If you want to increase sales, you can either get your current customers to buy more, or find new people to sell to (or perhaps do both).
Start by looking at your current customers to see what potential there is for increasing sales. Ask yourself:
- What proportion of your customers make repeat purchases?
- How frequently do these people make repeat purchases?
- How much effort do you spend on retaining current customers compared to finding new ones?
It is generally much cheaper to retain existing customers than it is to find and win new customers. This means that you should consider how to increase sales to existing customers before looking for new customers.
When you are thinking about the value of a customer to your business, think of them as an ‘income stream’ rather than as a series of individual sales. So, for example, if a customer buys a coffee every week, think of them as someone who contributes $5 per week or even $260 per year to sales revenue. Instead of thinking about what you can do to make an individual sale, think about what you can do to keep this person coming back – to keep the income stream flowing.
Ideas to Increase Sales to Current Customers
There are many ways to increase sales to current customers. Here are some ideas:
- Develop your sales process beyond the sale. Always remember that an effective sales process goes well beyond the payment stage. Focus your attention on managing your overall relationship with the customer: they will keep coming back as long as you meet their needs at every step of the sales process – including their experience past the point of purchase.
- Use social media to maintain interest. Try to get your customers to follow you on social media. Once they are there, don’t use your social media page to push sales. Instead, keep it social – post interesting content, and engage and interact with your followers. This will maintain awareness of your business and help build an ongoing relationship.
- Upsell. Look for opportunities to offer more to your customers. This could involve selling a ‘package deal’ instead of a single item, offering add-ons, complementary products, better versions of products, or even signing them up to a plan.
- Offer sales incentives to staff. Motivate your sales staff by offering them incentives. However, be careful – their focus should be on maintaining customers. Pushing a customer to buy something they don’t really want, will drive customers away.
- Give customers incentives. Give customers an incentive for buying more than they usually would. Consider loyalty plans where the amount of the customer discount increases once they have purchased above a certain sales volume, offer a free gift with some purchases, or offer a prize draw.
- Hold a special event for loyal customers. Reward customers who purchase from you on a regular basis by holding a special event. You can do this even if you have an online business. For example, you could make a sale available to certain customers for a few days before it is made available to the general public.
- Get to know your customers better. Simply put in the work to really get to know your customers and understand their needs. When you talk to your customers, you may identify that there are products and services they need, which you currently do not offer, but could easily offer.
- Use targeted promotions. Instead of using the same promotional material for all customers, design your promotions so each customer only receives the promotions which are relevant to them. This could be based on their past buying behaviour, location, or even their personal characteristics. It is easier to do this if you use technology such as automation software, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and email marketing services.
How Can Technology Help?
New technologies offer opportunities for your business to increase sales to current customers, as well as to potential new customers. Most of these opportunities involve using software and the internet.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is used to manage customer information and then use this information to develop and maintain an ongoing relationship with the customer. In addition to increasing sales to each customer, it can help provide customers receive a better overall experience from your business. This is because it allows you to personalise and target your communications so it is relevant and appealing to customers.
Your business gathers information during your interactions with customers. This information can come from many points of contact, including:
- when customers click on your online advertising
- when customers interact with a social media post, perhaps by ‘liking’ it or commenting on it
- when you make a sale to a customer
- when customers make phone or email inquiries
- when customers respond to surveys
- when customers make customer service requests
- when customers make complaints
A CRM system collects this information and makes it easy for you to access and use the information. It allows you and any member of your staff (who you allow access to the software) to know the past sales history and interactions with each customer, and therefore provide them with a high level of service. Even when you employ someone new, they will be able to interact with a customer as if they have been assisting them for years.
You can also use the information in a CRM system to target your promotions to particular customers. For example, if the system shows that, a customer usually purchases a particular product brand, the system can recognise this and send out relevant marketing materials whenever new arrivals of the particular brand come into stock. Effective CRM means you can take control of your relationship with customers to maximise sales.
CRM systems are also very useful in securing new customers. For example, if someone clicks on your advertising or makes an inquiry – creating a lead – the system can be set up to make sure that the lead is followed up in a timely manner.
