Undraw deliveries 131a

Turning sales into customers

How to get repeat sales, even when your product isn't an obvious fit.

Written by Stephen Pratley
on Jan 28, 2020
Read Time 7 minutes

If you sell the kind of product that isn't obviously a repeatable purchase, it's still possible to push up your orders to more than just one product per sale.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine, who is selling an innovative flexible hairbrush who has exactly this problem.

He sells huge numbers for QVC. He gets good sales on Amazon. It's won awards and got a mountain of press.

It's a great product.

But when I asked him "what's next" he looked perplexed. All his time is taken up with new channel opportunities, finding new outlets and managing the supply chain during rapid growth.

It's a dangerous model, because when the next big thing comes along, he's made a lot of sales, but he has nothing else to sell those customers.

To make things worse, he doesn't even own them. QVC does and Amazon does.

These huge businesses know that the profits are in finding an audience and selling to them again and again. Either the same product, or a range of different products.

Right now he's making hay while the sun shines, and it's quite possible that the business will get snapped up by a group who does have a lot of follow-on products, but that might not happen and that leaves him vulnerable in the future.

The Challenge with one-hit sales

Our challenge is to turn those individual sales into either bigger sales or repeat sales.

There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, the obvious one. Making two sales makes more money then selling one of something. Whether you sell two at a time, or a few weeks apart doesn't matter. You have more cash in the bank.

The second is less obvious. If a customer is worth more, you can spend more to acquire them.

This isn't just some rat race where you pour all your money back into advertising though. Opening up more expensive advertisng channels (like press ads or direct mail) puts you in places where you have no competition any more. Your conversion rates can then go up and you scale again.

Here are three ways you can do this with a product, like this hairbrush, that's not an immediately obvious repeat purchase.

1) The Family Pack.

If a product is good enough for you maybe it's good enough for your family as well.

Sometimes people don't want to share all of their products with their family.

So, for example, this product is very good on kid's hair. My wife doesn't want to share her hair brushes with my daughter, who comes home with a case of nits from school at least once a year.

So she's bought two of them.

There are other things where she's done this as well. Electric toothbrushes, bedding, drinks bottles. The idea that if it's a good idea for her to have it, then it's a good idea for the rest of the family as well is an easy sell for her. I'm guessing she's not the only mum like that.

But most businesses wouldn't think of just making that suggestion.

If it's done right, just reminding the shopper that there are more people in their household who might want this product is a great idea. Perfect up-sell opportunity, especially if you can save a little on postage by buying them both at once.

It also plays on the logical end of the purchase decision.

When you're buying, particularly with a slightly more expensive item, you start to think about how to justify that purchase to anybody else who might see it.

This is most common if you're buying something from a joint account or if the product is going to be very visible, like a car.

We know it happens a lot in business sales where everyone has to justify any spending to thier boss and colleagues, but it's just as present when you're selling to consumers.

The next option is a little more selfish, but far more logical.

2) The "Never be without it" option

Products solve problems, but sometimes you don't know when that problem is going to strike.

Notice how it never rains when you have an umbrella with you? Notice how your phone always gets down to 1% on the day you didn't have your power pack or a charging cable in your bag?

If we carried all these products around all the time we'd need a personal porter, so the solution for a lot of us is to have more than one.

One for home, one for the office. Maybe one for the car as well. Open your desk drawer and I guess that you, or someone nearby, has some painkillers in there.

If you think there's a price ceiling limit on this, consider this. I own two Apple Macbooks, one that I leave in my home office, and the other one that I use when I go out to meetings.

After having one of them get cracked. I decided I needed a backup. Because I was unable to work for two days, while it got fixed.

These are £1,000 pound items that I have a second one, just for convenience.

3) Your customers are your best sales people.

The third and last item is getting their friends to buy.

This carries a little more risk to the buyer so they're unlikely to buy at the same time as their own first purchase. Gifts and recommendations are an important social tool, and your customer doesn't want it to blow up in their face.

A better bet is to send some sort of referral mechanism after the sale.

One route is to put it in with the product when it's delivered. They'll likely hang on to it for 24 hours until they're happy the product is good enough to at least keep. If the product wow's them they'll want to tell friends about it and a small discount gives you the chance to track who is telling most people.

I got some new reading glasses from Specsavers a couple of weeks ago and they gave me 2 vouchers. One in case I wanted yet another pair, and one with another 25% off for a friend.

I know this works, it's how I ended up buying from there in the first place.

Note they gave them to me when I collected the glasses, not when I paid for them.

Peak excitement.

The other option is to turn all your customers into referrers with an affiliate scheme. Send them an email a few days after they get their hands on the product and invite them to your "Brand Ambassador" scheme.

A good option for this is a "give one, get one" deal where your original customer gets a reward and the person they refer gets a reward or discount as well.

I ran a promotion for a car company once that did this by "splitting a case of wine" with any customer you sent their way for a test drive.

Spotting the whales is the key

If you find people who are referring multiple sales to you, frankly, you should get on the phone to them and say thank you. One affiliate manager I know would track her best referrers and worked out that by the time they'd brought in 10 people, they were worth taking out for dinner.

Now, none of these will multiply all of your sales, but occasionally you'll find people who will buy large amounts of your product as a gift. My younger brother regularly causes chaos by adding products to goodie bags for wrap-up parties after a film has been shot. People like this should be on your Christmas card list.

It's another one of those tactics that you can implement early. Then when you look back on the numbers after a year you'll have a mass of data about who is buying more than one and a clear idea of your heavy use customers.

These often add up to a steady stream of incremental revenue, without any of the costs of advertising to new customers.

Always remember that your buyers are your best sales people.

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