by Theresa and Jack Reaume
Like no other time before, this is the age of the customer. They clearly have all the power in the buy – sell relationship. Today’s technology provides them with all the tools they need to compare quality, price and value. And if they are not doing it themselves, chances are someone is doing it for them. The internet provides the information, apps organize it and provide comparisons and social media screams today’s deal of the day. One would think that the pendulum has shifted so far, today’s business owner is merely playing defense. Not true. Every one of us has a distinct advantage with our customers and our competitors.
And that advantage is your own customer base.
Stop and consider what your existing customers mean to you. They are the lifeblood of your business and they should be treated as such. They are YOUR customers and they won’t go anywhere unless you let them. Your competitors don’t know who they are let alone where they are. Their history with you and the trusted relationship they have with you provides a value that your competitors cannot match.
While your competitors are on social media trying to get somebody’s attention, you have your loyal customers from last year and the year before that and the years before that. While the people you don’t know are Googling everything under the sun, you have the trust built into your customer relationships. And that trust gives you a distinct competitive advantage.
In today’s customer centric culture we need to make relationship building a priority. It is the easiest and most cost effective form of marketing. Every member of your team should view the relationship with customers as the most important aspect of your business. Making people feel welcome and listening instead of talking are relationship building skills. Staying in touch with your customers after the sale is a relationship building skill. Once you make that initial commitment to your customers, staying with them is up to you. Loyalty doesn’t just happen. You need to make a long term investment in that loyalty. This is an ongoing process, not an event. Your customers are eager to give loyalty but it must be earned.
A recent poll found that 65% of customers who went elsewhere for their next purchase did so not because of price or product. They went elsewhere because of indifference. In other words, “If you’re not going to make me feel special, maybe someone else will”. Imagine that, losing sales because your marketing budget didn’t include a program that stayed in touch and demonstrated to your own customers that you appreciated them. Everyone wants to feel special. If you’re not going to make your customers feel special, your competitors will be happy to.
At a function I recently attended, the discussion turned to customer loyalty, or to be more exact, the lack of customer loyalty. This particular business has been around for about 20 years and the biggest concern today is how their customers don’t always come back for the next sale. In other words, they are not as loyal to him as they used to be. He had a list of reasons: the internet, price consciousness, the economy, etc. He said they had to spend more and more on marketing to acquire new customers because of the lack of loyalty of the old ones. His definition of loyalty left the obligation totally on the customer. I asked how much of his marketing budget was dedicated to his existing clients. He looked puzzled. I continued, “I mean personalized, one to one contact with your existing customer base. “ Answer: nothing. I followed with, “So you’ve decided to compete for your own customers on the same playing field as your competitors while ignoring the advantage you have with these customers.” The silence spoke volumes. You know your own customers. You shouldn’t be willing to just turn them over to the competition. And the studies are conclusive: once their loyalty has been earned, your customers don’t want to go anywhere else because they feel appreciated right where they are.
Today’s consumers are technologically advanced. They are price savvy. They are looking for value like never before. They know all about you and your products before they set foot in the door. And these are the challenges your competitors have to deal with. You, on the other hand, have the upper hand when it comes to your own customers. You have the opportunity to make them feel special. And no matter how sophisticated or savvy or knowledgeable people are, feeling important and appreciated trumps everything.
You and your team need to become obsessed with your customers. Make it part of your mission statement. Do that by providing value, developing long term relationships and making them feel special. And customer loyalty will become one less thing to be concerned about. FBA
Theresa and Jack Reaume are co-owners of Successful Image Client Relations Management and specialize in helping build customer relationships. They can be contacted by phone toll free at 1-888-245-7968 or by email at [email protected] or [email protected] or visit their website at www.successful-image.com.