Dance with who brought you

The old business maxim holds that it costs five times as much to find a new customer as it does to keep an existing one. Whether or not that 5-to-1 ratio is always accurate, it is certainly true that an ongoing effort to prospect past customers will yield positive results in a cost-effective way.

“We believe the key to dealing with economic challenges is to plan ahead,” say Gary and Chris Poole, owners of Buckeye Marine, located in Bobcaygeon, Ontario. “With this in mind, in order to prepare for the looming economic challenges, we made a concerted effort to keep in touch with our current base through service satisfaction, event marketing and e-mail campaigns.” Those efforts have resulted in increased loyalty and sales, Buckeye reported.

At Massachusetts’ Bosun’s Marine, the company focused on its customer base in creating a Demo Days Weekend that gave its sales efforts an important shot in the arm. Bosun’s didn’t spend a lot of money on advertising the event but instead called, e-mailed and wrote to six years of past boat buyers and re-contacted every lead it had been working for the last two.

The dealership didn’t set up many appointments, but encouraged people to drop by and go for a ride. As a result, Bosun’s sold nine boats and had made progress in selling four more within the first 10 days after the event.

“Yes, times are tough, but doggone it, some people are tired of all the negativity and are ready to get on with their lives and have some fun,” says Tim Leedham, president and owner of Bosun’s. “Sometimes it just takes a little extra friendly pushing to get them to see it for themselves.”

Singleton Marine Group, based in Dadeville, Ala., is also proactively working with its former customers, calling past boat buyers with guaranteed trade numbers that can be applied to a new boat of their choosing. The company says it is concentrating on customer retention and referrals.

Prospecting current and past customers can be as simple as creating and distributing an e-newsletter. A monthly or quarterly newsletter will keep customers informed of upcoming events or initiatives and gets the word out about special offers and promotions. It’s inexpensive and generates a great return on investment.

It’s also important not to assume that customers are aware of all your business has to offer. Action Water Sports in Hudsonville, Mich., has created new service revenue by taking the simple step of having its service writer go through a checklist of its service offerings every time customers bring a boat in to be worked on to see if they are interested in having any other work done as well.

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