Friday, October 7, 2011

My Barber is Smarter than a lot of Marketers

I got a haircut yesterday from my barber, Otis.  As I am mostly bald, I choose my barbers by price and convenience.  When I first met Otis, he had a chair in the Times Square subway station and charged $12.  Having hit the big time, Otis moved his chair around the corner to a third-floor shop above a dirty movie store on 8th Avenue and now charges $15.

How did Otis do it?  He knows a secret about marketing that many marketers don’t.

After he finished polishing my head with a #1 razor, Otis displayed his efforts to me with a hand-held mirror and said “see you again in about two weeks?”  Otis knows the truth of an oft-forgotten rule of marketing: it’s never to early to make the next sale.

Most catalog merchants know this rule.  That’s why every package you receive from LL Bean or Land’s End contains a catalog.  Years of offer testing have shown that, perhaps counter-inutitively, people who just bought something constitute the best audience for a new offer.  I suppose the adage “strike while the iron is hot” applies here as well.

Yet many marketers fail to take advantage of this phenomenon or they do so clumsily.  When I bought a car in January of 2010, I happily registered on the make’s website.  I did not receive an email to buy anything for two or three months, and then, I got an buy another car!    Even the least data-savvy marketer in the world could looked at the model I bought, a station wagon, and assumed that I might want a rack for carrying skis or bikes, a cargo net or any other accessory that might help me schlep things.  However, they failed to take advantage of that moment.  The same goes for the manufacturer of the Android phone I bought in March, who hasn’t sent a relevant follow-up email to encourage me to purchase a case, earphones, bluetooth piece, etc.

While manufacturers have at least some excuse for this behavior, since they often don’t have customer data absent a registration of some kind, retailers have no excuse.  Even supermarkets, with some of the lowest margins in retail, have learned to put coupons on the backs of receipts to encourage a follow-on purchase.  No retailer should just wait for the customer to decide to make another purchase.

See you in two weeks, Otis.

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