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This Is The Year

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Ellen Fruchtman provides three resolutions you’d be crazy not to keep ? and they have nothing to do with losing weight.

EVERYONE STARTS a new year with great intentions. We’ll eat a little less, exercise a little more, set aside time for ourselves and focus on completing a host of other well-intentioned no-way-am-I-ever-going-to-do-this personal goals. But how many of you actually take the time to prepare a few business resolutions? Here are my top three for 2006: 

RESOLUTION #1 
LEARN EVERYTHING ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS

Where do they like to shop, travel, spend their free time? If you find out, you’ll be able to have events or create cross promotions that meet their interests. Separate your customers into tiers ? your version of good, better and best. Design programs to move the good to better, the better to best and the best to even better! It is far easier and more cost-efficient to move these customers up the ladder than to attract new ones.  

HOW TO DO IT: Ask a couple of survey questions every time a customer communicates with you through an e-mail, direct mail response or through point-of-sale data gathering promotions. Or use an outside direct-marketing partner to create a profile of each of your separate customer groups. 

RESOLUTION #2  
ADD DIRECT-MARKETING TO YOUR MIX

Targeting the right customer is the most important piece of the equation. Next is the offer. What can you do to entice customers to your store? And last is the actual creative message to get them there.  
The return will be directly attributed to all three. Think of broadcast as your air assault and direct as your ground attack. Just as you would never run one commercial on the air, you need to remember the importance of frequency with direct marketing as well. 

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HOW TO DO IT: Use a professional list broker to find mail-responsive households with demographics that match your customer groups, or create a modeled database of the households that look most like your customers.  
You should be willing to spend a minimum of $150 per thousand people for responsive, targeted data. The list will determine 40 percent of the response. Another 40 percent is due to the offer. The remaining 20 percent is due to elements like copy, package and graphics.  

Your offer should speak specifically to your recipients, and you should consider different offers for different customer groups, even during the same promotion. A Valentine’s Day event might encourage sales of $350 or more to receive a free gift for customers who historically spend $150, and sales of $200-plus to receive a special premium for those customers who have always spent below $150. 

RESOLUTION #3  
EMBRACE THE INTERNET

No more excuses. Pinpoint an existing staff member who can be your Internet sales associate. Don’t have one? Then hire one! If you don’t have a site, make this your resolution to get one up. And if you have one, make sure it’s updated on a regular basis. Then don’t overlook the importance of marketing that site.  

HOW TO DO IT: Whether it’s an e-commerce site or an extension of your showroom, your dedicated employee needs to virtually handhold your customers through their online shopping experience via e-newsletters and individual e-mails or instant messages to provide online customers with the best possible customer service. Your website efforts should focus on three basic rules: drive, engage and retain.  

Drive customers and prospects to your site through promotions and pay-per-click search. Engage them with product details and content. And retain information about them through special offers and e-newsletter sign-ups. 

Truth be told, this business New Year’s resolution list could go on. But, who am I to lecture about sticking to goals? I’ve lost and gained the same 20 pounds and promised to hire that personal trainer at least six times in 2005. This year. This year ….

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