Football fans are incredibly passionate about their teams. Wouldn't it be great if your customers felt as passionately about your small business; if they’d tell everyone about you and defend you to the ends of the earth?
We must remember that we are all tribal, even though we no longer live in tribes. We have an innate desire to belong to something. Today, we create an identity for ourselves through the businesses we align ourselves with — whether they are big names or a local store or café.
It’s something that big brands understand but that many small firms miss. Nations have flags to bring people together and give them an identity. Logos are the flags of big brands; helping members of the tribe recognise each other and tell the world where they belong. Who we give our allegiance to often tells our peers who we are and what we represent.
Branding is like a flag. It helps the consumer declare to the world what they stand for. Every business, no matter what size, must have a clear message. Ask yourself, “What does my brand stand for?”
The brand is a promise to the consumer – a promise of an expected experience. "Buy from us and you will receive this."
By making a promise you attract customers, by keeping that promise you create loyal fans.
Do you remember the “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” campaign from Apple? The campaign was effective because the message was clear; use a PC and you are in for disappointment and frustration, use an Apple and create your dream. What’s important is that Apple delivered on its brand promise and this is why we see so many Apple products today.
It is imperative to make sure your business can deliver on its brand promise. We can learn from Samsung here. In order to compete with Apple in the mobile phone industry, Samsung came up with a bigger phone. For some months, it looked like this tactic had worked. However, those people that switched began to head back to Apple. Why? Simple; the Samsung phone was too complex and Apple users who had switched found its operating system user-unfriendly.
People went back to Apple in droves and Apple seized an opportunity; they saw the demand for a bigger phone and delivered it.
Apple once again is leading the market. One company had focused solely on its features (Samsung) while the other focused on the experience and tribe (Apple).
Branding without delivery is simply a lie. People will become discouraged and look for something better. Delivering the brand experience will ensure your business stands out.
“You cannot say ‘the customer is king' in this day and age...” That was the feedback I was given recently. “It’s so 1985.”
At first, I wasn't sure if the criticism didn't say more about the critic than about the three little words but I am not so sure.
It feels like the obvious is being stated when we are told. However, if it is so obvious, then why do so few people do it?
Well, what I do get is that the phrase is not as of the moment as CE, CX, or CEM, (and if you have to ask then it shows just how behind the curve you are).
While the phrase may seem a little dated, I did also have a simpler problem. Way back in 2002, I wrote the book, Customer is King. It was good enough that Sir Richard Branson wrote a foreword for it.
As it happens, it has just been updated and published on Kindle. As it is the title of my book, I do feel committed to using the phrase.
The phrase has been over-used but then so has “profit is vanity, cash is sanity”.
However, the real question is whether the phrase imparts its full meaning. Personally, I think it probably does. But then again you are my customer, and only your opinion really matters, so what do you think?
Copyright © 2015 Robert Craven. Robert runs The Directors’ Centre, helping businesses to grow. He is a keynote speaker and best-selling author of Kick-Start Your Business and Grow Your Service Firm as well as The Customer is King.
It was while enjoying a series of single malt whiskies, in the Three Crowns Pub, that I was reminded of a marketing lesson that too many businesses are missing in this new digital world.
On finishing our drinks, I asked my brother if he wanted another round. After agreeing to have “one more for the road”, I duly went to the bar and ordered another couple of doubles of Glenlivet. The price I was charged would have made the bottle of Glenlivet just over £100. Yet it is widely available to buy by the bottle for around £30.
Why spend so much extra? I could have easily bought a bottle of Glenlivet in my local supermarket and sat at home with my brother. The drink would have been of equal quality.
The point is that the value was not in what this pub supplied — the drink. There are other pubs that sell the same brand, and there are also many other ways I could have purchased the whisky, many of which would have been more cost-effective.
Rather, the value was in how the pub delivered the product. In supplying pleasant surroundings, a comfortable place to sit, a good atmosphere, a log fire and showing the football, the pub created an experience that was bigger than just the quality whisky. The totality of the experience made the cost of the product acceptable at that moment in time.
Moreover, although this particular pub’s main product is beverages, the landlord had thought about other items a customer may want during their visit. Snacks including crisps, nuts and bowls of chips were available. There was also a quiz machine to play. OK, this is pretty standard inventory for a pub, so why the big deal?
The digital economy has seen the increasing commoditisation of products and services — whether you are a business-to-business company, or a business supplying consumers. We are all now working in the experience economy. Of course, products and services have to be delivered to a high standard in order to compete. However, today that is just the price of entry into any particular market.
The value for the customer is no longer in what you do. Your clients will, more than likely, have a multitude of options, of which you will be just one. The value is in how you deliver the product or service. It is the experience that will differentiate your business. It is also the experience that is more likely to be talked about, shared and which will generate referrals.
Moreover, what you deliver is likely to be the same as a number of other suppliers. This being the case, this is not where the value lies in your business. The most precious resource today is people’s attention. So the value in your business is more likely to exist in data and the customers you supply.
In other words, the real worth of your business is in the engagement and trust you have with your client base. The more you can deepen this, the more valuable your business becomes. Being able to provide added value to “the experience” enables an organisation to earn more money while creating more engagement and value for the customer.
