Is this the year of the customer?

23470023 I've long lamented the fact that companies find the idea of marketing/talking to their current customers as less sexy or valuable than the chase for new business.  The reality is, most companies spend backwards.

  • They invest the most money on strangers they hope will become customers
  • They spend a little money on current customers — taking their business for granted
  • They spend little to no money on their employees, who either deliver the brand promise and delight the customer…or not so much.

Looks silly, when you see it spelled out that way, doesn't it?  I believe the recession, the employee shortage (which has been temporarily delayed because of all the layoffs) and the new consciousness in terms of fiscal responsibility may finally make this the year when organizations begin to recognize the value in investing in their current customers and employees.

Around the internet….I have been initiating some conversations around this topic.

What will be different in '09?  Over at Small Business Branding, I offer up the idea of surveying clients you lost in the course of '08.  It's a tough love sort of assignment, but it can really open your eyes in terms of what needs to be different in '09.

How long will it take?  At Marketing Profs Daily Fix, I worry that business owners are going to be so anxious about their spending that they're going to expect results that just aren't achievable or they're going to expect the results instantaneously, rather than giving their marketing time to grow roots.  The comments section really digs into the talk to your current customers aspect so don't miss that part.

Dance with the one who brought you.  One of the comments by James Hipkin in the "how long will it take" post inspired me to dig deeper into the idea and value of focusing more of your marketing efforts on your current customer.

So go check out those conversations and then come on back and let's talk about how we can communicate more often and more effectively with our current clients.

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33 comments on “Is this the year of the customer?

  1. Kelly says:

    Affiliate programs can keep you connected because you’ll be working with users. That way you are still making sure that your product is meeting user expectations and continuing to improve.

  2. Justin Brady says:

    This is certainly not rocket science. Investing money in current customers and especially employees!
    Everyone in your company is in sales. Even the desk job guy, or the accountant all play a role in sales.

    All these people talk about the company they work for on or off the job. If you treat your employees terrible, they will ruin you from the inside out. If you treat them well, not only will they work harder and make you more money, but they will tell all their friends and family about how great you are! Any sales guy will tell you that Sales is about relationships (although hardly any believe it), so why would you destroy the relationships closest to your company?

  3. Simon Payn says:

    One of the things I started doing around the middle of last year was to have my assistant do follow-up calls with new clients. A couple of days after they purchase, she calls them to check they found everything and that it was all working out for them – and if not, was there anything we could do.

    She gets a tremendous response to to this – often surprise that a company that sells online would bother to call them. I believe it has saved several sales and it starts the relationship with the client on a positive footing.

    I also found a survey was very useful last year. But even more useful was contacting those people who had a question, an idea or a concern and asking them more about it. Again, it’s all about developing the relationship.

    Anyway, I think you are right. This is the year of the customer. I blogged on a similar topic yesterday.

  4. Drew,

    I like the idea that ’09 is the year of the customer, but I don’t really believe in it. A recession isn’t enough for companies who act the way you described to change. If they would, the recession wouldn’t last very long.

    I’ve had some really bad experience with companies who treat their customers like crap, while spending a lot of money to win new customers. Especially companies that make you sign contracts (phone companies, pay TV, etc.) seem to act that way.

    As Simon pointed out: it really works for a business to show their customers they care about them and their opinions. Let’s hope more of them do that in ’09.

  5. Kelly,

    Is their an affiliate program model in particular that you think is most effective?


  6. Justin,

    You’ll get no argument from me on any of that! But then, if it’s that obvious, why is it that most companies do not behave this way?


  7. @OneAccord says:

    I think that we will see a shift from outbound marketing resources shifting to inbound marketing. Creating useful content that attracts targeted customers that are looking for you is highly cost effective and trackable, unlike most traditional mass media.

    The recession will hasten the death of interruption marketing.


  8. Larry Page says:

    I think that with what is waiting for us in 2009 it wont be anyone’s year. But 2010 will be the year of those who prepared themselves in 2009.

  9. Simon,

    That’s a perfect example of being customer focused. I’ll bet they were stunned. And I bet they told someone else. A wise investment on your part.

    It will be interesting to see how many referrals you get.


  10. Tobias,

    So what do you think it would take for most companies to actually behave this way? Or do you think it is an impossible dream?


  11. One (or Mr./Ms. Accord),

    Do you think this is a recession-induced shift that will swing back once things balance out or do you think the change will stick?


  12. Larry,

    So imagine how well a business would be doing if they’d adopting this strategy 5 years ago.

    My hope is that a tough year will be enough of a scare that businesses will begin to see that marketing is a long term investment, not a quick fix.


  13. I couldn’t agree with you more. Chasing prospective clients always seems more of a challenge than keeping existing customers happy. I have seen businesses have lists of customers which they have ignored for years in favor of gaining new ones, only to realize that they had a gold mine of customers which were already willing to purchase off them. Perhaps this year we will see innovative ways of keeping existing customers happy! A nice post!

  14. The three realities quoted came to me as a surprise.
    I thought employee satisfaction and post-sale customer service was something that got a lot of business and spread the good word of mouth.

  15. @ ask questions
    I agree that employee satisfaction and post sale customer service are very important. Most of the organizations rank low in the brand equity rankings just because of the relationship with their customers.

  16. I loved the point where you mentioned that Companies should focus more on their current customer. Yes relationships with customers should be important and your old customers are the ones you should give priority to. New ones should also receive great focus but it’s upto the company how they keep the balance. Companies stupid policies is the reason why we’re in recession today. They spent money without thinking wisely.

  17. That’s so true Drew – as a sole trader investing in employees has always been close to my heart(!) but I think investing more money in those customers I already have is a much sounder proposition than spending on those strangers!

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  19. In search of making new customers every day and night, they lost value for old customers. Old customers were not happy purchasing the services and new customers didn’t give them much business they would have liked to. A lot of companies are in trouble today because this is one of the reasons of their destruction. Always value your customers and more your old customers because he trusted your company when no one did.

  20. “They invest the most money on strangers they hope will become customers” ?
    Are they not worried about this strangers?
    what if it would only waste their money being invested with these people.

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  23. Lisa Q says:

    I’ve had some really bad experience with companies who treat their customers like crap, while spending a lot of money to win new customers.

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  27. GHD Pink says:

    I think that with what is waiting for us in 2009 it wont be anyone’s year. But 2010 will be the year of those who prepared themselves in 2009.

  28. brainstrom says:

    I’ve had some really bad experience with companies who treat their customers like crap, while spending a lot of money to win new customers.

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  30. xmas hampers says:

    You are very correct here. While reaching for new customers is a way to build your present circle more, be sure not to forget to cherish the present followers as they will tend to be more loyal if they feel they are not being neglected especially during this chaotic time.

  31. I totally agree with you, its certainly easier to take care of the customers and employees you currently have. Not to mention the benefits of word of mouth.

  32. I’ve had some really bad experience with companies who treat their customers like crap

  33. every year should be the year of the customer! satisfied clients are the most valuables for each enterpreneur!

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