How to REACH and retain new customers

If you’ve ever wondered how to reach new customers…and then ensure they keep coming back…take some tips from the owner of a busy taverna on the island of Corfu.

Close your eyes for a moment and let your imagination take you to a dusty, winding track on a hillside thick with olive trees and cypresses. Below, the early evening sun is sparkling on the turquoise-blue waters of a secluded bay. A couple of yachts are moored out in the bay…some smaller fishing boats and motor launches nestle up to the jetty which runs along the shoreline. You arrived in this idyllic spot late the previous evening and have already made one trip down the hill to the pretty village for essential supplies. Now the heat of the sun is waning, hunger and the enticing smell of cooking is drawing you back in search of an evening meal.

At the centre of the small village are two tavernas, nestling side by side right on the waterfront. Naturally, competition between the two is pretty fierce, but the tactics employed to draw in the passing tourists are very different.

The owner of Taverna A (lets call him Stavros) adopts an aggressive approach, blocking your path, thrusting a menu at you and assuring you his taverna is much cheaper than Taverna B. If this doesn’t convince and, finding the space invading tactics off-putting, you manage to neatly side step and continue on your way, Stavros throws uncomplimentary comments on his rival’s business at your hastily retreating backs!

Still unnerved from this brush with Stavros, you take only a few steps more steps before being hailed by a smiling owner of Taverna B (let’s call this one Spiros!) from a more comfortable distance. He draws you into a casual conversation on the weather, where you’ve been (as you’re staying nearby, he will already have seen you passing earlier in the day and made a note of where you were going, perhaps even given you directions or helpful advice on local attractions), or the state of the economy…whatever he feels you might be interested in, having taken a careful note of age, gender, dress code, companions, etc. Once he has engaged your attention and drawn you into a friendly conversation for a few minutes, he will inquire if you would like the table right by the water front that he has been saving especially for you. How can you possibly refuse?

Once seated at your table, he will personally bring you the extensive menu…at first glance you will quickly realise there is enough choice to dine at this taverna every night of your holiday and eat something different every time…explain the intricacies of the various Greek specialities and give you his recommendations for the perfect blend of starter, main course and accompanying wine. All you have to do is sit back, enjoy the view and wait for your freshly cooked and delectably prepared food to arrive.

As the sun starts to set and fully replete from your delicious meal, you request the bill, which promptly arrives with glasses of Mettaxa, ‘on the house’….clearly a special service he reserves only for his most favoured clients. Still glowing from the warmth of this hospitality…not to mention the Greek brandy…you wend you’re way back to your villa, promising yourself a return visit to try out the rest of the menu.

I have both taken part in and watched this scenario play out many times and I promise you it never fails. Customers hooked into this particular style of customer care come back time after time for more. I’m not sure if ‘Spiros’ has ever undergone any formal training in marketing, but his methods can be adapted to a text-book style format and could be applied in many business scenarios. Just remember these five simple steps:

1. Research. Observe your potential customers. Don’t start out with a hard sell…take some time to get to
know them first. Find out where they’re going, what they do, what they’re interested in, which demographic they fit in…age, gender, interests, etc.
2. Engage. Draw them into conversation. Establish a rapport. Find a common interest or a general topic to break the ice.
3. Attend. Add some depth and detail to the information you’ve already collected. Find out and remember their name, their interests, what they’re looking for, the names of partners, children, pets…whatever is relevant to your business. Don’t just rely on your memory. Keep a database or a notebook and log details every time a client visits.
4. Charm. Make them feel special. Offer them something extra…a table, deal, service…you get the idea. Keep a record of what works best with each customer, or type of customer if you can identify trends.
5. Hook. Before they leave, give them a reason to come back. Tell them about a new product, service or promotion that is coming soon. Offer an incentive. Invite them to join a loyalty scheme. Be sure they know about other products or services they might be interested in. Let them know they’re important and just how much you appreciate their business.

And finally…make sure the goods live up to the promise. Spiros not only charms the passing trade into eating at his taverna, but he also delivers in terms of quality, food and service.

If you can deliver a higher standard of goods and/or service, you will find it much easier to REACH and retain loyal customers than the competitor who relies solely on being the cheapest.

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