A few examples of CRM systems are:
One way to choose a CRM system is to first find out what software options integrate with your accounting software. If you use MYOB, Xero, or Reckon, you can do this using the following links:
Automation software can be used to make some processes happen automatically. This is extremely useful when it comes to maintaining the relationships you have with your customers. It is also very useful if you would like to target promotions and communications to particular customers. How it works is that you set it up to do a particular task if (and only if) a particular event or action occurs. For instance, the software may be instructed to send customer a ‘thank you email’ with a voucher attached if they make a purchase over a certain value. This will happen automatically when the sale is made.
One of the great benefits of some automation software is that it can integrate with other software, including software which does not usually integrate together. Consider the situation where you are choosing a CRM system and an inventory system – it makes sense that both of these systems will work together with your accounting software. After all, each time a new sale is made, inventory records should be updated and the sale details recorded in the CRM system. In the same way, it helps if other software such as forms on your website, your email services, and survey software can integrate. Automation software can make this happen.
Here are a few examples of how you can use automation software to automate processes and integrate software:
- When a potential customer fills out a form on your website, the software can instruct an email response to immediately be sent to the person, while also entering customer details into the sales pipeline of your CRM system.
- When a potential customer is entered into the CRM system, their details can automatically be set up in your accounting software (ready for you to invoice them once they make a purchase).
- A customer who makes an online purchase and ‘opts in’ to your email list can be automatically added to your Mailchimp database.
- If a customer clicks on a product photo in a promotional email, two days later they can automatically be sent an email which showcases that particular product.
- If a new customer makes a purchase, they can be sent a ‘welcome’ email along with a discount voucher which is valid for a short period of time (thus encouraging them to make another purchase very soon).
Automation software does the work involved in managing customer information and doing so in a timely manner. It allows you to ensure customers are only sent information and promotions that are relevant to them, thus improving the customer experience. In addition to improving efficiency, it frees you up so you can dedicate more time to the parts of the sales process that need an actual person. This allows you to effectively manage a larger number of customers at the same time.
Examples of automation systems are:
This is a kind of direct marketing where you send marketing materials to potential customers by email. It is a good way to stay in touch with customers and to let them know about offers they may be interested in. Although you can send individual emails, this is usually impractical and time consuming.
A better option is to use a bulk email service, such as MailChimp. These services have a range of templates which enable you to easily design emails which look professional. Emails are cheap to design and send—usually costing only time. MailChimp’s free option, for example, lets you send up to 12,000 emails per month to a database of up to 2,000 customers. Messages can be scheduled to be sent at any time.
It is a good idea to use an email service together with automation software. This will help you to maintain an up-to-date distribution list, and will also help to target emails to those customers who are most likely to respond to them. For example, automation software can instruct a specific email to only be sent to customers on your list who have taken a certain action – such as indicated on a web form that they are interested in a particular product, or clicked on a particular link in a previous email. This means that each person on the list will receive the emails which are likely to be of most interest to them, and they should then be more likely to open your emails and take action.
When sending out an email promotion, make sure you make it:
- Interesting. You want the people who receive your emails to actually open them. To do this, make sure your ‘subject line’ will grab their attention and make them want to find out what’s inside.
- Personal. Make sure you use the name (and perhaps other details) of the person receiving the email.
- Valuable. Make sure your email is worth opening. Every email needs to provide something of value or your emails will start to be ignored.
Factor to Consider
If you are going to use email marketing, you must consider the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007. This makes it illegal for you to send a commercial email to anyone who has not consented to receiving it and requires you to provide a functional facility for people to be able to unsubscribe from the distribution list. Note that the law also applies to other forms of electronic message such as texts and social media messages.
Social Media Marketing
Since most New Zealanders use one or more social media services, consider using social media as a tool to increase sales to both current customers and potential new ones.
Social media can be used as part of your marketing in the following ways:
- If you can get customers to ‘follow’ you on social media, it allows you to keep in contact, create engagement, and build better relationships with them.
- You can increase sales by letting customers know about new products, events, or promotions.
- You can purchase paid advertisements on social media networks and target these advertisements so they are only shown to certain audiences.
- You can place a ‘tracker’ on your website that can be used to target social media advertisements to social media users who have visited your website.
