With Valentine’s Day around the corner, THIIS Editor Calvin Barnett discusses why it is important for companies to make sure that they do not let their relationships with customers become stale and the importance of that weekly date night.
"We want to build meaningful, long-term relationships with our customers.” Click on any marketing blog, open any textbook or sit in any boardroom and you'll hear this kind of rhetoric ushered from every manner of business guru, marketing department and business aiming to win the hearts of their customers.
It makes sense, who wouldn't want a close relationship with their customers?
A relationship means loyalty, and customer loyalty to your brand means competitive advantage; an exclusive relationship that no other competitor can break. For certain brands, this kind of bond with their customers can happen - why else would people camp outside a store to buy a phone almost identical to the one in their pocket – however, this kind of borderline obsessive loyalty is more often the exception than the rule.
Many consumers are not interested in building an exclusive relationship with just one company. As competition increases and customers’ buying behaviours evolve, more customers are interested in playing the field and this means companies cannot rely on the idea that a customer that has been loyal in the past will not play the field in the future.
Long-term relationships can become monotonous, mundane and dull, especially if one party begins to take the other for granted. Complacency can creep in and it is at this point that advances made by competitors to neglected customers can become irresistible. Before you know it, your regular customer is running off into the sunset with that competitor who offered a special introductory offer at just the right time.
With so much choice, it is the job of companies to constantly flatter and charm their customers and we are no more charming than when we first begin dating someone. We do all we can to impress and woo the other; we are on our best behaviour and look our best. We haven’t let ourselves go, began leaving the toilet seat up or started chewing with our mouth open.
Companies should strive to remain constantly on a date with their consumers, vying for their affections to stop their eyes and wallets wandering. Exclusive offers for pre-existing customers, loyalty schemes rewarding their commitment and other initiatives used by companies are marketing devices used to keep a relationship fresh and ensure customers do not run off into the arms of a competitor. A bouquet of flowers every now and then can go a long way.
Investing resources in ensuring a long and happy marriage to customers is undoubtedly better than going through a divorce and working on trying to win them back. So, be it a pleasantly unexpected discount or a free gift with their next purchase, it may be worth asking, what are you doing to show your customers that they really are special?