One of the best ways to generate sales leads is through your current satisfied customers. Ask them diplomatically to recommend you to their friends, coworkers, and relatives. One of the most effective ways to do this is to offer them some sort of incentive to do so to ensure that it's a win-win effort for everyone. You could, for example, offer your customers discounts or free services when they bring in a new customer for the first time. Or you could give your customers discount coupons to give out to potential customers.
You should also be looking at other noncompetitive businesses to find opportunities for joint marketing efforts where your customers overlap. Using the pet grooming example, you could contact veterinarians, kennels, and pet supply stores that don't have a groomer on staff and advertise your services on their bulletin boards or in their customer newsletters. You can also take this further, by suggesting that you buy advertising cooperatively in local venues such as newspapers — that means that you pool your money to buy joint advertising space that perhaps neither of you could afford on your own.
The easiest way to keep track of your customers, both actual and potential, is to enter their contact information into some kind of database or contact management software. This allows you to quickly pull up either your entire customer list or only those customers who fall into certain categories, such as those living in specific areas.
The contact information, whether it's e-mail or regular addresses or phone numbers, allows you to let people know about special sales, for example, or the arrival of new merchandise. Or you can send them newsletters with useful tips that are related to your business.
It's key, however, that you store, use, and protect personal information with great care. When you collect the information, let the customer know how it will be used — and, preferably, that it won't be shared or sold in any way. If you send the customer e-mails or regular mail, always let him know how to contact you if he wants to be taken off the mailing lists and respect his request immediately.
In the United States, personal privacy and consumer protection matters (such as the Children's Online Personal Privacy Protection Act) fall under the Federal Trade Commission. In Canada, all businesses, no matter how large or small, must comply with the terms of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
Customer Retention Techniques
While you're focusing on increasing your customer numbers, don't forget that you already have a group of people who are familiar with and feel positive toward your business — your existing customers. They've already purchased from you: Assuming that it was a good experience, these customer don't need to be sold on your product or service.
Think about ways that you can reinforce that positive feeling. Send these customers useful discount coupons, for example, as a thank-you for their previous purchases. Offer discounts when two or more specific products or services are purchased at the same time. Give your customers a special day when they can “sneak a peek” at new merchandise before it's offered to everyone else. Make your customers feel special in some way, and they'll keep coming back.