It's human nature to crave that which is exclusive and reserved only for a particular few. Knowing that a product is in limited supply, or only offered to certain highly regarded customers, makes us eager to plunk down our hard-earned cash—whether we need the product or not.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a perfect example: I was recently talking to a friend who was dumbfounded by his wife’s obsession with Sephora. Whether online or in the stores, his wife blows thousands of dollars each year on makeup, perfume and wrinkle creams from this cosmetics retailer. Apparently one of the ways Sephora has encouraged his wife to part with so much of her disposable income is by offering tiers of rewards for its elite customers. Keep in mind that “elite” simply means the customers who spend the most money.
Attaining Sephora's “Beauty Insider” status is possible for anyone. You simply sign up with your email address and you'll start getting emails with special offers (meaning opportunities to spend money) and a free birthday gift. Once you’ve spent $350 in a calendar year, you get upgraded to “VIB” (Very Important Beauty Insider) status. At this level, you get some free gifts (small sizes of new products to encourage you to buy full sizes) as well as special access to sales and shopping opportunities (so you can spend money yet again). The upper echelon of the company's rewards tier is “VIB Rouge”—you have to spend $1,000 in a calendar year to get there. At this level, you earn free shipping, more free samples and even more special shopping opportunities. My friend’s wife is definitely in the VIB Rouge category.
Think about this for a minute: Sephora has built a brilliant "unselling" model. It has customers excited about spending enough money to be able to purchase the right to spend more money—most of it on things they quite likely don’t need. But these customers crave being part of the exclusive club at the top.
The ABCs of Unselling
When you have customers lined up, just begging to be part of your clique of elite customers, then you’ve mastered the art of unselling. If you'd like to unsell your way to better sales, here's how you can make unselling work for you:
Create a compelling, cool offer that’s only available to the very best of your clients. Unselling is particularly well-suited for high-priced items, so this is your chance to put together the ultimate experience for your customers. You can’t unsell a commodity item, so you’ve got to work hard to create a product or service that provides genuine value and really matters to your elite customers. Think one-of-a-kind, unique offerings.
Your offer could be a limited edition bundle of your best products, or maybe it's membership in an exclusive rewards program that offers deals unavailable to ordinary clients. But the most important aspect is to create a sense of exclusivity and even mystery surrounding your product. Mention it in passing on social media; hint at it in email newsletters. Start building a buzz for those customers who comprise your big spenders. Your goal is to get them to spend a little more … and be excited about doing it.
Whether you create a VIP rewards club or a package deal, the key is to create a series of hurdles or stages that your customers must go through before they have the privilege of getting your offer. The idea is to get your customers excited about your new offer, then use the excitement they’ll feel about achieving each stage to create a sense of pride and loyalty, so when they’re finally in your exclusive club, they’ll brag about it and generate interest among their contacts and your other customers. If you notify a customer that they’re close to the threshold for achieving your exclusive offer, they’ll jump at the chance to cross that line. You get revenue; they feel a sense of accomplishment.
Success breeds success, so you want to give these elite clients a place or a forum to help add to the excitement of your brand. Give them a special forum on your website or feature them on your Facebook page. Let them use their 15 minutes of fame to help sell your brand.
Just imagine it: clients doing your marketing for you by raving about how awesome your company is. For business owners, that’s a dream come true.
It’s important, however, not to turn off otherwise good clients by excluding them from your VIP treatment. You want to make your exclusive offer predictably achievable for those folks who begin the process. As they make it over each hurdle, they become more committed to finishing the endeavor. Rewarding repeat business and encouraging higher spends will yield enormous results: You'll strengthen your best customers' loyalty and boost your company's image, all at the same time.
Exclusivity—being designated one of the chosen few—is at the heart of unselling, and it requires you to offer your very best product and your very best service. In exchange, your clients use the loyalty and excitement they feel for your company and your products and services to market your business for you. By spreading your message, they'll help you attract other clients who crave that exclusivity as well.
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