Are you doing business with GHOSTS?

Posted by John Park on Jan 17th, 2009
Jan 17

business ghost customers

It was just before Christmas.  Like all other shoppers going through the motions, I had stopped by a gift shop after work to pick-up a few last minute items.  My destination was a small but established neighborhood store.  After getting the items I needed, I got in line behind a few ladies who clearly knew a lot more about gift giving than I did.  Their little handheld baskets were full of trinkets and other festive items sure to make some one’s holiday a little more merrier. 
As the first woman unloaded her items on to the counter, she was greeted by the bubbly 16 year old cashier.  She scanned each item and I watched as the LED sub-total on the little balance screen got higher and higher.  The grand total was just over $150.00.  The lady reached in to her purse and promptly paid in cash.  Smiles were all around and it was a scene we’ve all witnessed a thousand times.
It was the second lady’s turn and the entire scene played it self out again as if the setting was on replay.  Her total was just over $100.00.

As I watched both of them walk out of the store, I thought to myself… “They might as well be ghosts.”
This little boutique had just sold $250 worth of goods in 5 minutes and the owner has no idea who they just did business with.  They don’t know if they are new customers or regulars.  They wouldn’t know how to contact them again to build any sort of a relationship.  They have no idea how they ended up at their store.  In essence, the owner of this boutique store just did business with a couple of ghosts.
Retail settings are perfect for witnessing and demonstrating business theories.  This is because a simple retail transaction is about as “pure” as it gets to define doing business—buy low and sell high.
Many businesses are doing business with ghosts everyday.  The goal should be to identify who these ghost customers are so that a relationship can be initiated and grown.  Instead of constantly hunting for new customers with expensive mass market advertising, how about just taking good care of the ones you already have.  Not only will you be able to grow the relationship, these known customers are also your best candidates to be unpaid business ambassadors.
For those of you not operating a retail business, this effects you as well.
( What defines a ghost customer? )
1)  No contact information collected during transaction
2)  No contact after the original transaction
3)  At least 6 months since last contact
If just one of the above three definitions apply towards any of your customers, you have unintentionally turned a customer back in to a prospect.
( Ideas to turn ghosts back in to customers )
1)  Collect contact information especially email and address.  Some customers like anonymity so do your best.  Set policies in motion to collect data during the transaction.  Consider creative methods like offering incentives or benefits in exchange for the information.
2)  Create a contact schedule for each customer.  For example, a retail store could send out a postcard 4 times a year during their busiest months offering their repeat customers a discount.
3)  Implement an effective CRM (customer relationship management) tool to keep in contact with your customer base.  A simple low cost start can be to implement some sort of an email marketing communication.  Services like Constant Contact or iContact is an easy do-it-yourself tool.
In many businesses, 20% of your customers will be generating 80% of your revenues.  Constantly hunting for new customers in a recession can be difficult and expensive.  In order to grow your business, look towards those customers who’ve already done business with you.  They are the low hanging fruits.
STOP doing business with ghosts.  This is a good place to begin.

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