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Marketing for Repeat Business

By: Scott Miller

 

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The Holy Grail of marketing, the most important thing that marketing can do, is get more people to come back more often to buy more. It is a very simple thing, and yet a very difficult one to achieve. When more people come back more often to buy more, you will really make it.

Of course, it starts with getting one more customer, who comes back more often to buy more. Then you get that customer to come back and bring another customer with them. Your current customers are really the best advertising you’ll ever have.

A great example of this principle comes from McDonald’s. Not only is McDonald’s a great big company, but it’s a company made up of small businesses, with thousands and thousands of small business people who are owner-operators of the individual restaurants.

Not long ago, McDonald’s began an impressive comeback. They went from their worst performance ever to their very best performance in just about two years under the leadership of Mike Roberts. And they did it by marketing for repeat business. It’s a story that talks about getting more people to come back more often to buy more, and just how effective that can be.

Just a few years ago, about 15 percent of women who were going to the drive-through at McDonald’s restaurants were ordering nothing for themselves—just Happy Meals for their kids. This said a lot of things. On the one hand, it meant they trusted the McDonald’s brand because they were buying it for their kids. But on the other hand, it meant that they did not see anything on the menu board that was for them. They were coming back, but they were not buying more. McDonald’s was missing out on its repeat business.

In response, McDonald’s introduced Paul Newman organic salads. They were introduced in drive-through advertising—essentially posters—put on the menu board and inside the restaurant. There was very little other advertising. Within three months of introducing the Paul Newman organic salads for their adult customers, McDonald’s became the largest purchaser of fresh produce in the world. It had a tremendous impact on their business!

But more important is what happened in the fourth month. For the first three months, they were selling a lot of salads. But in the fourth month, Big Mac sales went up by 40 percent. Why did that happen? Because now those mothers who in the past had been buying nothing now actively went to McDonald’s and brought the kids with them, because there was something there for them. They were coming back more often, buying more, and bringing others with them.

Pitch men at ad agencies will often tell businesses that they will make people love their brand and use their product. But in reality, the opposite is true. If people use your product long enough and have a great experience using it, they will keep coming back to buy more, and they will then love the brand. Usage creates loyalty.

You might be able to improve your repeat business by introducing new products, or by adjusting your approach to service and customer experience. Whatever you do, it should be with the goal of getting more people to come back more often to buy more.

Published: December 20, 2012
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Scott Miller

After graduating from Washington & Lee University in 1967, Scott Miller began a career in advertising and political consulting. As Creative Director of McCann-Erickson in New York, he worked for such clients as Coca-Cola, Miller Brewing and Exxon, and won every major award for creative excellence in the advertising industry, including Clio Awards and a Lion d'Or from the Cannes Film Festival. In 1979 he founded Sawyer/Miller Group with David Sawyer. In 1988, Scott co-founded Core Strategy Group. At Core, he has worked on developing communications, marketing and branding strategies for a number of Fortune 100 clients. In addition, he provides commentary on political and corporate communications on the major television networks, and often lectures on communications, branding and insurgent strategies.

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