Do you send thank you notes to your customers? Do you write "thank you" on invoices and sign your name?
I opened up my mail at home the other day and in it was a hand-written note from a men's shop where I had recently purchased a new suit. It was from the gentleman who sold me the suit, telling me how much he really appreciated my business and hoped I would come back again. I was surprised to get it, because the men's shop was very small, and not only did this person sell me the suit, he tailored it personally as well. Not only that, he spoke only broken English and did not have what we'd call "great literary skills". The note ended with, "Since this is how I earn my living, I want to make sure you are very happy. Maybe you will tell other people about my shop and I can make them happy too. I want to earn your business. Thank you very much." 'Business' was spelled wrong.
I got to thinking about the note. Among the things I recall buying in the last few months are a new car, carpeting for my home, some furniture and the new suit. For the office, we've purchased three new desks, eight new chairs for our conference room, two new VCRs, some recording equipment, plus some new computer equipment. Nobody else sent me a thank you note. Nobody called to see if I was happy. Nobody said "I want to earn your business." Sears didn't. JC Penney didn't. Office Max didn't. Home Depot didn't. Maybe Nordstrom would have, but we don't have one in our town. Radio Shack and Circuit City didn't. But Tony the tailor did. Tony's men's shop is in a little town of 30,000 people. It's 28 miles from my office.
I remembered that on the receipt for the suit, Tony had written "Thank you!" and signed his name. I guess he felt that one "thank you" wasn't enough. He had to follow it up with a note as well. Since he probably can't spend a thousand dollars a month on newspaper advertising, or big bucks in the Yellow Pages, and has no TV or radio budget, he has to rely on referrals and current customers. Does it work? He said he wanted to "earn my business". He referred to me as "his friend." I don't even remember how much the suit was, but I know I'll go back there for the next one.
Now here's where the story gets even better. Last week, he called me and told me he got a new assortment of men's shirts in, with some very unique colors and styles. He had one that would go great with my suit, and would I like him to send it over to me UPS? Of course. No problem. Send it right away. Did I ever ask "how much?" Nope. I forgot to. It never occurred to me. I was so impressed with the service he gave me that I didn't think twice about buying more from him.
Do you send thank you notes to your customers? Do you write "Thank You!" on the invoices and sign your name? Do you even have the time? Probably not. You have other things to do than write thank you notes to people you've already sold. They're already customers. You said "thank you" when you wrote up their sale. If we're going to write to people, we usually first think to contact our current customers with sale fliers, statements, new product information, and regular customer mailings. But a note just to say "thank you"? C'mon. Wal-Mart doesn't. Price Club doesn't. And there's the point.
You want to be different than your competitors. You want to develop the fine art of "faceting". It's the facets that give a diamond its sparkle and appeal. It's the same with your furniture business. Find different ways to appeal to your customers, to present your furniture, and to develop and sustain customer interest. You want to be different from all the other retailers out there, with your own personal look and image. You want to be unique and interesting. Nothing is easier to ignore faster than a boring business.
Maybe you did say "thank you" when you made your last big sale. But what if you sent your customers a hand-written note saying that you appreciated their business? And since this is how you make your living, you'd also appreciate it if they mentioned your name and the name of your store to their friends?
If you really want to create more business for your store without spending huge amounts on additional advertising, maybe you could start with your current customer base. Think about what the function of your business is. The function of your business is not to make a profit. The goal of your business is to make a profit. When we start to confuse the function with the goal ... that's when we have a bit of a problem. The function of your furniture business is to create and maintain customers. Maintain is the key word. Keep them coming back. Friends like to buy from friends. They buy from people they trust. If people like and trust you and your staff, sometimes price and product knowledge are secondary. That human element of sincerity and appreciation is tough to compete with. It's a great way not only to increase your business, but to increase your profit margins as well.
So, think about it. Maybe you can't send a thank you note to everyone who buys an end table or a bottle of furniture polish. But if you spend some serious time with a customer who ends up spending a lot of money, and you get to know him by name, and you find out about his tastes, and he knows you as more than a faceless clerk; maybe it would be a good time to start with a second "thank you." A note to his home. A note that asks that he come back again...to see you personally. What if 40 percent of those customers came back to see you within 30 days and referred you to their friends as well? Maybe you'd have to end up building a bigger store. Hey ... you never know.
Bob Popyk is the publisher of Creative Selling®, a monthly newsletter on sales and marketing strategies for high-ticket retailers. His sales meetings and seminars are presented nationwide to major companies and industries. Questions on any aspect of sales education can be sent to FURNITURE WORLD at email@example.com.
Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada. In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.