Branding

Engaging Customers Part 2

In my last post, I talked about the importance of engaging customers to build a meaningful long term relationship.  But I didn’t really talk about how you do this.  The best analogy I can think of is dating.  You build a relationship using a number of steps:

  1. You tell your date about yourself — who you are, what you do, why you are a great date.
  2. Then you demonstrate that you are a great date, creating credibility by showing up on time, and doing what you said you were going to do.
  3. You get to know your date, all about them, what their needs and dreams are.  You spend time with your date.  You do it face to face.
  4. You figure out if there are things you can change to better meet the needs of your partner — Take up their hobby? Go to the gym? Watch their favourite TV Show?
  5. You try to figure out if you meet enough of each other’s needs.  If you do, then you have a relationship.
  6. Sooner or later, one of you is going to screw up.  Then the question is how do you handle it?  Do you apologize? Do you figure  out whether there were  extenuating circumstances? Do you have empathy for the person? Do you fix the problem?
  7. Over time, your partner’s needs and expectations might change.  Are you alert to these changes? Do you change in response? 

Often we treat our customers much like our loved ones.  We take them for granted. We don’t pay enough attention to them, or spend enough time with them.  It’s hard to have empathy for a customer, when we don’t know how they are feeling.  And it’s hard to engage a customer, when we don’t know who they are, much less what is important to them. 

Is this easy? No.  It takes time and money.  But if you haven’t spent time listening to your customers recently, you might be looking at a divorce.

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2 replies »

  1. How does it work where your business might require many customers but the slice of time is highly limited?

    If I am a web designer that designs for over 50 customers, what can be a substitute for making time for the customers? A lot of your advice is based on time and commitment, but how does one go about it if their field requires they have as many customers as possible?

  2. You make a great point. Scale means that we have to figure out this relationship thing a little differently. When I worked in package goods we often had to figure out what the consumer wanted without necessarily meeting and knowing every consumer. I tried to develop a prototype consumer, one who was representative of the needs and wants of my target customer. I tried to gather as much info about her as possible. And then, everytime I needed to make a decision that would impact her, I tried to take her into consideration.

    Every time you communicate with a customer, it’s an opportunity to understand their needs. You might learn that their needs are changing. You might add some new piece of information to your “prototype” as you go along.

    For example, I used to get frustrated at web designers because once the website was designed, it took too much time to get updates completed. I’m betting that now your customers are a bit more focused on managing their online costs. The more you track these shifts in a methodical way, the better you can develop these relationships.

    You might have a couple of different types of customers with different sets of needs. But tracking two customer types might enable you to develop relationships with all 50 customers.

    Hope this enlightens or at least stimulates your thoughts.

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