In today’s competitive environment, it’s important that aftermarket retailers maintain the lines of communication with their customers, promote new products and employ new and varied selling strategies.
As a close observer of RV businesses over the years I keep bumping up against the same factors that cause failure or keep RV Pros from realizing the great opportunity in this industry. Without exception, every time I discuss business with another RV Pro that is “busy” in their business they are failing to see the big picture. While there are many reasons that RV Pros fail, these five are often at the core of a business in trouble.
- Too few customer selling contacts
- Too few new products
- Too few new employees
- Too little variation in selling offers
- Too little customer talk
Too Few Customer Selling Contacts
Selling to customers is the easiest sale that any RV Pro can make. Most RV Pros do not contact their customers with compelling offers often enough. Most businesses have another business of comparable size hiding within their customer base. To realize that business it is necessary to sell more often to existing customers in innovative and creative ways.
This does not mean merely sending a brochure, a postcard, or making another sales call by phone. Increasing customer selling contacts means developing new access points for the customers such as the Internet. The RV business is still way behind in using the Internet as a customer access point.
To correct this problem, define 10 new ideas or concepts for product applications and 10 new ways to tell your story to your customers. Determine your selling ratio between customers and prospects. If your ratio isn’t close to 50/50 you have sales hiding in your customer base.
Too Few New Products
Too many RV Pros carry the same old products from year to year. They never research various new products in the industry and inquire to learn about them. Researching or developing new products is an ongoing strategy that can keep a business moving forward and growing.
When you don’t have new and innovative products to offer, it causes a ripple effect throughout everything you do. It cancels the customer’s attention because you’re presenting the same old thing.
What is needed is the ability to create excitement in the customer’s mind and make him say, “Wow, I wonder what’s new this time.”
Fortunately, this is easy to correct. Set new product introduction targets for quantity and time. Set up new product teams to research and conceptualize new product presentations.
Too Few New Employees
Most businesses wait too long to adequately staff their organizations. People are hired only when the phone isn’t being answered or something isn’t getting done.
The learning curve is steeper in this industry than most of us realize. You will need fresh eyes and fresh minds in the future to navigate opportunities. When you are behind the curve and hiring to fill holes, the curve works against your business.
A business plan to grow the company cannot be considered complete without a business plan to grow the employees, both in quality and quantity.
Begin looking and listening for exceptional individuals now. Discussions with talented individuals can begin a year or two before they are actually needed.
Too Little Variation in Selling Offers
The world walks right by “familiar” without seeing or hearing it; the world stops to investigate and evaluate “newness” and is receptive to fresh sounds and visions. In example after example, I see the same selling offers repeated year after year with I’m sure pretty much the same results: adequate but eroding response and margin. At what point are you out of business without knowing that you are dead?
Hundreds of types of offers exist; there may be easily twice that number. For the RV Pro, these are your repertoire. If you are not using multiple types of offers to stimulate your customers – past and future – you are not harvesting the sales that are possible.
Too little promotion exists anymore. We are promotion wimps. Why are we afraid to promote and to merchandise? Merchandising is becoming a lost art in business.
Study the art of offers. Learn from the successes of others in different industries.
Too Little Customer Talk
Even though the revolution of customer-focused marketing has come, few RV Pros are talking to their customers in meaningful ways. There may be no element of marketing as blatantly ignored, lied about, denied, or otherwise artfully dodged, as the amount of time invested in the quality of the dialogue with customers. Everybody says they are doing it; only a handful of companies really are.
Most of the ways in which companies talk to customers are meaningless. Customer surveys question what happened, not what was expected. The expectation of the customer is the only thing that counts and on a scale of one to 10, all customer expectations are 10s.
If you believe as little as 15 percent of your time should be spent talking directly with the people who pay the bills, then you personally are spending 33 full days a year in one-to-one dialogue with your customers. You are finding out what they expect, what they think, how they see your company, what their product needs and ideas are, what their price sensitivity is this year, and a myriad of other concerns, interests and quirks that you must know if you are going to keep those customers coming back.
After years of focus on the customer relationship, a lot of RV Pros have still not talked with a living, breathing customer in years. The dialogue starts and stops with salespeople or the customer service reps.
Pick up the phone today and talk to your top five customers. Tomorrow, talk to your bottom five customers. Make customer telephone calls a ritual part of every business day.