Finding the Customers Right In Front of Your Eyes

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An interesting story I heard years ago was about a local chiropractor who developed a relationship with the local mattress superstore. Every week, the mattress place would provide a list of all those people who bought a mattress—which meant they likely had some form of back pain which led to them buying new mattresses -- and he would reach out to those people, closing about 25 percent of them to become his patients.

But, one week, he picked up the list, and reached out to the people on it, and closed a whopping three quarters, or 75 percent, of them as new patients at his practice -- three times what he usually closed off the mattress list!

So he went to his friend in the mattress store and asked, “Hey folks, what was special about this week’s list?”

The response: “Nothing. Just the usual.”

“Come on,” the chiropractor pleaded. “Something must be different. A difference of this amount simply can’t be just a fluke. Please help me figure this out."

Well, after some poking around to figure out what might be the cause of the tremendous difference in response rates, it turned out that every week they had given him the list of those who had bought mattresses. But this week they had given him the list of those who had come in to the store, but for whatever reason did NOT buy a mattress. Perhaps the model they wanted was not in stock, or they felt it was too expensive, or some other reason -- but the common denominator was that this week’s list given to the doctor were people who did not buy a mattress. And, astonishingly, he had closed 75 percent of them as clients!

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Why did this happen?

Well, when you think about it from a psychological point of view, it does make perfect sense.

When you buy a mattress due to back pain because your old mattress has seen better days, and then get a call or postcard from a chiropractor, then even though you might still be in back pain, you are likely to feel, “I got a new mattress already, the pain will go away within a few days I’m sure.” Hence, you are less likely to want to see a doctor for your back pain.

However, in the case where you want to buy a mattress but ultimately did not, there’s a whole different psychology at play. You had pain that was enough to get you to buy a mattress, yet you didn’t get one. So you have back pain that bothers you (as evidenced that you went to the mattress store) but didn’t actually take an action that you feel did or will soon solve your problem. Hence you are much more likely to be receptive to a doctor who can provide an alternate way of dealing with the pain you feel.

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There are two types of clients: those who are currently using no one at all (say, a new person moving to town who does not yet have a family physician locally), and those who are currently using a competitor, whom you would have to lure away.

The second group, those who are currently using the competition, are a much larger group, but they are much harder to attract, because they have to stop doing something they currently do or use.

So it pays to work on attracting the first group. When someone new comes to town, figuratively speaking in your business, welcome them and encourage them to try you, because if they are happy they will stay. And for the second group, who are elsewhere, what you want to do is create an awareness and environment that if for whatever reason, their current choice is not available (their current doctor retired, the store they usually shop in is closed in the evenings, and so on) that they consider you “on the radar” and move you up from being the unknown to being their alternate choice -- and, eventually, possibly their primary choice.

When stores offer “the 99-cent lunch,” what they are doing strategically is trying attract business for those who live or work in the area and already eat lunch elsewhere. These customers have no reason to come here -- they are happy with the service and food they get elsewhere, they have that corner table they like or they know there is something not on the menu that they can ask for and get. (“Can I please have some sauteed onions?”)

Hence your offering a lunch special is meant to get them to try you once and break though that resistance (“the glass door”) so that they come again and again, because your offerings are delicious, well priced… and because they are not uncomfortable coming in. After all they have been there before!

Where are your future clients now? The time is now. Go out and get ‘em!

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