Marketing is so much more than just advertising. I’m going to say this until every business owner gets that through their heads! It’s about developing a brand, an image that customers will remember. I often refer to what I call the marketing wheel. (I’m not the first or only one to refer to it this way, nor is my “wheel” the only one out there.) Here’s how it works. Advertising messages from different media and different promotional approaches all become part of a single message about the company. So, it stands to reason that marketing is not just about advertising… it’s about the entire package that the company portrays. That means that all of your marketing activities need to work together to deliver the same consistent message. Marketing involves so many aspects not to mention it can be a huge expense. It definitely takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get it right (and even some of us who have worked in marketing, don't always get it 'right'), but it really is possible to drive more customers into your business without working 20 hour days for the rest of your life.
Just remember that it’s about delivering a memorable experience. Sure, advertising is a part of that, but so are a lot of other things. Customer service is by far one of the most important aspects to developing that brand for your company. But it’s not just about what level of service you actually provide; it’s about what the customer perceives to be great service. According to American Express, 85% of customers have decided to never do business with a company because of poor customer service in the past. That’s a lot of people!! I’m the picky customer so I notice stuff that maybe other customers wouldn’t be looking for. But why not strive to impress even the pickiest of customers? Even the customers who might not have paid attention to the small details will be very happy with what they perceive as “exceptional” service.
After all, who doesn’t want to feel special?
Customer retention is so much cheaper and easier that customer acquisition. But I see it time and time again, where managers work their butts off to try and get customers to come to their place of business and buy their products but they fail to build a relationship with their customers. As a former marketer, I know how absolutely vital it is to generate awareness of a company. But, where advertising creates an image for your company, your relationship building skills (or unfortunately as we’ve all seen, lack thereof) solidifies that image in the eyes of the consumer. Your primary focus is to listen to your customers. You’ve gotten them interested enough to come to your store/office/etc. Now ask questions and really (I mean REALLY) listen to what they have to say.
Don’t get so wrapped up in a conversation about your business and what you can do for your customer. Your goal is to dig a little deeper, find out stuff about the person. People like to talk about themselves and the things they tell you can be incredibly enlightening. You can learn so much from your customers. And by taking the time to listen to them, you are creating an atmosphere of trust. That trust goes a long way in developing a long-term relationship with your customers.
Years ago, when I was a manager of cellular phone store, I had a gentleman come into my store to find out some stuff about phones. He was an older guy, maybe in his 60’s and knew nothing about cell phones, but his kids were telling him he should get one for emergencies. He must have spent about 45 minutes in the store that day. We had quite a conversation about his kids, his grandkids and his love of motorcycles. He left the store that day without a phone, but he came back about 2 weeks later with his son to get himself a phone. When he arrived, I had just stepped out of the store for a minute, so he told my co-worker that he would wait for me because he told her, “She knows me”. Based on all of the information I had gathered from him, I got him exactly what he needed… nothing fancy or expensive, but something that was useful for him. The one thing he hadn't mentioned in our conversations was that his son was a business owner. A month after I made the sale to the father, the son came in and wanted to switch ALL of his company’s current cellular business lines to us. He said that he was so impressed with how I treated his dad, that he wanted to be sure his company and his employees would get that same service. They became long-time customers of ours all because I took the time to listen to his dad. So, take the time to engage in a 2-way conversation with your customers. Don’t just go off on some rehearsed sales pitch about what you can do for them. Of course you can’t please everybody all the time, but your goal here is to let the customer know that you sincerely want to hear what they have to say. Let’s face it, we all want to be heard, understood and appreciated from time to time. Let your customers know that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. You never know where that relationship can lead to.
When I was a manager, the absolute number one priority in my store was customer service. The stores I managed were number one in the district and the company for a reason… because we had repeat customers who wouldn’t think to shop anywhere else. In order to do that, your sales team needs to know exactly what your company mission and vision are and they need to live that every day. The last thing you want is for customers to have a bad experience with a sales associate because they will tell a lot of people to never shop in your store ever again. Remember, 85% of your customers won’t come back because of poor service.
Take an honest look at your own business. Do you have a thorough training plan in place? Do you have high expectations for your staff? Taking the time to adequately train your staff, follow up regularly with them and instill a sense of pride to be working for your company is well worth the time it takes to do that. When you take out the bias you have towards your own way of doing things and really look at things from a customer’s perspective, you may not like what you see. So, don’t scrimp on your training budget when it comes to fully training your staff on exceptional customer service. Remember that memorable image will remain in your customers’ minds for a very long time and it’s much easier and cheaper to retain existing customers than it is to acquire new ones.