PPM Article: Romancing your customers

Marketing tips: Romance and selling

How the dating game and selling to your customers are similar – Article by XOXX and Pooch & Mutt owner, Guy Blaskey, published in the trade magazine PPM (Pet Product Marketing).

Imagine a young man in a bar, he sees a girl that he is attracted to. His aim is to get her in to bed. He could go straight out and ask her if she’d like to come home with him. Chances are that she will say ‘NO’… or throw a drink in his face. She may say ‘yes’ straight away, but if she does she is probably not the kind of girl that he would want to get into bed with and definitely not one he would want to have a long-term relationship with.

A better approach would be to go over, say hello, offer to buy her a drink and have a chat. If that goes well he could then get her phone number. A few days later he could call and organise a date. If that goes well they could meet again, then again and later down the line he would achieve his goal of getting her into bed, possibly getting into a relationship where he can get her into bed on multiple occasions.

As people trying to make sales there are two things that we need to learn from this;

1) The ‘soft sell’ approach

2) Return on investment

Soft sell

If the guy went straight up to the girl and asked her outright to come home with him, we would classify this as a ‘hard sell’ approach. Hard selling is essentially a numbers game. You set out your offer, if someone likes it they take you up on it and you make a sale, you then move on to the next person and make the same offer. If they say no you still move on to the next person and make the same offer and continue doing this. For this to work you need an easy to understand offer, an extremely large number of potential customers and very little desire to sell to the same customer again. Most independent shops have a large range of products, limited numbers of potential customers and do want to sell to the same customer as many times as possible, so the hard sell approach is not the right one. They should adopt a soft sell approach.

Soft selling is building a relationship with your customers, creating dialogue and establishing trust – in exactly the same way as the guy in the bar did when he got the girl’s number, bought her a drink then wined and dined her. Although his aim was pretty obvious to her from the start, he didn’t mention this and broke the process down into small phases, during which he built up the relationship.

For independent stores your aim could be to get customers to buy all their dog food, treats and accessories from your store. You could approach your potential customers either directly, via local advertising, via leaflet drops etc with the hard sell offer “Get everything for your dog at ABC Pet Store”. This is essentially the same as the guy going up to a girl in the bar and asking her to come home with him – it may work with a few people, but they are not the people that you want. These people are either very fickle, and will desert you for the next store that comes along, or they are just looking for a quick fix, such as cheaper prices.

The soft sell approach would be to approach your potential customers (either directly, via local advertising, via leaflet drops etc) with an offer like “Join the ABC Pet Store dog walking group” or “Come to a free talk on dog behaviour at ABC Pet Store”. On the walk or during the talk you would mention one or two new (preferably low cost) products that each customer may find useful. As they spend more time in the store and you get to know them better you will be able to advise them on more and more products that they will go on to buy and find useful. As they become accustomed to buying from you they will end up buying more and more, eventually buying all their food, treats and accessories from you – your initial aim. They will keep buying from you, even when another store comes along that offers cheaper prices because they trust you, get advice from you and believe in what you are offering. You will have an ongoing relationship with the customer and that is hard to break.

Return on investment (ROI)

ROI is the amount of returns (i.e. sales) that you get from in investment (i.e. a press advert). A high ROI means that you get high returns for the amount that you spend. Returns are normally measured as sales, but can be sign ups to a facebook group, email addresses collected or anything else you set out as your aim. Investment is generally the amount of money that you spend to achieve your aim, but can also be other factors, such as time spent working.

With the hard sell approach you get a relatively consistent ROI. The more investment that you put into trying to get a sale, the more likely you are to make a sale. Back in the bar; the more girls that the guy asks to come home with him, the more likely one of them is to say yes. However we have identified that this is not a customer that you are likely to want to make a ‘return sale’ with. So after his sale is complete he is back to square one and has to find new ‘potential customers’ to ‘sell his offer’ to.

With the soft sell approach the initial investment is higher in terms of both money and time (drinks, food and dates) and the return is lower (initially probably just a kiss on the cheek). However over time the ratio of investment (nice dinners, presents) to returns (nights spent with the girl) changes and the ROI becomes significantly higher… especially when they get to the ‘night in with a takeaway stage’!

The same is true with the soft sell approach in your store. The initial investment is high (the cost to market the dog walking club at your store) and the initial return is low (maybe they buy a bag of treats). However as your relationship with the customer develops they will buy more and more, whilst your investment in them becomes less and less. Therefore, over time, you get a very high return on the investment you put into each individual customer. A higher ROI means more profit, which you can then spend building relationships with more customers. As a store you can build profitable relationships with many customers which offer high ROI. This is not something that the guy in the bar should do, as it is likely to have a negative effect on his initial investment!