C is for Customer

Over the weekend, my husband and I attended an open house hosted by a local patriotic group. Because we live in Valley Forge, there are any number of organizations dedicated to preserving either the national park itself or the history surrounding it.

We were greeted warmly by several members of the group, three of whom showed us around the building and grounds and gave us a short history of the organization. They told us about how old the organization was, how they have annual state conventions, how they order their flags from a local company, how their membership has dwindled, how they were the recipients of a stone marker that once stood at the Betsy Ross House.

What they didn’t tell us was why the devil they exist.

I thought I’d simply not heard, so I asked my husband when we got in the car. No, they’d not said why they were an organization or why anyone should join or even donate. Whom do they serve? Not a clue, and the pamphlet they handed us as we walked in didn’t hold any answers, either.

They’d forgotten to think of their customer.

The same can be true for businesses. Too often marketing messages fall flat and businesses are loathe to understand why. The messages are going out with increased frequency to the target audience, yet there’s no uptick in the number of sales or customers who have been lured in by the messages.

Time to examine the message.

Effective marketing is not a one-way street. The goal isn’t to avail the customers of the glories of your company, your products, and your people. In fact, many companies do make the mistake of creating buzz around how special they are and how superior their products may be. That may be true, but the missing thread in the conversation-of-one is this: your customer just doesn’t care.

So how can you write a message that draws in your customer and improves sales? By selling the sizzle, not the steak.

Show benefits. Yours may indeed be the best product since sliced bread, but unless your customers understand how that product can benefit their own lives, it’s still just sliced bread. Instead of touting your company’s numerous product design awards, tell your customers how your product will help them.

Create excitement. Since its inception in 2007, Apple’s iPhone sales went from just over 1.3 million annually to over 37 million sold so far in 2012. Marketing that creates excitement around the brand and around ownership results in long lines at the launch of each new iPhone incarnation. Customers want an iPhone and need an iPad, even if they don’t. Why does it work? Because the marketing creates an image that customers want to be part of.

Offer incentives.  A 2005 Rice University study of 300 new bank customers found that the majority (71%) did business with the bank as a result of incentive marketing. Instead of sending out an informative mailer, send one that offers customers a limited-time discount.

Engage them. When Canadian indie band Walk Off the Earth decided to promote their music via YouTube, they had a modicum of success. Then they decided to cover the song Somebody I Used to Know, originally performed by artist Gotye (pronounced Goat-tee-YAY). Over 120 million viewers later, the band signed with Columbia Records. By engaging their intended customers via social media, the band was became a global sensation. Increasingly, companies are engaging their customers via social media outlets and creating interest through viral marketing.

Customer satisfaction and loyalty has a direct link to how you communicate with your customers. By keeping the focus on how you can help your customer, you can create a more dynamic brand.

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About Lori Widmer
Associate Lori Widmer is a veteran writer and editor with more than 12 years of insurance and risk management focus. She has worked for a third-party administrator, managed editorial and blog content for a risk management newsletter, written some 150 articles for insurance and risk trade publications, and has worked directly with major insurers to create communications and marketing pieces. She is a hockey fan and owns her own Evgeni Malkin (of Pittsburgh Penguins fame) jersey.

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