Happy Birthday! Let’s Both Receive A Present

Everyone has a birthday. Whether they own up to that fact anymore… well, that’s another story.

Since ‘everyone’ also includes your clientele, let’s consider giving you both a gift for their birthday. Here’s what I mean:

I once had a very, very savvy business man as an employer. Unfortunately, I’m also savvy, and our collective savvy didn’t gel too well. To be fair to him, I was sixteen, and more cocky than I should have been. This particular employer, however, was a genius when it came to getting bodies in the door, and cash in the registers. To be frank, I still admire a number of his business strategies. One of which has stuck with me for decades. It was called The Birthday Club.

The Birthday Club functioned thusly: when a customer checked out, they were asked if they were a member of The Birthday Club. When we started doing this, of course, no one was. But the tactic was to immediately inquire as though it were something that had been there for some time and that they had, somehow, just missed.

If they said, no, then we asked if they would like to become one. If they said yes, then we left them alone and moved on. As far as the ‘no’s’ went, they usually followed up with an astute inquiry of their own: “What is The Birthday Club?”

The Birthday Club began with a form. It required a name, address, and birth date. It also allowed the customer to choose any of a number of extremely precise check boxes of the things in the store that they typically purchased, or were interested in. Finally, it offered them a place for their own thoughts, ideas, and suggestions.

What we received over the months, and subsequent years, was a deluge of information. We knew what percentage of our customers liked ‘X’ product, which ones liked ‘Y’, and so on. We learned which areas of the store were ripe for expansion, or due for contraction. We also learned about new things to carry in everyday stock (rather than special order, which we also gladly accommodated), based on their suggestions.

When it came time for a sale, we targeted customers on their personal interest categories via mail. We could also gain a concise awareness of what neighborhoods these folks were predominantly from, to hang on to, should we ever choose to employ it.

“But what did they receive, in return for all of this awesome data?” you might ask. They received a letter, two weeks prior to their birthday. By presenting this letter for forfeiture during a transaction in the store, they were afforded a 15% discount on anything they bought – sale items included.

On the surface, this seems a little crazy. But here’s what’s REALLY crazy: A customer who would normally make a $10.00 purchase now made a $100.00 purchase. And the $100.00 regulars would often break the four digit barrier without blinking an eye. High-dollar items that tended to languish would disappear during these binges and, in the end, we ended up making more profit – dollar wise – on their visit than we would have on their normal ones. Sometimes, folks would even bring along a cousin, or friend, and buy stuff on their behalf with the letter within the same transaction. And we let them, because while it meant a leaner margin, it also meant more raw dollars in product moved.

And this is why it was such a resounding success. The owner elected to eliminate all the strings attached, in return for information that was exceedingly useful to him. In this day and age, it would be an even more useful tool. Why? Because with the advent of e-mail, you’d save on stamps, could broadcast to an e-mailing list about sales and events, and on and on. And the customer would gladly allow this intrusion because their participation in the club demanded it, and there was no way they were going to give up that sizable discount on anything once a year in lieu of the small inconvenience of receiving an e-mail once in a while.

Of course, this idea worked very well for the business model it was used in. Your business model may not be applicable to this precise formulation of the idea. But if you take the time to consider it within the constraints that your business model poses, I can’t help but think that you could come up with a silver bullet version of your own.

So: Are you a member of The Birthday Club?


~ by digitalninjasmedia on December 12, 2011.

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