Why the Second Sale is More Important Than the First
How small business owners increase the lifetime value of their customers
There’s this three-visit strategy in the restaurant business. If you can get a person to return a second time, the chances are about forty-two-percent they’ll return a third. But if you can get a third visit, the odds you get a customer for a fourth visit are something close to seventy-percent. Then, you’ve got a customer for life.
The restaurant business is cutthroat. These folks know if they want to stay open beyond the first year, they’ve got to earn repeat customers. Smart restaurants care about the second sale.
Why should care about the second sale more than the first:
The first sale is easy. Anyone can sell something to one person, once. You can trick a customer into a buying decision. You can give a ridiculous, money-losing discount to make the first sale. You can pay for a ton of advertising to make one sale.
To establish a buying relationship, however, is a different animal. Whether you own a restaurant, you write books, or you paint walls — the longevity of your business relies on the second sale… and the third.
…so don’t wait too long.
I recently bought a mattress, sight-unseen, through the interwebs. The website was beautiful. The offer — amazing. The promises and guarantee — perfect. These folks got me to spend almost thousand dollars on a mattress I never met. The feat was impressive.
But they only sold me once. I expected something different. I was sadly mistaken.
Their email marketing is terrible. Instead of re-categorizing me into a buyer’s list, all I get is a continuous stream of emails to convince me to buy a mattress I already own. They’ve done nothing to make the second sale. They probably never will.
I doubt this mattress company will be in business in five years, because of this (which makes me mad, because I really like their lifetime warranty).
They put all their effort into the first sale. All their marketing and affiliate plans. They’ve got very little to offer on the back-end. Besides more mattresses.
- They could’ve up-sold me two-for-one, special pillows.
- They could’ve sent me a great deal on sheets
- or sleep masks
- or those cooling pads
- or a sweet alarm clock
- or blackout curtains
- or a sleep book
- or sleep vitamins
- or a meditation course
I spent almost two thousand dollars with these folks and I got little more than a “your mattress is on its way” email.
Think of how many other offers they could send me in a weekly “sleep newsletter.” I was a big-ticket buyer and they totally missed their opportunity.
The second sale is not a cram-fest
You don’t have to abuse a customer to make the second and third sale. We like buying stuff. We bought stuff from you. This means we voted with our wallets — the strongest vote for any business.
Instead, we give a soft ask on a frequent basis.
We provide quality, valuable, entertaining content for free. We remind our customers we’re still here to serve them — better than any other choice in our market — and if they like what they see, here’s a little something they might be interested in.
There’s a tired sales slogan that goes, “we love to buy, but we hate being sold.”
Don’t hard-sell your customers. Instead, give them great reasons to return. Don’t spend all your time worrying about the first sale. Put all the brain matter to work on earning the second… and forth.
Train your customers to buy from you.
Don’t wait too long to make the second sale. We’ll forget why we did business with you to begin with. We get used to the way you communicate with us. If there’s a small ask at the bottom of every email you send, we’ll accept that.
If you never ask for a sale, and a year later you make us a big offer, the rare offer may seem off-putting.
Don’t be afraid to ask. Give us a great reason to stay in your tribe and we’ll let you pitch us all day long. It can take more than 30–40 touches for us to make a buying decision. The old rule of seven touches is long-over. There’s too much noise in the marketplace.
The entrepreneurs who refuse to quit asking are the ones who will be rewarded with the fourth visit.
Focus on keeping the current customers
You need to get new customers and keep old customers, simultaneously. The old customers are the ones who really believe in you. They get the special treatment.
Yes, we should give special offers to get new customers in the door, but never at the expense of keeping a loyal customer. The new customer might pay for your lunch, but the loyal customer pays your mortgage.
- What can you do to encourage a second sale?
- What can you do to help your customers tell the others?
- What can you do to keep your tribe returning for more?
The first sale is easy.
A lemonade stand is the first sale.
My mattress company lost a lifetime customer through their short-sighted thinking.
It’s time a build a second-visit company.
… and if you want to build your fourth-visit tribe now, you’ll have a ready-and-willing, rabid audience as you launch your future work. This should be a list you own (instead of relying on social media or some other big-business platform). Tap the link below. Enroll in my Tribe 1K indie email masterclass. I’ll show you how to get your first 1,000 subscribers (and your next 1,000) without spending one hot nickel on ads.
We’re waiting for you.
August Birch (AKA the Book Mechanic) is both a fiction and non-fiction author from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indies how to make work that sells and how to sell more of that work once it’s created. When he’s not writing or thinking about writing, August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.