Bob Negen: 'Throw away your coupons'

Bob Negen: 'Throw away your coupons'

The retail consultant shared tips on acquiring new customers and increasing loyalty during a keynote at the IGC Show.

October 2, 2018

Bob Negen, co-founder of WhizBang! Retail Training, learned a lot after founding a retail store devoted solely to kites, and it inspired him to become a consultant to help other retailers find success in their industries. During a keynote at the 2018 IGC Show in Chicago's Navy Pier, Negen said any successful business must have three pillars as a foundation:

1. Generosity
2. Reciprocity 
3. WWMCW or considering “What would my customers want?” when determining hours, return polices and more.

“The more generous you can become, the more you can give, the more you can get back,” Negen says. “Give yourself permission to be open, loving, giving and to tell your story.” 

Another key focus of any business owner is acquiring and retaining customers. He shared key points from what he calls “The Whizbang Retail Marketing System” to attract and keep shoppers. 

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Step 1: Get new customers
The cost to acquire a customer may seem high, but the benefits over a lifetime can be measured. For example, if a customer visits six times per year, spends an average of $50 each time and is loyal to your brand for 10 years, that can result in $3,000 for that one shopper, Negen says. 

“The old model was get a customer, make a sale,” he says, but that won’t work anymore, and neither will old strategies. He encouraged attendees to throw away their coupons, and instead, give customers gift certificates.

“People treat coupons like trash,” Negen says. “Yes, some people will take advantage of you … your team will hate it for a while.” But many will spend more than the $5 or $10 on the gift card, and it gives business owners an opportunity to start a relationship. 

However, the fine print is incredibly important, and IGCs should stipulate, “please, only one per customer.” 
How you distribute the gift cards is also important, and there are several ways Negen suggests retailers get these to customers: 

• Keep some in your pocket or purse to share with people during personal conversations while you are out at a restaurant, church, networking events, consumer shows, etc.

• Ask your business district neighbors to share the gift cards with their customers, either in-store or through endorsed mailings. Their customers could be yours.

• Cause marketing: Create a special gift card that organizations can hand out to their supporters, with a portion of proceeds from those sales going to the non-profit.

Play the name game: Share out on social media and in store that if you happen to be named Bob, Alex, Michael, Theresa, etc., that those individuals can receive something free that day. 

Have a great website: “You need to have a great website that makes you look like the kind of place I want to shop with. Your website represents who you are,” Negen says.
Step 2: Great first experience
Creating a great experience has many benefits, including creating loyal shoppers and having the ability to charge prices that will help you remain profitable.
“We priced based on cost back in those days. The value you provide as an independent garden center does not come solely from price. You earn the right to great margins,” Negen says.  
Creating a great experience is something  Garden Center magazine has covered extensively. Read the June cover story and the 2017 Top 100 issue for ideas.

Step 3: Get their contact info
When businesses connect with customers on Facebook or on other social media platforms, Negen says it’s akin to “renting the relationship.” Getting customers contact information gives businesses control of that information, and they own the relationship. The best way to acquire this information is through a loyalty program. For specific ideas on how to easily acquire this information, read “How to improve your garden center’s email list." 

Steps 4 and 5: Get them  back in again … and again 
Once you have contact information, you can start to build a relationship with your customers. Content is king, so focus on education and special events over promotions, Negen says. For more information on creating great e-newsletters, read “Effective newsletters: Solve don’t sell."

“Be the natural first choice, but also be proactively getting [customers] into your store,” Negen says. 

 Photo of Bob Negen courtesy of the IGC Show.