Customer loyalty and other entrepreneurial delusions

When I hear entrepreneurs complain about the lack of customer loyalty I always have to laugh a little.

They think what they need is a customer loyalty “program” that comes with a bag of tricks to keep customers coming back.

What I almost never hear, and I’ve literally never heard it phrased this way, is loyalty to their customers.

What you phrase it this way (loyalty to your customers)  – and act on it – the problem of “customer loyalty” is 90% solved.

Put yourself on the other side of the counter

Salesmen used to be advised to “put yourself on the other side of the counter with your customer.”

“Put yourself in your customer’s shoes.” “See things from his point of view.”

And then for the slightly more sophisticated: “Join the conversation that’s already going on in his head.” And then from the NLPers with their pseudoscience jargon: “Mirror and pace.”

These are all very good ideas, but my question is what happen after the sale?

Sales geniuses and marketing gurus don’t talk too much about that part. It’s like the post-sale time doesn’t exist, even though they do rattle on about “lifetime value of a customer.”

But even here, their focus is on extracting, what they the marketer is going to get. They could just as easily say “lifetime service to a customer,” but they don’t and by not doing that they’re totally missing the boat, not to mention misleading their students.

Why this matters so much

Even if you’re totally lacking any concern for your customers (and I really hope you’re not one of those people), the fact of life is that the most reliable road to riches is developing a customer base that comes back to you over and over again.

This is hard to do if all your thinking about your customers stops after you’ve made the sale which I’m afraid is probably the case for at least 90% of marketers.

Think, really think, about every sales and marketing guru you’ve ever heard and all the advice they’ve given you and all the war stories they’ve shared.

It’s all about their “million dollar day” and the “push send from your hammock in Aruba,” isn’t it?

Nothing about what they did for the people they sold to and how loyal they were to them to the after the sale. Their stories feature the marketer, never the client, and shine a spotlight on how clever (i.e. successfully manipulative) the marketer is.

Guys, this is nursery school stuff.

Time to grow up

Everyone likes to hear a good sales success story. It’s interesting to hear how a difficult objection was overcome or how a powerful benefit that was identified by a sharp copywriter and put in the headline and tripled sales.

But how did the customer win? That’s the story that counts.

Marketing, even under the best of circumstances, is expensive. It costs money to get the phone to ring or to get someone to opt-in to your list.

When someone takes the giant leap from prospect to first-time customer, it’s a very big deal.

No matter how big your market is, it’s not infinite. Eventually, you’re going to reach your practical limit of new people you can sell too.

So the real game – the big game that yields big results – is not just to capture the market’s attention and give people good reasons to try you out, but to never give your customers reasons to look elsewhere once they’ve found you. (And that’s how your customer look at it after they’ve bought from you. Not how smart you were when you sold them, but how they found you.)

It’s so simple 

Customer retention – which is always the name of the game for serious business people – includes doing “boring” things like quick order fulfillment, quick resolution of problems, and quick refunds along with the more creative things like unadvertised after-the-sale bonuses and developing an ongoing stream of new and useful products and services.

In other words, designing your business and your customers’ experience so that your customers are treated the way you yourself like to be treated.

If it sounds like work, it is, but it’s how real money is made.

So yes, by all means, get on the other side of of the counter with your customer – and then stay there.

Contrary to the frat boy marketing gurus, you don’t get rich by getting over on your prospects. You get rich by having lots of happy customers who stick with you a long time and that’s a function of how you treat them.

P.S. If ideas like this make sense to you and you’re serious about building a real business as opposed to chasing fruitless fads, you might be interested in what I’m doing now that I not putting on the annual System Seminar conference any more.

I’m still teaching and working with long-time clients and students, but I’ve always got room for a few smart new clients who want to build real businesses that stand the test of time.

– Ken McCarthy

P.S. For over 25 years I’ve been sharing the simple but powerful things that matter in business with my clients.

If you’d like direction for your business that will work today, tomorrow and twenty years from now, visit us at the System Club.

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