A key draw to initial and repeat business is how well any kind of business can develop a contact or visit with a prospective customer into a positive “experience.” Between having the merchandise available and competing on the basis of price may bring in the first transaction. But it is not enough to establish a long-term relationship.
The better that a coin and precious metals dealer can turn contacts into an “experience,” the greater success the business will gain.
Let me give an example from my own company. As part of an annual contract for advertising with a local radio station, it threw in a 3-hour remote broadcast. The weekday morning host of the station came to our store this past Saturday to do so.
The disc jockey is one of the best known in our area. Simply her appearance in our store would tend to draw some visitors. But, to maximize the public interest we wanted to do even more.
We chose to focus on publicizing our services in buying and selling foreign currency exchange. Here’s why we made that decision.
My company had purchased and sold foreign currency exchange since its founding in 1971. In 2010, a major national supplier for foreign currency to banks, credit unions, and travel agents discontinued this service. At the time, we committed to having regularly in stock the euro and currencies of more than ten other nations (e.g. Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Japan, Switzerland, China, etc.) and publishing our daily buy and sell prices on our website. Once we did this, we contacted local banks, credit unions, travel agents, department offices at Michigan State University, the local media, the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau, and others to suggest that they could direct inquiries about buying and selling foreign currency to our store.
This announcement was well received as even the banks and credit unions that still provided foreign exchange services to their customers considered it to be a loss leader for the time it took—even though they usually charged higher prices than my company. We receive multiple customer referrals weekly from these sources. Our volume has grown significantly since then, enough so that our company registered with the federal government as a money service business.
Still, even though we have run radio and television commercials on multiple stations and have listings for foreign currency exchange in various online and print yellow pages, we are constantly surprised at the number of people in our market who aren’t aware that we offer this service. Perhaps the tipping point came up a couple months ago when the manager and part owner of a multi-decade local vendor to our company was referred to us by his bank because even he did not realize that we handled foreign currencies.
My company is well established and known in the community. It was to overcome this lack of familiarity about handling foreign currencies that needed some promotion. To publicize the day of the remote broadcast, we ran a newspaper ad and radio commercials announcing that we would be giving away free money at our store this past Saturday. We also held a prize drawing among visitors that day which included a Mexico 2 peso gold coin, a 2016 silver Eagle dollar, the just-released 2016 Canada $5 silver Superman coin, some ancient coins, a 1793 Five livres assignat from the French Revolution hyperinflation, and other items.
For the free money, we assembled ten-piece bags of currently spendable coins in foreign countries such as Canada, Mexico, the Eurozone, Great Britain, Japan, and Caribbean nations to give away to every visitor. We also did three more major things to attract visitors that day. First, we offered a 1% discount on regular selling price for foreign currency purchases. We also prepared and gave visitors a brochure titled “Common Sense Precautions For International Travelers” (which covered a lot more than just the financial aspects of foreign travel). Last, we made sure to put out “museum” caliber displays to interest the general public. As examples of the latter, we showed an Ohio land grant bearing the signatures of Thomas Jefferson as president and James Madison as secretary of state, National Currency issued for banks in our city and surrounding areas, a collection of Michigan State Memorabilia going back to the 1880s, a 1939 Baseball Stamp first day of issue cover that was autographed by 23 members of the 1939 Detroit Tigers team (including 2 signers now in the Hall of Fame), and other items.
I spent a good amount of the day walking among visitors to hand them $500 and $1,000 Federal Reserve Notes that they could hold in their hands, most of whom had never previously seen one or even knew they ever existed.
One unexpected hit of the day was last week’s release by the Royal Canadian Mint of the 2016 Canada one-ounce silver $5 Superman coin. We had just received our first box of these pieces and put them out on display. One employee started suggesting them to visitors as an affordable Father’s Day gift. During the four hours our store was open last Saturday, we sold almost 40 of these coins—mostly to be given as gifts the next day.
Altogether, more than a hundred people came to our store. A high percentage of them conducted transactions. A common reaction, especially among people who had never before been to our store, was that they had no idea how interesting it was to visit.
I suspect that last Saturday we probably set a record for the number of visitors who, after being able to hold $500 and $1,000 bills in their hands, or the land grant signed by two early US presidents, or received free coins, later mentioned to their families, friends, neighbors, and relatives how much fun they experienced when they visited our store. Such word-of-mouth advertising is almost priceless.
Coin dealers with a brick and mortar storefront or office, where potential customers can hold interesting objects in their hand, have a huge marketing advantage over online and mail-order dealers. What kinds of things beyond those just mentioned could visitors enjoy seeing or holding when they come to visit? How about high denomination German hyperinflation money or the Zimbabwe 2008 $100 trillion dollar note, paper money or tokens from their hometown or home state, the newest just released US or world coins or sets, or even just a chance to hold a gold coin in their hands for the first time in their lives? None of these experiences are available from an online or mail-order merchant. If dealers think to add to augment a customer’s experience when they come to visit, they will get a surprising amount of free advertising and even more business in the future. It costs a little bit, especially in taking extra time, but the payoff is well worth it.
Online dealers have to be creative in other ways to provide website or online store visitors a special experience. Instead of merely listing an item for sale, take time to share historical background information so that potential customers can better appreciate what the items represented at the time of issue (common everyday circulating money, pieces normally only handled by the rich, economic emergency issues, etc.). Websites can also feature educational content to help visitors appreciate the products they might collect. Especially look to offer helpful guidance that is not easily available anywhere else. Adding this extra value for visitors to experience in a dealer’s online presence does take some work, but the extras business it could generate can be a real boost to the bottom line.
Two phrases that I regularly remind staff at my company are:
A customer who is smiling when he or she leaves will come back.
If you take care of your customers, your customers will take care of you.
If readers have other ideas on how coin and precious metals dealers could enhance visitor and customer experiences, or you would appreciate viewing a copy of the “Common Sense Precautions For International Travelers,” please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He is the owner emeritus and communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Michigan and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com. Other commentaries are available at Coin Week (http://www.coinweek.com). His radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 AM Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com).