOU HAVE COMPLETED THE ABOVE. What good will it do to bring in new customers (or bring back existing customers) unless you are delivering a stellar experience?
The next step in keeping your sales pipeline full is to develop a system to retain and reward your current customer base. The reason for this is simple - it’s expensive to get new customers, and it’s lots of hard work with hit or miss results. Why do all of that work if you are not going to make the most out of your current customer base?
There are a variety of ways you can do this, but at my stores, we focus primarily on two approaches - capturing email addresses, and getting new followers for our Facebook pages.
Email is a wonderfully inexpensive way to communicate to your existing customer base. At Springfield Music, our point of sale program shows us if we have a customer’s email address on file. If we don’t, our sales people asks “Would you like a $5 gift certificate for your next visit?” When the customer says yes, they enter the email address into the POS, which is then harvested into our email program to send them a series of automated emails (called a campaign), the first of which is a $5 gift certificate good towards ANY purchase for their next visit. Please note this is a true gift certificate - not a coupon. Customers treat gift certificates like cash - they treat coupons like trash.
The idea behind giving them this gift is to first, demonstrate your gratitude for their business, and second, get them to come back and make another purchase.
Pro Tip: most email services, such as MailChimp or MailJet, offer Automation. This means you pre-design a series of emails that will go to recipients who are added to a specific customer list (such as “New Customers), and then at predetermined intervals, they will receive a series of emails. These emails could include: $5 Gift Certificate, How Was Your Experience, Other Services We Offer (used to promote lessons, rentals, repairs, etc), introduction to your customer loyalty program, etc. It’s a great time saver and helps you to deliver consistent results.
Something we are currently experimenting with is a Customer Loyalty Program. We are using a company called Tapmango for this. It’s too new for me to be able to tell how well it’s working, but I can say we are very excited about how easy it is to use, and we feel it will help drive those all-important returning shoppers.
Once you know you are delivering 5 Star Service 90% of the time, and you have a tested customer retention system in place, then you are ready to go out and get new customers.
We have found the best results with a few basic tools: making sure our website is updated regularly with current content (this helps as customers are doing google searches in your area), claiming our Google MyBusiness listing and making sure all info is current (https://business.google.com/), including adding high-quality pictures, and regularly using Facebook as a conversation tool with our customers.
I imagine by now you know to not use Facebook (or other social media) to only promote your sales and products. Think of it in terms of having conversations with your customers. You don’t want to be self promoting all of the time - you also want to connect and to serve.
It’s important to note the following stats: for every plain text Facebook post, Facebook will show it to about 2-3% of your audience. Graphic posts get about 5%, video gets 7%, and Facebook Live videos get shown to about 10%. This does not mean you should only do Facebook Live videos, rather you should use a combination of these to reach your audience. You can expand the reach of these posts by “Boosting” the post, or by running an ad. For most stores, using the Boost function and curating your audience using Facebook’s tools will be the most effective way to get a certain message to the customers who are most likely to engage with it.
We have found it’s worth getting some professional (i.e. paid) training to maximize our Facebook returns. My favorite company for this is a company called Social Edge (www.socialedge.co - note it is NOT .com). They offer a couple of different excellent courses and they are worth every penny. They have provided a free Facebook Marketing miniseries which gives you a taste of what they do. You can check it out at: https://bit.ly/2ysdTS5
I hope the ideas presented in this article will help you to keep your pipeline full. With each of these topics, I’ve just scratched the surface. You should do a deep dive via a Google search to learn more about how to excel in all of these areas. Remember, being a successful retailer is a journey, not a destination. You’ll make the most progress by being committed to always moving forward - always getting better.
If you have some great tips on how you keep your sales pipeline full - I’d LOVE to hear them!
Remember, if you need my help, I'm only an email away.
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