- Some social media services integrate online shopping services. You can also just make posts showing products and add a link to your website or contact information so that customers can buy them.
Which Social Media Services Should You Use?
The graph below shows the most popular services in New Zealand. Note that, whilst YouTube is used most often, it is video-based, and for many businesses, the main way to use it is through paid advertising. Other services such as Facebook and Instagram offer more scope for most businesses to connect with audiences.
Factor to Consider
Don’t make the mistake of trying to use too many social platforms at once. It’s best to start with just one, and when you’ve got the hang of it, and if it’s getting results, think about expanding to another. Even if you are a social media pro, don’t use more platforms than you can realistically manage on an ongoing basis.
When choosing which services to use, first find out which services your target market use. Facebook is used by people of all age groups, but younger people are often not as active on it as they are on other platforms. Other services, such as Instagram, have a younger user base, while Pinterest’s user base is mostly female.
- Facebook. This is the world’s most popular social network with about 2.2 billion users (about 30% of the world’s population). You can start your own page, which can be followed and commented on by other users. For example, you can promote new products or run competitions for your followers. You can also create events and invite people to attend them.
- Twitter. This service allows you to share very short posts called ‘tweets’ with people who follow you. Other users can then ‘retweet’ them to their own followers (with or without comments). For example, you can promote specials. Twitter has about 330 million users.
- Instagram. A photo (and short video) sharing platform. Users can take photos and videos, which are then shared with followers. This is very useful for letting customers see your products and is a popular option for businesses in the fashion and entertainment industries. Instagram has 800 million active users.
- YouTube. A video site, where users are able to follow each other. For example, you can post how-to videos or product demonstrations, or simply create paid advertisements which are shown on other users’ videos. YouTube has about 1.5 billion users.
- LinkedIn. A social network for business users. It is not useful for communicating with the general public. Instead, it is for connecting to customers that are businesses, networking with other business owners, keeping up to date with industry news, and connecting with potential employees and contractors. LinkedIn has 467 million users.
What Should You Post on Social Media?
Below are some things to keep in mind when posting on social media.
- Post regularly. Effective use of social media requires you to make regular posts – never leave a social media account idle for long periods. Post at least a few times a week, but don’t overwhelm your followers by posting more than once a day.
- Don’t go for the ‘hard sell’. Social media is about being ‘social’. Focus on building a relationship and adding value to your offering. Don’t just focus on selling (although this is appropriate when using paid advertisements).
- Make meaningful connections. You need to build trust with your customers. They’re more likely to become regulars if they know you care about what they think and feel.
- It’s not all about promotion. You can comment on other topics of interest to your audience. You can follow businesses similar to yours to see what they’re doing well.
- Try to avoid commenting on current events. Don’t get involved in political debates. And don’t encourage followers to like other pages unless you are certain it isn’t going to damage your reputation or offend followers.
- Vary your content. Use different types of content to get the attention of different customers. Videos and images are more engaging than text-based posts.
- Repurpose your content. It’s not necessary for you to come up with completely new content for each individual platform you choose to use. However, there should also be some reason for people to follow you on more than one platform. Some differences in content will reward your followers, and encourage them to follow you elsewhere.
- Keep your content short. Make sure your posts are snappy and ‘snackable’. Social media is consumed in small doses so you need to be careful not to bore readers.
- Make your content easy to find. That is, it needs to be searchable. You can do this by using ‘key words’ and things like ‘hashtags’ that people will be searching for.
- Make sure your content is something people will want to share with their friends. Social media is about your followers doing much of the work for you.
- Be responsive. When a customer (potential or existing) comments on, likes, or questions your business, respond quickly and thoughtfully. This will help you to engage with your customer base and build brand loyalty.
- Incentives. You can use social media to offer incentives such as competitions, special offers, and free samples.
- Link to your website. If you have a business website, use social media to drive customers towards it.
- Proofread. Read over any posts to make sure they make sense or aren’t likely to be misinterpreted by readers. Double-check your spelling. Ask a staff member or friend to read it before posting.
