When's the last time you bought anything and were sincerely thanked? And I don't mean the worn out clich "Thank you for shopping at K-Mart" phrase. What I'm looking for is a genuine, sincere, heartfelt thanks. How do your frontline people get that message across?

     What's the single most important marketing tool you have at your disposal and fail to use? Your collection of your customer's names addresses and phone numbers. This data is known as your mailing list. Your mailing list is the lifeblood of your business. If I came to your town to compete with you the first thing I would do is get your mailing list. With that information I would mail your customers unbelievable offers and discounts until they tried my product. After they tried my product, I would follow up with lower liability preferred discounts until they became my loyal customers. I would spend every dollar I could get my hands on. Why would I do this? Why not just send out tens of thousands of fliers? First of all, fliers are perceived as junk mail. They are an effective way to get awareness of your operation, but a huge majority ends up in the round file. Secondly, I want your customer. We already know that this person spends a lot of money on pizza per year. This is the family I want to convince to switch from you, to me. This accomplishes two things. It makes me richer, and you poorer. Isn't this what marketing is all about? If you wouldn't want me, or your biggest competitor, mailing your customers, then why wouldn't you be the first to do it? There isn't a prize for finishing second in the pizza wars.

     Currently we are in a technology explosion. Your shop is either high-tech or low-tech. You either hand write orders or use a POS system. If you aren't computerized, you will be. Great systems track every sale and tell you when a customer starts buying, how much they've spent with you, if they have stopped buying and personal taste preferences. This is the stuff relationships are built on. All of the data is at hand, unless you are throwing your order slips in the dumpster every couple of days. Who visits your dumpster in the middle of the night and looks for your lifeblood? You say it doesn't happen. After all, its abandoned property. What about those register to win slips that your customers fill out and put in fish bowls on your counter. Where do those slips end up? You should be nervous by now. Guard your mailing list and never let it leave your control.

     My wife and I buy all of our shoes at Miller Shoes in East Tawas, MI. I have been blessed with huge feet, so driving 20 miles is not unusual. Size fourteen wide is not an option at very many places. Every time we purchase a pair of shoes from Aggie, Dawn or Cliff a memorable thing happens. We get a hand written, thank you post card in the mail. I'm a loyal customer. Pizza and shoes have a lot in common. People have to touch your feet; people have to touch your food. Make it a personal thing. Let them know that you are going to make sure you will be ecstatic after the sale and never feel forgotten. Satisfied customers will buy pizza and shoes anywhere, they will sell you out for a dollar. Loyal customers will fight before they switch, tell other people, in this case 50,000 people, and not beat you down on price. Standing out from your competition is as simple as getting your crew sitting down with a pen and a stack of cards and mailing out a hundred cards a day. For the price of two large pizzas you could be developing customers for life. Good service is a feeling, and you know when you get it.

Contact Big Dave Ostrander at 888-BIG-DAVE, or bigdave@bigdaveostrander.com, if you or your company has any consulting, speaking, or training needs.