Lisbiz strategies: Do I really have to like my customers, too?

Home Columns Lisbiz strategies: Do I really have to like my customers, too?

Volume 27/Number 6; July 8/15, 2013

By Lisbeth Calandrino

I recently went to a grand opening for a new product and started talking to a retailer.

“Walk-in traffic just isn’t the same,” he said. “What can I do to bring in customers?” This is, of course, one my favorite topics and gives me the opportunity to talk about all those wonderful events successful retailers are hosting.

“Many retailers are holding events such as cigar and cognac nights, pet adoptions and classic car shows and reaping the benefits of loads of foot traffic. Most are having a wonderful time,” I told him. He looked at me like I was nuts. Of course, I’m on a roll and just continue.

“I hear you have a pretty big house,” I said. “Why not hold a barbecue for your loyal customers and ask them each to bring a friend?”

“Are you kidding me? I have enough of them during the day; I’m not going to spend time with them after work,” he said. “That’s my private time. I’m doing plenty of television and radio advertising but they’re just not coming in. Besides, I don’t even know who they are. Suppose they steal my wife’s jewelry?”

I tried not to roll my eyes but I did chuckle. He was probably right; customers aren’t coming in through radio and television, but why stop doing it? We all know that Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. I don’t think this retailer is insane but I do think he is out of touch with customers and what’s bringing in traffic.

“Why are you doing radio and television if it’s not working?” I asked. His response was, “Because it used to work. Plus, how will the customer get to know me if I don’t advertise?” Maybe I misjudged him, I thought. Maybe he is insane.

Here’s what’s new: The customer wants to be your friend and get to know you. It was strange that this retailer was worried about a customer stealing from him. I wonder if his customers worry their houses will be cleaned out by his installers? After all, they are unsupervised while in homes.

How about a new definition of advertising? The customer talks and you listen. If she likes you, she says nice things. If she doesn’t like you, she trashes you. The customer is not interested in what you think. She knows as much about your products as you do and your salespeople know that. The customer comes in armed with a cell phone, lots of photos and information that she’s downloaded from the Internet.

Customer loyalty is almost nonexistent unless you put significant time into courting and loving your customer. How do you do that? By inviting her to your place of business and helping her feel important. Or, you might ask her to write a blog for you or join you on a customer panel.

If you’re smart, you’re blogging about your golf game, supporting the Special Olympics, or collecting plastic bottles for a good cause. You write about it, post it on your Facebook page and get friends who share in your journey to comment. No, you won’t get all the customers, but you’ll get the ones who believe in you and your business.

Not knowing your target customer is suicide these days. The smart retailers know their customers down to what color socks they wear.

For my retailer friend, I suggest he hide his wife’s jewelry and fire up the barbecue.

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