You run an introductory offer – representing great value for people to try your services over a limited period. Clients come, your business looks busy, you get an influx of cash and the vibe improves. So what happens next?

In many businesses, not much. I’ve taken up three introductory offers in the last six months – a Pilates studio, a yoga studio and a gym – none of which retained me as a client. This wasn’t due to having a bad experience. I’ve also worked closely with dozens of one-to-one coaching clients, assisting them in running introductory offers. I’ve seen what works – and what doesn’t.

Here’s how to turn an introductory offer from a fleeting affair to a committed relationship.

Five times the cost

If you don’t have a marketing budget that runs into the hundreds of thousands, or even into the thousands, stop focusing on reaching new people and concentrate on improving your retention rate.

It costs five times as much to attract a new client than to keep an existing one, and it’s much easier to sell to people who’ve already bought, than to sell to a new each person each time. So any introductory offer needs a solid plan to retain those new people and ensure you’re not wasting your time and money.

Before you start, you need to know your numbers:

  • How much is your average lifetime spend per client?
  • What is your profit margin on the service you want to on-sell your clients to?

Once you start, focus on your conversion rate – what percentage of new people can you convert into regular clients?

The anatomy of your marketing funnel

The very first thing that happens after an online purchase (which your introductory offer is likely to be) is an automated email confirming the purchase. This may come through a third-party that you’ve used to promote your introductory offer, such as Groupon or Scoopon, or through your own system.

Create an email funnel for people who purchase your introductory offer – which you can do through your email marketing tool or through your customer relationship database (such as MindBody Online).

The first email that’s sent from your business is a one-off opportunity for a rousing introduction. And yet for the three different introductory passes I’ve purchased, I’ve received no email or one so devoid of usefulness that it beggars belief. The essential information (address, process, expiry date of the offer) was missing and the impression was lackluster at best.

So how many emails are in your funnel and what should be in them? Here’s what I’ve seen work best for my clients.

If your introductory pass is a one-time service, you need to send at least two emails: one with all essential information and an invitation to book in (ideally online bookings, such as Acuity Scheduling, which I use and recommend); and one that confirms that booking and provides additional information to help people get the most out of their interaction with you.

If your introductory offer is a seven-day pass, send at least three emails: one initial introduction with all essential information; one after the first visit; and one to send the day before the offer expires, with an invitation to take the next step.

If your introductory offer is a ten-day pass, send at least four emails: one initial introduction with all essential information; one after the first visit; one two days before the offer expires with an invitation to take the next step; and a similar one the day after the offer expires with greater urgency.

If your introductory offer is 21-day pass, send at least six emails: one initial introduction with all essential information; one at day three; one at day seven; one at day 12; one at day 18; and one the day after the offer expires inviting people to take up the next step, with urgency.

What’s the next step?

Depending on your business model, you may need an additional offer to take people from introductory samplers to committed clients. This could be a limited time discount on a membership, or booking for future services.

Don’t leave them hanging. And don’t assume that they understand everything your business offers and how to get the most out of your services – that’s your job.

Give people your attention

Attention is the most important – and most accessible – thing you can give new people to give value. People want to be seen, heard, acknowledged.

Businesses that have close communities are lovely – so long as you’re part of it. For new people, it can make you feel on the outer. Customer service is so easy to get right – and so rare. Give your staff plenty of warning – and training – so that they’re aware of the offer, know the process, terms and conditions, know how best to treat people.

Get over the idea that you’re hassling people with attention, email or phone. You are doing people a favour – making it far easier for them to get the most out of what you offer.

Insert personality

The easiest way to brand yourself is with creativity, surprise, humour and quirk. No, you don’t need to address clients as “sweetie” or “babe” to be memorable, but for the love of all things chocolate, stop communicating like you’re constipated.

Automating your communications with email marketing funnels helps you ensure that everybody receives the same quality of service that you expect them to face-to-face. Don’t assume that a face-to-face interaction is ipso facto superior to online. It’s not.

Don’t forget about people who don’t follow through after purchasing your introductory offer. If they don’t experience your business, they won’t become regular clients. Follow up – and keep following up. It’s not hassling; it’s helping them not waste their money.

Finally, don’t get hung up on retaining each and every new person. Some people are serial discount hunters and some aren’t a good fit. Improving your conversion rate should never be at the expense of bringing new clients who aren’t right for your business.

Business planning

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