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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 10, 2004 17 years ago

Know Your Customers,Improve Your Business

Build value and trust to assure lasting bond with your advocates.

Know Your Customers,Improve Your Business

A company that delivers value by developing customer intimacy has an implied permission marketing ipoint of entry.i Your message is invited in. The prospect is both willing and receptive. The company o perhaps yours o builds bonds like those between good neighbors. Customer intimate companies donit deliver what the market wants, but what a specific customer wants. The customer intimate company makes a business of knowing the people it sells and the products and services they need.

It continually tailors its products and services, and does so at good value and reasonable price. Its proposition: iwe take care of your specific category needs,i or iwe get you the best total solution.i

You can do this too! And thatis whether you are a Gulf Coast automotive leader, successful Realtor, prominent attorney, community banker, tech exec or entrepreneur.

The customer intimate organizationis great asset, which is masked on your balance sheet, is its customersi loyalty.

Control ad costs

Customers or clients donit have to be continually resold through expensive mass media. If you know who these people are and where they are, then you can direct your message to this specialized audience. And economically. Itis not broadcasting, itis narrow casting, not mass media, but targeted media. Itis heart-to-heart, up close and personal, me and you.

Customer intimate companies donit pursue transactions; they cultivate relationships. They are adept at giving customers more than they promise and even more than the customer expects. By constantly upgrading their offering, customer intimate companies stay ahead of their customersi rising expectations. And itis always important to remember that high value has little to do with low price.

According to authors Michael Treacy and Fred Wierseman in their epic classic book on modern day marketing, iDiscipline of Market Leaders,i this type of customer-central style, label it what you will, highlights the customeris lifetime value, not just the profit and loss on a few transactions.

Desired product: iRelationshipsi

Make sure that each customer gets exactly what he or she really wants. Does this type of thinking reflect your own Gulf Coast company or firm? Youill make your own conclusion, of course, but hereis a tip: Donit think for a nanosecond that you can achieve these lofty corporate personality goals without a written operating plan that everyone on staff meaningfully buys into. The written operating model must be specific and direct staff to produce and deliver a broader and deeper level of support.

Your staff will tailor its mix of services or customize the products even if it means acting as a broker to obtain desired services or products from third parties.

The American Marketing Association tells us that guerrilla marketing executives o those who most depend on word-of-mouth advertising o really need to ilivei with the customer and teach their own team by example.

Out of the office

Itis comforting to sit in a well-appointed office and put out the little fires that so frequently occur in any growing organization. Instead, why not start a fire! Start it in the belly of your senior management. Ignite a flame in your associates, your total team.

Go to the sound of the guns. Visit with your customers or clients and do it frequently. Do it over coffee with an agenda of value theyill appreciate. Then keep in touch personally to earn your wings for customer intimacy.

Write a short, hand-written personal note to your advocates, instead of a terse e-mail. Make a personal telephone call. Visit on their turf. Extend an invitation to an open house and follow up with an iIill look for youi call. Mail a magazine article that applies. Send a unique low-cost advertising specialty with a handwritten comment on your business card. Give a bulk charitable donation in honor of your advocates, whoill each receive a thank you from the charity. Hold a well-planned seminar by invitation. Write a trade article and send reprints.

Write it down

Create your own well thought out heart-to-heart promotion calendar. Do something for your advocates that is both significant and personalized every 30-60 days. Then, at the end of each period evaluate the success with your associates.

Customer intimacy is the ultimate guerilla marketing tactic. It assures that if you touch their minds and their hearts, youill surely win a share of their wallets.

Lou Lasday, an independent marketing adviser who resides on Longboat Key, creates action-oriented strategic marketing initiatives for Gulf Coast emerging companies. A career direct response executive, he has been a general partner of a major national marketing communications firm and regional president of the American Marketing Association.

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