For most businesses the primary measures of marketing success are more sales, more profits and greater brand recognition.
sahlgoode via Flickr CC
That seems like a pretty obvious, logical and healthy way to view marketing doesn’t it?
What if, however, the real goal was to build trust? What if marketing decisions were made with the best interest of the customer community first? What if the ultimate measure of marketing was a committed customer?
Now, I know that may all sound like some nice rah, rah kind of consultant speak, but if in fact you were to really make the creation of a committed customer your primary objective, you would have some very hard and often counterintuitive decisions to make.
First the cold, hard reality of business – your customers don’t really care about what you sell – they don’t really care about your business – they don’t really care about you.
Now, let me soften that a bit – they may love your products, they may love doing business with you, they may adore the people you send to take care of them, but what they ultimately determine first and foremost is what all of this love does for them.
So, if this is indeed true, and if your ultimate objective is to create customers that are totally committed to your business, you’ll have to learn to view all of your decisions with the best interest of your customer rather than what is often viewed as the best interest of your business.
The difference in this last statement may be subtle for some (unless you run an airline and then is should be pretty gapping.) The difference, however, will show up when you start to question everything you do in this vein – will this decision benefit the customer or will this decision simply benefit the business?
This questioning will prove harder than you think, because sometimes the answer might be, this will cost us a bundle, but it’s the right thing to do.
You may have to learn how to tell your prospects and customers that they shouldn’t buy a particular product or service, because you know it’s not right for them.
You may have to teach your customers how to get more from your products rather than buy more. You may have to teach them how to conserve rather than use up what you sell.
You may have to create and facilitate a customer community that can freely resell and trade what you sell.
Patagonia, a well respected outdoor apparel and gear brand, recently created a platform in conjunction with eBay that makes it very easy for customers to resell and purchase used Patagonia gear.
Patagonia benefits very little directly from this move, but they have created something that I believe is very much in the best interest of their community.
Now, some might conclude that this is just a natural extension of the Patagonia brand of recycling and that all they’ve really done is aggregate a market that existed in places like Craigslist – until you dig into the companion initiative called the Common Threads Initiative.
This is the message Patagonia is using to build a committed customer and it could come of as heresy to most hard-core marketers.
“Reduce. Don’t buy what we don’t need. Repair: Fix stuff that still has life in it. Reuse: Share. Then, only when you’ve exhausted those options, recycle.”
In fact, they are asking customers to sign this pledge: I agree to buy only what I need (and will last), repair what breaks, reuse (share) what I no longer need and recycle everything else.
While this initiative might actually cost Patagonia sales, it’s the right message for the brand, it’s the right message for the planet and it may ultimately be the right message for the customer’s best interest.
Making business decisions for the benefit of your customers first will almost always pay long-term dividends no matter how tough they may be from a profit standpoint at the moment.
Telling a customer that your solution probably isn’t the best and then ushering them to another, better solution, even one from a competitor, is the right thing to do and over time will create a totally loyal and committed customer willing to tell the world they can trust you.