How to Make Newcomers to Swear Allegiance to Your Business


According to common wisdom, the four most stressful situations in life are: a death in the family, a change in job, a change in marital status and moving.

Of this list, there's a big opportunity in that final item. When people move, of course, they are more willing to experiment with trying new stores and services because, duh, they have nowhere familiar to go to -- especially if they moved here from out of state or another country.

The challenge, then, is how do you seduce these transients? One possibility is to align yourself with a company like Welcomemat Services, which is a marketing/tech company that mails out coupon books with QR codes to people who have recently changed their address. To find out more about how Welcomemat's services work, I gave President Brian Mattingly a call.

How can you convert locals into loyal customers when you're a new business in town? I know it's a broad topic, but what comes to mind first initially for that?

Brian Mattingly: Well, wow. Okay, first off, the company that I run, we work in the space of people changing habits. There's a guy Charles Duhigg who wrote this book about habits. He's been on NPR and Fresh Air the other day. And there was a piece in the New York Times about it. His whole premise behind this study that he's been doing for many years is to help identify areas in people's lives when they will change habits. His research indicated there's a couple times in people's lives where they really are susceptible to change and they don't even know it. One of them is when people move. Whether you move from Lincoln Park to Roscoe Village or from Germany to Greektown, people are susceptible to making change and are willing to give loyalty at that point. That's kind of the space we play in.

I just read a report last week that U-Haul, the trucking company, and what they determined was that Chicago was No. 4 in top destination cities. I think they measure it based on inbound U-Hauls. So they track all their trucks over the course of a year and Chicago was No. 4, which is huge because obviously you have a ton of corporate headquarters here. Chicago has so many great schools and things like that around it. What's happening is it's getting a huge influx of people. Now, of course, you live in a world where you have some big daily deal companies in your space.

What's happening is local retailers, the local entrepreneurs are finding it very difficult to capture a new regular, because what's happened is people are becoming loyal to things like LivingSocial and Groupon. But are they becoming loyal to the local business that Groupon is bringing them into? And I don't mean to use Groupon to single them out, but it can be any daily-deal situation. Retailers are finding, "Okay, I can run a big blast coupon-type scenario, but I'm having a really tough time keeping them."

So, with all this being said, it's very hard for that local entrepreneur to find that regular customer. What we've determined if you can pick off that person who's coming in on that U-Haul truck and invite them into your restaurant in Wicker Park or wherever it might be, you've got a great chance to keep them versus someone who's lived in Wicker Park for five years and they've already got their habits built.

But I assume you're not suggesting people just go to the U-Haul depot and flyer out there.

Brian Mattingly: So how do you find people like that? My company, that's what we do. We actually work with local retailers all over the country. We have franchises that are set up around the country that work within their local communities and they connect the best local businesses -- and it can range, people that move make 71 new business relationships and it can range from a business to a restaurant, a very high-end restaurant, a hardware store, carwash and the list goes on all the things that people need. We actually connect people that move with local entrepreneurs in that community with a mail piece, because that's the only way we know how to find a change of address or that they moved. So we drop something in the mail, and in that mail piece we have patented technology, which is little QR code type things. So, someone comes into Blackbird, say, through Welcomemat. Blackbird holds onto that piece, they ship it back to our data center and we scan those QR codes. We tell Blackbird, No. 1, who came in, we tell them where they live, so now they've got a database of that person, we tell them demographically something about these people so they can learn what's happening in their neighborhood. "Okay, of the 200 new families that Welcomemat brought me over the course of a year, are they 38-year-old men making $200,000 a year? And if so, maybe I should think about my decor or change some things on my menu." Whatever it may be.

We start with that move, we find that person who needs help and who's willing to be loyal. We bring them into Blackbird. Blackbird then has a whole tracking component that's electronic. And so they can learn about these new people and give them touch points so they can reach back out to them, whether it be via email or mail. That's really how we're helping local businesses capture new families.

What tactics have you seen from people trying to do this on their own that aren't necessarily as successful?

Brian Mattingly: Well, if they're reaching out to new people, however they're doing it, I think it's great. That's the way to go. That's the way to find a qualified consumer. One of the traps is when people go down to Cook County Records Department and try to find mortgage deeds or something that indicates a move. By the time they do all that and start handwriting addresses on postcards or whatever it may be, they've just spent a ton of time doing something that is not probably the best use of their time. So trying to do this on your own is cumbersome. It's good to team up with a service that can handle it for you so you can focus on your business.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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