Sunday, 25 March 2012

What’s in a number?

When I worked for Canadian National Sportsmen’s Shows, I was “selling space” in the BC Great Outdoors Show.  One of my clients was a new business who had recently left the old established retail outlet to open a similar business.  He saw the writing on the wall, and the old established business had one foot in the grave.  By taking some of the clientele with him and doing some aggressive marketing, he helped complete the defeat of his past employer. 

He told me that after the business folded, he used contacts at B.C. Tel to take-over their now defunct phone number.  People continued to call the old business, and he would direct them to his shiny new shop.  He attributed tens of thousands of dollars in business to that phone number.

Fast forward a number of years and I’m closing down my small jewellery store to manage a new high-end jewellery boutique.  The decision was made to use my old phone number for the new store.  We had our share of clients who did not fit the profile of the new store, but one day I got a call from a client of the old store who I had never even met.  I directed him to the new boutique and he came-in and spent $17,000.  That was just the first visit.  At that time the Oilers had just been purchased by the Edmonton Oilers Ownership Group, and I found-out he was one of them.  He had some fantastic referrals for me.

Keep in mind these two things: whenever you answer the phone, it may be someone who has called because your phone number is the only thing they know about you.  The fact that you were in their rolodex, they assume you were worth trusting more than a stranger.  In other words, they’re fully prepared to put their trust in you; even though the only connection they have with you is a phone number and a vague recollection of having dealt with your store.  My advice?  Welcome them back like an old friend and tell them all of the things that are new about your store and then engage them in a conversation about their current need.

The second idea worth noting is that if a nearby store is going out of business, don’t underestimate the potential value of their phone number.  You may not be able to bribe someone at Telus, Sask tel or whatever you have in Manatoba to forward that number to yours, but you could offer a little something to the outgoing business for the rights to use that phone number.

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