Russell Streeter

Are You a Plumber or a Hairdresser?!

I remember growing up watching old Western movies with cowboys on horses, chasing baddies with some epic gunfights. One of the most enduring memories is of the hero riding off into the sunset, the grateful villagers watching on tearfully in the vain hope that he will one day return.

You see, many businesses do the same thing, though without the tears. Seemingly satisfied with just one sale to each customer, they do little or nothing to encourage them to return.

What a waste! Getting your customers to do business with your again and again is one of the most effective ways of growing sales and long term business value. It’s also Key number four in the Seven Keys Formula.

Every business owners knows that it’s much easier to sell more to an existing customer than it is to find a new one, because they’ve already said yes! You’ve done the hard work to convert them from a lead to a customer – building trust, overcoming the barriers to sale, proving that your product or service can do what you say it will and all the other things we discussed in the previous module. And, assuming that they were happy with what they’ve bought, they’re very likely to buy again.

That’s why smart businesses work so hard to get you to come back.

Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder…

My friend and colleague Mike Wallis puts it another way. He asks his clients this question: are you a plumber, or a hairdresser? (He always gets some interesting looks from this question!)

A plumber is a distressed purchase, someone that you will use only once in a while, hopefully. This means that, even if you use the same plumber every time, she can only count on your custom once very few years. So the plumber needs to be constantly marketing in order to win new customers.

She also has to try very hard to be one of the first plumbers you come across when disaster strikes, and your bathtub starts leaking into your kitchen. This is very hard work, and also quite expensive.

The hairdresser, on the other hand, sees his clients every month. He develops a close relationship with them and it’s in his interest to do so. So, apart from the first few years when he’s setting up the salon, his focus is not on lead generation. Instead he invests time, effort and money on making sure that his clients are happy and that they keep coming back.

This can also be quite hard work, but it’s much cheaper than the constant marketing that the plumber must do.

Transform your business model…

Which category does your business fall into? Does the situation that the plumber finds herself in sound familiar to you, in that you’re constantly looking for new customers and second or third sales are rare or quite far apart in terms of time?

If so, is it because of the inherent nature of your product or service which, like the plumber, is something people don’t need every month or even every year? Or is it just that you’re not trying hard enough to entice customers to come back?

You see, although I understand and accept the point that Mike is making, I believe that there is a lot that the plumber can do make her business more like the hairdresser’s. It requires her to think, “OK, they only need me to fix a leak, or clear a blocked pipe, or install a new bathtub once every few years. But what services do they need more regularly that I can provide?”

How about encouraging her clients to be proactive in their maintenance, so that the crises are less likely? For example, servicing their boiler once a year will reduce the likelihood that it packs up on a cold night in winter (on a weekend – it’s always on a weekend). Checking the radiators to make sure there aren’t any bubbles means that they work as effectively as possible.

She could also offer emergency cover for a small monthly fee and guarantee to come out whenever disaster does strike. This will ensure that she always gets the work. Now her business is starting to look more stable, with regular cash flow and closer relationships with her clients.

De-risk to thrive…

Repeat business is not just a sign of a quality product and excellent service; it also enables you to improve cash flow, reduce the amount you have to spend on lead generation and de-risk your business.

And that’s definitely worth the call-out fee!