Understanding your customers’ challenges and the contexts in which these occur, will enable you to create new offerings and obtain a greater share of a customer’s wallet. It means being truly customer centric and understanding what else a customer may require when they engage with your business. In other words, what is the equivalent of your crisps and nuts?
When jazz musicians Melvin “Sy” Oliver and James “Trummy” Young wrote the song ‘T’ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It) in the 1930s, little did they know they would be providing the perfect comment on marketing in the digital economy.
Ultimately, what you do allows you to exist, how you do it enables you to compete and differentiate. Too many companies focus all their energies on what they do, rather than how they do it and for whom.
Now that is sorted, I am off for a well-deserved single malt! Three Crowns anyone?
If there is a fairy godmother in charge of shopping I hope she is listening.
I hope she takes online and high street retailers to one side and says, “Look, your brain does something funny when you go to work, don't you realise what the world is like for customers?”.
I hope she sprinkles them with her fairy dust so they listen when we tell them about the hundreds of little opportunities to sell that they miss every single trading day.
Show people where to go as soon as they start to shop. When they get to your products make the descriptions, sizes and prices easy to read. Remember that customers have criteria — if you understand how customers are deciding what to buy, then you have more chance of selling to them.
Test out a customer's “journey” around your store — or ecommerce website — and look at how their needs and criteria change. Clearly signpost changing rooms and cash registers from different directions so that the customer knows where to go. If you use mannequins to highlight outfits, put the products right by them, clearly marked. Make sure packaging clearly and easily communicates what’s inside.
If customers have a need now, why not satisfy it? If your processes are fixed to a strict schedule of seasonal buying, you’re at the mercy of the weather making your customers want to buy something that you don’t have. Don’t apply fashion season rules to non-fashion basics; if this happens in your store, ask your customers if it suits them — if it doesn’t, change it.
Don’t spend any time or money offering things to customers who cannot buy them. Don’t put any barriers in front of customers with money. Arrange sale clothing by size, not price — during a sale we always need to know what size a garment is and never how much it costs (it’s already in the sale).
If customers have given their contact details to you once, it should be possible to buy from you without having to give them again. When customers do make an enquiry, make it easy for them to progress this to a purchase. Follow up enquiries that haven’t led to a sale and find out why. Knowing why someone hasn’t bought from you is just as important as knowing why they have.
Don’t confuse information with knowledge — having broad market research to hand isn’t the same as understanding the people who buy from you. Think like a customer not a manager, you can't afford to ignore any incremental benefits to your bottom line.
Lynn Allison FCIM, Chartered Marketer is the author of Catching the Chameleon, published by Ecademy Press.
Thank you for all your great retail tips and comments on Lynn's blog. And congratulations to Craig Dearden, Tim Shapcott and Bronwyn Durand who all win a copy of Lynn's book, Catching the Chameleon.
Losing weight, giving up smoking, getting a better education, getting a better job. Some people only need it. Others really want it.
And so it is with customer service. Some organisations really need to give better service. Their customers are telling them so, their employees are telling them so and their profits are probably telling them so. But for whatever reason, they don’t want to give better service.
And then there are those who really want it. Those organisations that recognise the importance of listening to their customers, creating a culture with high levels of employee engagement and building their bottom line and their goodwill.
If you want to experience great service, go to an organisation that wants to serve you, where the people are empowered and encouraged to delight you. Very often these organisations don’t need big budgets for advertising or recruitment or training. I’ve never seen a single advertisement for Pret A Manger yet their service is outstanding and their business has grown rapidly from humble beginnings in 1986.
It starts with leadership, with a vision, the ability to communicate that vision and the strength to look for long term growth rather than short term profits. You can feel the leadership running through the organisation like the word Blackpool in a stick of rock. I feel Julian Richer’s influence at Richer Sounds, John and James Timpson at Timpson shoe bars, Richard Branson at Virgin Atlantic and Charles Dunstone at Carphone Warehouse.
You don’t have to be big. You don’t have to be small. But remember that a big business is just a small business that did the right things.
Think lifetime value. When a customer comes in for a USB stick, for instance, think what their lifetime value might be — a computer every two years, plus printers, and cables and inks and paper and servicing and broadband, for them, for their family, for their business. Cock up on the £10 sale and you lose that lifetime value for your lifetime.
Where there’s a great experience then there’s probably great care.
Just been to Dans le Noir - a truly remarkable restaurant in London (and Paris).
What makes it so special and worthy of mention?
Just think about it.
The whole concept challenges how you ‘see’ flavours and textures and how you relate to your food. It is mind-blowing. You have to go. It is like no other restaurant. And the “blinded guides” have to care for you while you are totally outside your comfort zone.
The experience is wild and challenging. Spending a couple of hours without any sight makes you re-evaluate your fortune at being sighted, think about what it must be like to be blind, and messes with your palate. You have little idea what you are eating. Crazy. The experience lingers for days.
My point. Dans le Noir is a true experience. You don’t forget it. You tell everyone about it. Remarkable. A business. And it increases public awareness about blindness.
If only more businesses could offer a true experience.