Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Customers... Do you really know who they are? Part 2

Knowing who your customers are will only get you so far. Once you know them, you have to keep up with them, or rather stay one step ahead of them so that they stay your customers for a lifetime. You can accomplish this in 3, easy (okay not so easy, but totally doable) steps!
  1. The first thing any small business owner should do once they get to know their customers on a personal level is continue to build and gain their trust. As mentioned in part 1, the more customers trust you the more they will reveal about themselves personally (as it pertains to your products). One way to do this is through the use of a "loss leader" or a "freebie". This helps solidify to your customer that your interactions are more than transactions, they are a collaboration of "friends." In my industry, I do not want the Chief Marketing Officer of a Fortune 100 company to consider our relationship a transaction. I can't afford for that to happen so I always make sure to invite them to other conferences for free as my guest, not as a speaker or panelist. In this way I can demonstrate my personal relationship with them by offering them a chance to come to an event on a topic that they expressed interest in during our casual conversations. Most times they accept and even when they don't they appreciate me focusing on them, going beyond "good service" and closer to "good friend." This way I can continue to tap them as a resource to continue to gain personal insights about them as customers. As a small business owner you can use yourself as an example of how important trust is. The next time one of your "suppliers" comes by for a sales visit, see how you feel about opening up personally. If you feel like you are willing to open up to them, you can provide first hand validation of my point, and you can also see just how effective some salesman really are.
  2. After you build trust with customers and have gained a personal relationship with them, you need to use that information to reach new customers. The most effective way to reach new customers is through the creation of a single global marketing message based on similar personal factors. By this I mean using the personal information you mined from your customers to create one consistent message that never changes at its core. For example, in my organization, putting on high-level corporate events is what we do, but we market that only high-level corporate people will be in the audience, which makes our events more peer-to-peer than our competitors. Therefore we focus our marketing message on this peer-to-peer aspect based on the idea of like minded people wanting to interact with other like minded people. Despite the fact that we put on events that span all aspects of business and every inch of the country our message is that it will always be peer-to-peer. While this may seem like a simple task because our target group is so focused, it is no different than what McDonald's does with its "I'm loving it" campaign or Nike did/does with "Just do it".
  3. By now you may be noticing that a key to effective marketing is understanding that customers are similar. This "key" is both true and false because while human sensibilities are diverse, but what consumers want is not. A global theme like "I'm loving it" or "peer-to-peer" plays to the similarities, while how we convey that message plays to the diversity. In this way you can bring back in the dynamics of personal customer information and continue to break it down into smaller and smaller units. For example Nike manages to market shoes to older people by focusing on the quality of their product and how durable it is so that you can always "Just do it." While at the same time they can market to younger people by focusing on individuality and allowing them to "Just do it" their own way. In this way they market to two completely dissimilar customer segments with the same single message. However in order to reach these groups they have to know that young people are personally motivated by uniqueness, while older people are more likely to be focused on quality.
As a small business owner you may never be able to market as effectively as Nike or McDonald's, but getting to know why your customers come to you, may get you closer to "over a billion sold!"

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