Have you ever thought that running a business, especially a retail store, is a lot like dating? There you are in your store and in walks Mr. or Ms. “Right,” that ideal customer who simply loves your store and goes wild for your stuff.

You have a great time and Mr. or Ms. Right leaves the store, hopefully purchases in hand, and you think, That was great! I wonder when I’ll see him/her again?

Hmmmm? Too often, you just wait until they happen to show up another time. You can sit next to the phone and wait for it to ring, or you can take action!

Remember that guy who used to have his “little black book” with the names and phone numbers of lots of cute unattached girls? He always had a date. Here’s how to be that guy in the retail world:

When he met an attractive girl, the guy with the little black book probably said things like, “May I have your phone number so I can call you?” By doing that, he got permission to call, because if they gave him their number, they were probably interested, maybe even flattered that he’d asked.

You need to get permission to follow-up too. “Permission to Market” is something you want to achieve with every one of the ideal customers who enter your store—those people who you’ve identified as the ones who are most likely to be interested in the things you have to sell—in other words, your “target group”.

This shouldn’t be too difficult; after all, they already came into your store and bought something.

But even if they didn’t buy there’s no reason to think they might not buy at another time. Maintain contact. While you’re transacting with them, say, “Would you like to be on our VIP list and receive advance notice of specials and sales events?” …or “We love to keep in touch with our neighbors. Can we have your contact information?”

You might simply have your own little black book next to the cash and ask people to sign up. Lots of them will. Or better yet, start a database on your computer.

Now you’ve got permission to market to them, so start with a simple message thanking them for their business. You might add an extra, like a coupon good for a small gift with their next purchase—whatever you can afford. You want them to know you appreciate their business and are offering a value added service by staying in touch.

Next, send them an invitation to a special event at the store, a preview of new fashions, a demonstration of something that’s of interest, or an exclusive pre-sale VIP customer night. Anything you can come up with to make them feel special and get them back to the store.

But be careful, don’t pester the people on your list, space the messages out, perhaps than a month or six weeks apart. Be sure the emails have an “opt out” provision as a courtesy—most people will not use this.

Just as in dating, if the chemistry is right, your goal is to further and build the relationship. Having ideal customers that you see often, can be a marriage made in heaven!