By John Matthews, founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc.
Customer Appreciation Days are excellent ways to attract consumers that have similar backgrounds or interests. Honoring your best customers with a distinctive recognition day is a terrific way to create a “call-to-action” for specific selected groups. Whether it is for school personnel or administrative assistants or simply a customer appreciation day that thanks all of your patrons, customer recognition days can spur sales for your store.
Creating a memorable day for a specific targeted customer creates a “team” mentality—attracting groups of customers that may come to your store simply for the team camaraderie. Examples such as “Administrative Assistants” Day and “ABC Company” Day are powerful ways to target specific customer groups. Your target customer groups depend upon your specific store and the key customer groups that make up your three-mile trade area.
Customer Appreciation Days can target different customer groups throughout the year, or you can concentrate on one customer group and repeat its customer recognition day once per quarter. Your goal should be to create initial interest from a group that allows individuals to try out your store in a non-intimidating fashion. Hopefully, once they visit your store in the comfort of their friends, they will be more inclined to come back as individual shoppers in the future.
Combine Efforts: Customer Appreciation Days can be general in nature, whereby you recognize your entire customer base or you can target specific groups. Another option is to have Customer Appreciation Days that act essentially as a fundraiser: such as, for every order sold during a Customer Appreciation Day, a percentage of sales is donated to your selected local organization or charity. This is an excellent way to combine marketing efforts to maximize exposure in multiple areas.
Timing Is Everything: Whatever format you choose for your Customer Appreciation Days, be sure to schedule them on slower days in order to help augment sales and not detract from your store’s normal busy times. The groundswell of word-of-mouth advertising regarding your Customer Appreciation Days can sometimes replace any paid advertising you were planning to do. If you can backfill sales during notoriously slower time slots in your business, those additional sales can be the difference in hitting your sales projections or not.
Don’t Think About It, Do It: Identify at least four customer recognition days throughout the year to create “call-to-action” for customers. Plan on advertising in-store, out-of-store and through Local Store Marketing (LSM) beginning four weeks prior to the customer recognition day. The goal is to have target customer groups visit your store en masse. Plan at least four customer recognition days throughout the year.
Invest Wisely: Depending on whether you elect to do outside advertising, the cost is minimal based on bouncebacks, employee suggestion sales and other LSM items. Be sure to include the cost to print sign-up forms to capture customer database information. Set a target number of customers you wish to hit such as attracting 100 customers to your customer recognition day. Even at a 10% discount for each person that attends and if they each spent $10, your average ticket could yield $9 (for example) and a total sale of $900 (for that group only). That certainly helps to offset fixed expenses at the store and gets your P & L closer to its break-even in off-peak times.
A Means To An End: Keep a database of all customers who are affiliated with a specific group. Some of these customers may be key leaders within their networks (such as administrative assistants who are in charge of group ordering) and having their contact information allows you to target them in the future. The Customer Appreciation Day is like a marketing snowball—the initial event will continue to grow larger over time with individual customers being germinated from the event.
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries. With more than 20 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.