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    Posted May 4, 2014 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Tell us the Good Stuff!

    From Goldfiish Bowl to Goldmine

    We've all seen them – the fish bowls on the counter in a local business, promising a chance at free or discounted merchandise or services to those who drop their business card, or completed entry form into the fish bowl. Usually, there is a drawing weekly or monthly, the winner (or winners) notified, the fish bowl emptied and the cycle repeated. Ever wonder what happened to all those business cards and forms – those who won as well as all those who didn't?

    Surprisingly, in all too many cases, after the winner is notified, the business cards or forms are stashed in a desk or file drawer in the manager's or owner's office – and forgotten. In some cases, the manager or owner will enter the information into a spreadsheet, but then, stash the spreadsheet in a folder on their computer, or in a desk or file drawer in their office; and in some cases, the entrants, both those who won and those who didn't, will be contacted, generally no more than once, in and effort to encourage a return visit to the business.

    Let's take a step back and consider what we have here. The drawing has collected contact information from actual people, people who actually visited the establishment and actually spent money with the business. These are the business's customers – people who already know, like and trust the business, and are more likely, if invited, to return again and again. These are qualified leads! This is a real business asset!

    So, how do we get from goldfish bowl to goldmine? It's simple – create a systematic way to contact all who dropped their cards or entry forms into the fishbowl, and invite/induce them to come back – not just once, but again and again!

    In nearly all cases, business cards will include an email address, and these email addresses, using inexpensive technology, can be entered into software called an auto-responder, and sent a series of pre-scheduled, pre-written email offers to encourage return visits. If the entry form includes a field for mobile phone number. a contact list for text messages can be compiled, and the list sent periodic text messages to their mobile phones, again, with an invitation or inducement to return. There are some easily-managed steps that can be taken to assure that the email or text contacts are in compliance with current anti-spam best practices and relevant legislation.

    So, we have taken valuable customer contact information already collected in the fishbowl, and, instead of simply stashing it in an office drawer, or, worse, in the wastebasket, developed an easy and inexpensive system to encourage our existing customers to return and spend money with us again and again. Now that's a goldmine!
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