Paid Social Media Advertising Campaigns
Paid advertising using social media is a good way to attract members of your target audience and increase sales. You can pay for:
- Boosting some of your most popular posts, so that they reach a greater audience than just people who follow your business account.
- Advertisements that appear in people’s newsfeeds (or ‘timelines’), in YouTube videos, or in the side bars of social media sites.
The main advantage of paid advertising on social media is that you can make use of its targeting features. Social media services ‘know’ a lot about the demographics, tastes, and interests of their users. This allows you to precisely target your advertisements at the people you really want to see them. For example, you can create an advertisement which is only shown to people who live in a certain town, are in a certain age bracket, and who have specific interests. You can even target your advertisement to only be shown to people who have visited your website before, and are therefore familiar with your business (or are perhaps already customers).
Another advantage of paid advertising on social media is you can work with a small budget. You could, for example, set a budget of $10 per day for a certain number of days, or a total budget of $100, and then only choose to increase your budget if you are seeing results.
Examples of social media advertising services include sponsored ads on Facebook, promoted tweets on Twitter, carousel ads on Instagram, display ads on LinkedIn, and snap ads on Snapchat. Below is a list of links to the advertising pages of some of the main social media services:
Facebook for Business (https://www.facebook.com/business) shows you how to set up a business page and how to undertake advertising on Facebook. The two are tied together. While your page helps people connect with your business, Facebook ads can help them discover your business.
You will be able to measure the effectiveness of your social media posts and advertisements through feedback about the number of people who see the posts, and the number of clicks, likes, retweets, and other engagements the posts get.
In addition, you can analyse the effectiveness of your social media presence using ‘analytics’. It is particularly important to do this for paid advertising. For instance, you could test several advertisements, each using a small budget for a limited time, in order to decide which advertisement to use as part of your main campaign.
Some analytics packages cost money, but there are free options available. For example:
- Facebook Insights lets you track interaction on your Facebook page. From this you can determine things like the best time of day to post and what type of content is popular. Facebook Insights can be accessed from a tab on your business’s profile page.
- LinkedIn also has an analytics tab. This can provide you with metrics and trends about your business page, as well as about reader engagement. If you’re using paid advertising on LinkedIn to boost posts, you can compare the level of interaction with that of posts you haven’t paid for.
- Google Analytics, while not focused on social media, can also be used to examine your social media activity. This includes the number of page views earned from social media links and how well your website and social media accounts are working together.
Social media is a cheap, effective, and easy-to-use way of maintaining a relationship with customers and encouraging them to buy more.
What Else Can You Offer?
An additional way to increase sales to current customers is to offer other products. Looking at complementary goods is a good place to start. For example, if your business sells lawnmowers, it might be a good idea to sell products and services that are associated with the use of lawn mowers such as gloves, weedeaters, oil, or replacement parts and mower servicing. This is called extending your product mix.
Look carefully at your target market. You might find that, in addition to the needs that are currently satisfied by your business, they have other needs in common as well. It can therefore be a good strategy to allow them to satisfy all those needs at the same time, at your business. It follows that you should spend some time looking for products that satisfy needs associated with products you are selling. You may be able to expand your offerings to take advantage of the fact that you already have them coming in to buy one of these types of products.
Consider selling add-ons for products you already sell. For example, a business that sells outdoor barbecues could also start selling LPG cylinders, an exterior house cleaning service could add pest-control spraying services, or a business which sells windows for residential houses could offer to add a tint to window panes. One strategy is to keep the price of the main product reasonable, and make a higher profit margin off the ‘add-ons’ – once a customer has already committed to the price of the main product or service, they typically don’t give as much thought to the cost of all the ‘extras’.
When you need to discover what customers want, build the question into your sales process, conduct market research, look at what other businesses are doing, or just ask – e.g. you can post discussion questions and ask for ideas on social media.
Factors to Consider
Just because customers want something does not mean it makes business sense for you to provide it. You should carefully consider the pros and cons of adding to your product mix. There are many factors to consider, including:
- Are the profit margins sufficient to make it worth your while?
- Will it take time away from, or damage, your core business?
- Do you have the knowledge and right staff to extend your product mix in this way?
- Will customers buy the new product instead of the main (i.e. more profitable) product?