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Religion breeds fanatics.

We've all seen that. And if it works for a bunch of crazies, why not make it work for your product or service? Can you possibly adapt a system that has worked flawlessly for thousands of years to your business? Do you want to have customers chanting your name endlessly?

Suuuuuurrrrre you do! Read on and I'll show you how it works!

Why Grandpa's Restaurant Died!

Grandpas' restaurant was his pride and joy. The food was yum! The service was basic but quick and the prices pretty much ensured a happy little paunch over time. Yet amazingly the customers dwindled and the restaurant slowly rode away into the sunset.

I was in shock. That was my goodbye to free meals forever. You may not think much of it, but I was 12 and in that traumatic instant every single free meal of my impending teenage years flashed before my eyes.

So what did Grandpa do wrong? He had a whole cohort of hungry disciples yet he never worked on it. Here are a few steps he could have taken that would have ensured my rumbling tummy rumbled no more!

Magical, Magical Data!

Every day, millions of people walk into and out of restaurants. Yet most restaurants know not where they come from and where they go, or when they will be back.

Wake up and smell the coffee you've been selling!

When they eat at your place, they become existing customers. Fifteen seconds after their delicious dessert, they become DORMANT! How the heck are you going to get them back, if you don't know anything about them? The only way to do that is to collect data, much like this website does. When you know your customers a bit more, you can talk to them personally and cater to their individual needs.

Can I Have Your Name While You Finish Your Beef Vindaloo?

Yes, you figured it out. You can't do that and the time between eating and walking is so fleeting that you may as well not try. So what do you do? You count on a basic human premise: Greed.

All of us are greedy and something for nothing is what we'd stake our steak for.

Imagine this scenario: You walk up to a more than satisfied customer right after the meal. Instead of the usual moronic "How was your meal?" why not ask them "Was the food good enough to come back again?" Now that's a specific question. If they say yes, you give them a little form, informing them that their next meal is a whole 15% off. Would they like to fill in a form with their email address and postal address so that we can send them a voucher?

Aha! In one second, your database is off the mark and you can pretty much bet that the yummiest of those seven deadly sins will kick in to get that customer back! Better still; you've got their permission to start a relationship. Yippee Doo!

How to Get Your Data Simmering

Once you have my information on file, how do you use it? The worst thing you can do is tell your foodies about how good you are. Tell them what they want to hear!

I'm a food lover remember? How can you entice me? Can you reach out and give me something special? Could you throw in a frequent-eater deal? Reach into my greedy stomach and something snaps in my brain, causing me to eat eight times a year, just to make 'eat points'. With every trip, I get to know the restaurant system better. I order stuff I like. I feel happier. People know me and I know them. I find a favorite table and God help anyone who crosses my path.

I have now reached the level of fanaticism.

How to Turn the Fanaticism Into a Religion

The only way to start a religion is to get disciples. Digging into your database, invite your best fanatics for a special thank you meal. Suddenly, you've got an advertising campaign for the price of a leg of lamb with mint pesto and baby carrots.

They are the disciples. Their burps spread the word. You sit back and rake in the moolah.

Besides, by networking like-minded people together, you're increasing their chances to do business. The richer they get, the busier they become and the more they want a place that knows and caters to their needs. The friends they bring along now reflect their own wealth and status, thus sending the whole system in an unending loop of upgraded customers spreading the good news in double quick time.

Getting the Chinks Out of The System

If good news is a jumbo jet, bad news is a Concorde. However, regular customers are comfortable with you and don't mind complaining. They nit pick with the loving tenderness of mom and make sure you stay in line. You couldn't pay for this feedback if you tried.

Well try!

If a regular customer complains, make sure she gets rewarded for complaining. It's like rewarding a puppy for good behaviour and what you really need is a steady stream of complaints to fix your systems constantly.

Grandpa never heard the complaints. The customers simply didn't show up again and his business walked out never to return.

Grandpa made his mistakes but there's no reason why you can't learn from them. The same principles apply no matter if you're in the food business or selling coffee mugs. These are the steps

1) Throw in The Bait: Entice them with something to part with the data. If at first it doesn't work, keep trying till something does. Then repeat it with all the customers.

2) Use the Data Creatively: Think GREED. How can you make your customers keep coming back? You've got to appeal to base instincts.

3) Form a Club: Well-organised disciples are better than random fanatics. If one club gets too big, form another and another till you have a whole series of people who swear by you and for you.

4) Don't Be Shy: Make them also swear against you. Get feedback. Encourage it. Pay for it. Just do it!

Which brings me back to me. Why did I choose a restaurant as an example when I could have chosen any other product or service? The prime reason is simply because a restaurant is almost an impulse decision and has extreme fickleness among patrons. Proving it works in this field proves it can work in almost any other.

But there's a selfish motive too. I'm hoping some restaurateur out there will be so pleased with this information, they'll offer me free meals forever. That way, I can catch up on the teenage years.


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Sean D'Souza uses age-old psychology, marrying it to modern technology, on his Web site, Can "psychological tactics" make a difference? Go there and find out.