The fall and winter men’s wear catalogue from a national retailer, printed on heavy paper with fantastic photos, arrived the other day. My father-in-law called to tell me about a great deal on prime rib at a store that was competing aggressively with holiday turkeys. My web browsers keep showing advertisements for items I’ve looked at on retail websites (yes, it’s creepy).
This article isn’t about passively increasing revenues. This article is about how you can manufacture revenues in your retail, service, and, yes, manufacturing business. It’s all about being proactive and getting personal with your best customers and clients.
Being Proactive Is Being Personal
I hear from my three favourite men’s clothing stores as follows. One, twice a year when I get their note cards in the mail for their big seasonal sales in January and July. The second one sends me two creative catalogues every year and an occasional email announcing their sales. The third one, I never hear from at all, but I do drive by them twice a day. They all have big sales twice a year, so that’s when I usually buy.
Note: email is not considered to be communicating with your customers and clients. A busy person that receives 50 or 100 emails or more per day isn’t excited to receive a promotional email from you. I know I’m not.
What would it cost any of the clothing stores to have one of their sales people, or even the owner, who all know me by name, to call me and invite me down to see something new that they think I would like? (Hint: I would like a new Canada Goose parka, all black, no fur, and lots of pockets to hold camera lenses.)
It doesn’t cost anything to call your best customers. It takes time and courage to pick up the phone. They’ve got the time; not sure about the courage. Perhaps surfing on bookface is more interesting for them, but it doesn’t generate revenue.
Many businesses spend enormous sums of money advertising to get non-customers to become new customers. They’re trying to overcome inertia. Newton’s first law is that an object at rest will remain at rest and an object in motion will remain in motion. Therefore, according to Newton, if you want to sell more stuff, you should be marketing to your customers who are already buying from you. They are already in motion: they know you, like you, trust you, and how to buy from you.
These lessons for the retail industry also apply to service and manufacturing industries. Here are the action steps to manufacture revenues in your business.
- Identify your best customers. Any accounting software will give you a customer sales summary. Export this to excel, sort by largest to smallest, run a cumulative percentage, and voila, your customers are ranked by sales and identified for your team to call.
- Act like a consultant. Think about two or three things that would help your customer to look better, carry more lenses without lugging a camera bag, increase their capacity by outsourcing part of their manufacturing process to you (a non-competitor), increase their speed by reducing bottle-necks and time wasters in their process, have you service the air conditioner or furnace before it breaks down (and you can level your workload), or plan their next quarter’s capacity and sales. Sitting and thinking, instead of reacting to emails, is the hardest part. Coming up with ideas, especially during a conversation, is easy and fun.
- Show up. Make an appointment. Take someone for lunch. Drop by for coffee. Connect with people. It’s easy to stand out in today’s high tech world by showing up.
- Focus and be present. Ask questions. Listen. Think. Then, respond.
Here is a skill testing question. How much of your sales revenue is generated from reactively taking a customer’s order compared to your proactive activities?
Being proactive and being personal are guaranteed to help you manufacture revenues in any business. Full speed ahead!
Phil is the president of Symco & Co., a management consulting firm that helps mid-market companies to double their revenues, profits, and valuation. He can be reached at 306-992-6177 or firstname.lastname@example.org.