By Marcia Yudkin
Two businesses -- a women's clothing
boutique and a mail- order operation -- recently consulted me about the same
dilemma. Each had achieved satisfying sales through channels
that didn't allow for further growth. They needed a fresh
marketing program that would yield a steady stream of new
customers, and they were confused about where and how to
Like Dorothy with the ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz,
they already had most of what they needed for a solution,
but they didn't know how to use what they had. They needed
to investigate who their buyers -- especially their highest-
spending and most frequent patrons -- were. In doing so,
they'd learn how to clone their best customers.
The general principle: Discover the characteristics of your
current customers and use that knowledge to reach more
shoppers just like them.
The clothing store already knew the age range, income level
and some cultural interests and hobbies of its clientele. I
suggested that they find out which newspapers, magazines and
TV and radio programs their buyers read, watch or listen to,
as these might prove prime advertising vehicles. Once ads
are running in many places, you can also ask customers which
media outlet persuaded them to come into the store, although
many buyers don't remember this information.
The mail-order operation had little knowledge of the income
or the educational level of its purchasers, since orders so
far had come in through the anonymity of the Internet.
However, it was relatively simple for them to send a follow-
up questionnaire by e-mail, which asked a buyer's age,
educational background, employment status (employed or self-
employed), income bracket and profession. The brief
questionnaire also asked how satisfied they were with their
purchase, generating glowing testimonials along with a few
complaints. Questionnaire answers would help this business
intelligently choose where to advertise.
To the clothing store, I suggested marketing strategies
besides advertising for cloning its best customers. Since
many store regulars were involved with charitable
organizations, the store could let buyers know, through a
postcard to its mailing list or a flyer slipped in with
purchases, that it might produce a fashion show to benefit
their favorite charity. Most likely, customers' dearest non-
profit organization appealed to others who would also be
attracted to the boutique's distinctive style of clothing.
Since many patrons had creative hobbies, like painting,
music, weaving or writing, it made sense to appeal to others
who spent spare time on the arts. I suggested selecting a
different customer's creative work to feature in the store
every month. I envisioned a display of one woman's pottery
or poetry, with a color photo of her wearing the store's
clothing. Surely the woman in the spotlight would bring in
friends like herself and patrons would urge their creative
women friends to apply for the honor.
Scientists say human cloning isn't quite on the horizon, but
in marketing cloning techniques like these already produce