Invite customers investmentToday's customers have an infinite amount of choices. Thanks to the internet and mobile, they can shop while waiting at the doctor's office or in line at the DMV. They can crowdsource their friends' opinions about a purchase while in your store. They can research products and services and know everything from feature differences to price range before ever starting to shop. So, you can't just wait for them to show up at your door. You need to invite them in. In many different ways.

Invite on socialBefore the sale: invite them into your community. Use social and digital tools to connect with potential customers ahead of their purchase cycle. How? Invite them in with useful content. Give them tips and helpful bits that will improve their lives a little. But make sure they're relevant to what you do. If you sell party supplies, give them tips on how to throw a great party.Give them reasons to be a part of your community, so when they're ready to buy, you are top of mind.

Researching the sale: invite them into your company's resources. When a customer is thinking about a purchase, they will most likely do some research online. Make sure you have all your product specs and uses online. Put together a full FAQ section on your website with all the most common questions and continue to add to it as you see new questions or options arise. Put together SEO and SEM campaigns so when they do a search your store comes up both organically and with paid ads.

Sales messageIntent to buy: invite them in with offers. Now a customer has made the decision to buy. Invite them in to shop your store by offering them a good deal. Show them a better price. Give them a coupon that will drive them into the store. This is the promotional phase of your business and marketing plan. Make sure you are sending customers offers that will drive them into your store rather than someplace else. And the more directly you can invite them – via retargeting, direct marketing or one-to-one communications, the better. This is where using your data can really help.

Shopping phase – invite them in to your store. Despite all the online research and buying done these days, it's still important that your store appeals to the passerby and the person who walks in your door. make sure your store is inviting, that it makes your key customers feel welcome and comfortable shopping there. Make it easy to find what they want and clearly show the value offered there. This can be how your store is laid out, your point of sale materials, how the sales staff interacts with customers, what merchandise you feature up front – all of it has to work together to invite your customers in.

Come againPost sale – invite them back. We all know it's easier (and less expensive) to get a return customer than a new one. Make sure the salesperson leaves them feeling good about the experience. Make sure you get some data on the customer so you can sent them incentives to come back again. Or better yet give them one at the point of sale – like Kohl s does with their Kohl's cash which is money they can spend on a followup visit. Also, invite them to write a review, which will in turn, invite other new customers into your community.

With all the choices and tools available to customers these days, you can just sit back and hope they come. You need to invite them in at every phase of the sales cycle. But you need to do it in a friendly, helpful way. Today's consumer, especially the millennials, are hard sales tactic averse. Be helpful, but persistent. Give them reasons to stay connected and show value both in being connected and in buying from you. So, how are you inviting your customer in? 

Mike McClureMike McClure, inviting you to share your comments with me.

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  • Great post!, especially for the “Millennials” and ‘YYers’ and ‘OKers’, who comeback and leave and comeback and leave, etc. during this process! A community is always in flux!

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