Growth Strategy: Love your Customer
“We need to take excellent care of our customers, and do so at a profit.” – Gerard Arpey
When people want to increase sales they tend to focus on the usual promotional techniques of giving away margin. However, we’d like to open your mind to a new approach and ask you to consider thinking first about your best friends – your existing customers. We want to show you that to love your customer can be an integral part of a growth strategy.
When one first looks at a business, the relationship and communication channels they have with their current customer base is very important. However it’s easy to just consider our customers and contacts with a view to what we can extract from them, such as higher prices, or forcing them to buy more with ingenious rebate schemes. We can introduce additional services and products we hope they will want, or we can even dress-up the same thing they are currently buying differently and get them to buy it again.
However you describe any of these tactics they can’t be portrayed as “love thy neighbour”; the phrase “bloodsucking parasite” more readily comes to mind. It’s important to love your customer but this is more of a strategic plan than a sound-bite!
What’s in it for them!
Those of us fortunate to live their lives in long-term relationships (or with strong long-standing friendship groups or with close extended families), understand that the strength of relationships comes from wanting the happiness and success of the other party above your own. Generally all parties get more pleasure from giving and being selfless than they do from receiving.
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Love your Customer
So write a list of your top 20% of customers and then spend an hour with your closest colleagues / mentor / coach considering each customer in turn. They can look at these customers in a way that you cannot look yourself, with an outside perspective. They can view the ambitions and challenges of each client with the benefit of different experiences and skill sets.
Ignore your own product or service and just ask yourself, “what could that business / person do to be more successful / achieve their goals?”. Add in questions like “who could I introduce them to that could help?”, “what could I suggest they read?”, “what support is available that they may not know about?”, “who do I know who would benefit from their service that I could refer?”.
You may be waiting now for the classic end line of “Once you have done this, move in for the kill, grab as many orders as you can as quickly as you can while they are overcome with good will towards you!” Well that’s not coming from this article – you’re supposed to love your customer!
Just think of this whole activity as a thank you. Genuinely do this for the pleasure of seeing others become more successful and grow stronger. Resist the temptation to follow-up with reminders of how good you were to them. Never succumb to the frustration that comes with doing someone a favour only to see it returned by them switching suppliers or demanding price reductions.
So what will be the outcome of this extremely strange behaviour for our capitalist, profit-focused world?
Firstly, in considering the best course of action for all your customers to succeed, you’ll suddenly realise that you don’t spend enough time thinking about your own business. Many of the ideas you come up with for them will be equally as relevant to your own business. Most of them could have been done already if you’d just got off your backside and added them to your own plan.
Secondly, there will be a group of your customers who will react with extreme suspicion or refuse to engage. There is huge value here: you have identified the group whose close-mindedness will (at worst) see them fail in the future, but (at best) are not easily influenced by anyone. You now know that these kind of companies are not who you should focus on for your future business development.
Undoubtedly though, there will be a group of customers and contacts that you have put together in mutually beneficial relationships. There will be individuals whose career, reputation and livelihood you have helped progress. There will be others whose mood you have simply lifted. In this context you have hit upon the mother lode of all business growth programmes: if your customers are continuously successful and growing then they are more likely to buy more, they are likely to pay quicker, and they are likely to consider all their business partnerships in a more positive light. Change is likely to be progression and expansion.
You can also do the same thought experiment by writing-down a group of customers who you would like to have but don’t yet. This will allow you to understand them better and go into contact with them in a really positive way, making the grounds for your marketing and sales plans more fertile.
So yes – making sure that you are regularly communicating with your current customers is an important part of your sales strategy (after all, it is far easier to sell more to the people who already know you). Considering how you can genuinely help them will give you a higher sense of empowerment.
You will have given something for nothing, it will have cost you nothing apart from time, and you will have enriched a relationship by genuinely wanting more for the other party than you do for yourself.
For once don’t try and measure the benefit, just enjoy the experience and love your customer.
Feeling the love with Yorkshire Powerhouse
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