LOVE YOUR CUSTOMER - And they'll reward you with sales
First published on MyTotalRetail.com blog September 2015
© 2015 Susan J. McIntyre
“Love” may seem odd as a business concept. “Love” includes valuing someone as a person, trying to see things from their point of view, being considerate of their time, trying to make their life easier, working to understand and help them achieve their goals.
Let's take for granted that you do all this for your spouse, children, parents, best friend. But do you ever think about “loving” your customer? You should. It's good business. Here's how.
LOVE IS UNDERSTANDING
It still surprises me when I ask a cataloger about their customers and all they know is “65% female, average age 30-45, Household Income $60,000-90,000”. It completely misses what's essential to you as a marketer: your customers' lifestyle, goals, and motivations.
How do you find this type of information? Big catalogers with deep pockets can afford research and focus groups. But most catalogers are small to medium size. Here are steps you can take.
LOVE IS TALKING AND LISTENING
Spend some time a few times a year in the call center taking calls. The marketing decision-makers I know, with the most successful catalogs, do just that. It's an easy, affordable method for getting to know your customers in a way that no demographic report can tell you. (But read the reports too!)
LOVE IS BEING INTERESTED
Don't share your customers' interests? That's OK. But do learn enough to see things from their perspective. Read the magazines and blogs they're reading. Are your customers hunters? Take a few lessons in shooting and dog handling. Talk to friends and neighbors who hunt. You'll understand better how to pick the best products, and how to help your designer and copywriter speak your customer's language. And you're likely to find it interesting!
LOVE IS BEING CONSIDERATE
One way is for your designer to create a catalog that's comfortable for your customers, not for themselves. Like a designer I know. He's urban, cynical, edgy (and designs well for audiences like himself), but his current employer's audience is very different. And his very different design for this female, grandmotherly, heartland audience is appealing and comfortable for them: cute, heartwarming, apple pie, with large serif fonts and easy eyeflow. His secret to being flexible and relevant? He spent time in the call center to connect with the audience.
LOVE IS DEFENDING
Be a customer advocate. Other staff often just defend the company (which may be a short-term plus, but long-term harm), like cheapening product quality, eliminating deals, making returns harder, squeezing service out of the guarantee, longer wait times in the call center queue. Yes, every catalog must deal with business realities. But defending the customer can gain creative compromises that maintain short-term profit while also maintaining long-term customer loyalty and thereby long-term response.
LOVE IS NOT BIG DATA
Big data is great in its way. It reduces sending messages to the wrong people. And it reduces sending the wrong messages to the right people. But people are more than data. They are thinking, feeling creatures who can detect the difference between pushing products/services at them and actually caring about their welfare. Even if you really are interested only in earning money (I hope not), then focus on trying to make your products and services actually improve the lives of your customers. You'll earn more...and not just money.
LOVE GETS RETURNED
“Our customers are so great. Some have been buying from us for 30 and 40 years.”
This is a real quote from a cataloger that's doing everything right, and succeeding because of it. Quality products. Knowledgeable TSRs. Solid guarantee. Relevant marketing. Despite their success, this cataloger keeps striving to improve too. New products, expanded website, better photography. They just keep on loving and listening to their customers. It's a winning strategy.