Dittmar: Potential customers are key to success
Not long ago, I visited a restaurant in Brandon with a friend. Neither of us had ever been there, and we were eager to try a place we’d heard so many wonderful things about. We were shown to a nice booth in the back and handed menus to peruse. The hostess didn’t offer to get our drink order, but we figured the server would be by shortly. Fifteen minutes later, no one had come to check on us, even though other customers who came in after us were being served their salads. Needless to say, we simply got up and walked out. We didn’t say anything to anyone. We just walked out. Neither the hostess nor the manager will ever know why but they lost us as potential customers for good. Can your business afford that?Most business owners and managers have long, relationship-building conversations with their existing customers. These savvy business people might even consider it “research” to find out what their customers like about their products or services so they can continue to provide them with the same great stuff. We often go back to tried and true customers for reaffirmation that our product and services are worth buying. To which I say, “Hurray!” But don’t stop there. That doesn’t tell us what we’re not doing right or how we can improve. If someone at the restaurant I mentioned earlier had stopped us as we went out the door – and the hostess did see us leave – they would know they had a service issue needing correction. This may sound counterproductive but don’t waste time researching people who buy your wares. Instead, research the people who have considered buying from you but either didn’t or went elsewhere. That’s where you’ll find gold! Did you lose them on price or due to being out of stock? Was your service lousy or was your selection of product limited? How do you know? By finding out why you didn’t get the sale, you can either work to get your product improved, your delivery improved, re-work your needs analysis or otherwise fix what went wrong. Here at the chamber we are often given constructive criticism on everything from the format of our e-newsletter to the process of paying dues online. If our members don’t tell us how we can improve, we don’t know there’s an issue. Here is a bit of shocking news for you. Your No. 1 job is not to take care of existing customers. Your No. 1 job is to acquire more customers. Oh, sure, taking care of existing customers is a close second. But getting new comes first. Otherwise, you’ll be out of business in four to six years. Do the math … seriously. You’ll see it’s true. Recently the chamber went over its 500 milestone in total membership. Sure, we could rest on our laurels, but we know that for various reasons, some members won’t renew next year. Of course, our job is to take care of those that do stay. But if we don’t continually get new ones to join, we will dwindle back down and not have the financial resources to provide the services and support we do to our local businesses. So find out why you didn’t get the sale, and turn the reason into your biggest success story.