Growing business, lessons from gardeners. Lesson 4.

We all know that, if we want a beautiful garden, we have to nurture our plants, but why is it that some of us are more successful than others? Why is it that some businesses get much better results from their marketing than others? I believe it’s about tailoring our approach.

If you wouldn’t treat all plants the same why would you treat all prospects the same?


An orchid needs different treatment than a rose and your prospects need treating in different ways.

It’s no good treating all plants to the same amount of water, the same fertiliser and the same pruning; they have different needs and what suits one plant will kill another. It’s the same with prospects, they have different needs and desires and if we don’t recognise this in our approach they will not become customers.

It is reputed that Tesco (Britain’s biggest retailer) sends out 80,000 different versions of a direct mail campaign in order to tailor the offer to the individual customer. Now Tesco has the advantage of a very sophisticated customer loyalty scheme based on the card which customers present at the point of purchase. Tesco knows what we buy, in what combination, in what quantities and at what time. This enables them to make offers based on our purchase ¬†history. They can encourage us to buy products we haven’t bought for some time or induce us to try an alternative to a regular product.

What would a prospect be interested in?

As small businesses we may not have the level of information that Tesco has but we can group customers according to what they have purchased before or what they have shown interest in. We can keep notes to help us remember individual details.

My wine merchant keeps notes on an index card. He knows what our purchase history is. He can tell us when we last purchased a particular wine or how much we paid. I suspect he also has a note of the names of our children and what we and they are doing. We may not see him for a couple of years but he always gives the impression that he remembers the little details, the things that are important to us. He knows which special offers are likely to tempt us and that’s when he gives us a call. As a result we have been customers for around 25 years.

Our wine merchant is a little old fashioned, he hasn’t embraced the digital age! These days we can capture and access customer information on our Smartphones or tablets. We can take and keep photos to help us remember. We can track which newsletter articles our prospects have shown interest in. We can see what they like on Facebook, what they talk about on Twitter or Linked In and what they pin on Pinterest. We can do research via an online survey or run a poll. We can use this information to develop our understanding of what our customers and prospects are interested in.

Target your offer

Today we are inundated with information so whatever you send has to be relevant. Sending blanket emails that are of no interest to the recipient is the quickest way to lose people from your list. They won’t hang around waiting for the one that might interest them.

Segment your list by interests or types of prospect e.g. group by gender or age or marital status or whatever is relevant to your business. Differentiate your mailing to each group so that you are only writing about something that will be of interest. If you don’t yet have enough information about your prospects then take a tip from Amy Harrison about how to speak to each prospect as an individual in a multi audience mailing.

Plants need growing time, so do relationships with prospects

By personalising your approach you will stand a greater chance of success but as with a plant that takes time to grow it will take time to convert a prospect into a customer. One of my favourite marketing experts has calculated that it takes, on average, 344 days to convert a new lead into a customer and he mails most days and has 50+ years of expertise in marketing. So don’t be discouraged if you haven’t got instant results, you’re in good company. Just keep tending those prospects with quality, relevant information.

If you would like help with personalising your offer we can help. We’ll give you feedback on one piece of marketing material sent by email. Just send the marketing material, no explanations about your target customer or what you are selling, let’s see if we can work it out from what you send. Oh yes, there’s no charge for this.


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