As an entrepreneur, you likely wear many hats. From CEO one day trying to negotiate a lucrative sales contract to maintenance person the next day trying to fix the copier. One aspect of running a business is the constant need for marketing.
Most people equate marketing to advertising. Some people that took marketing courses in the past might vaguely remember the 4-P’s of Marketing - Product, Price, Place and Promotion. This is great and all but how do you actually put it into practice to help your company thrive. As the CMO of DiscountMugs.com and the founder of several small businesses, I’d like to share with everyone a definition of marketing that I’ve ascribed to for the past 20 years and have been able to apply to large enterprise multi-billion dollar organizations to small home-based start-ups.
That definition is as follows:
Managing brand contacts to build profitable relationships that maximize lifetime value.
This sentence may sound simple but it encapsulates the core spirt of any customer centric marketing philosophy. There are three main components:
1. Brand Contacts
When we think about branding, most of us think about our advertisements, the look & feel of our website, email messages, etc. However, brand contacts go way beyond that. They are in-essence every touch point a customer might have with your brand. This may include things like how your phone is answered, the cleanliness of your lobby, your store sign lighting, etc. While some brand contacts are more important than others, it is often a great exercise to write down each and every brand contact and think about whether or not it is conveying what you want your brand to convey. Giving away promo products with your company logo is an excellent way to leave a lasting impression with a customer or prospect but make sure that promo item you leave is consistent with your brand promise.
2. Profitable RelationshipsWith the rise of mass-production in the mid 1900’s to statistical quality control manufacturing in the 1990’s, the focus was on efficiency and transactions. Companies didn’t have much competition. The famous quote from Henry Ford comes to mind, “You can have any color as long as it’s black.” Companies were in the process of making and selling widgets and trying to make those widgets cheaper and cheaper. Customers were not really focused on but rather emphasis was placed on individual transactions. Today, it is not enough to focus on a single transaction. To succeed, a company must truly understand customer insights, offer products and services to meet their needs and develop a relationship with that customer both before and after a sale. In the ever competitive world, where comparison shopping is just a single click away, loyalty is the name of the game.
3. Lifetime Value
It might sound obvious but not all customers are created the same. There are simple ways to identify the value of key customer segments and then to develop marketing strategies for each of these segments. You might want to model your best customer segment and focus on retaining them and getting more that look like them. For your mid-value customers, you might want to create strategies to migrate them to higher value by introducing them to additional products and services. You’ve already done the hard work of acquiring them as a customer. For low-value customers, the plan may be just to leave them alone. Some companies may even have negative value customers.
At DiscountMugs.com we are currently going through this exact exercise. We are looking at each of our customer segments and making sure we are engaging them in a relevant way. We are mapping out each of our brand contacts and making sure that they are clearly conveying our brands value proposition of being affordable, easy to use and trusted. We are making some dramatic improvements to how we handle customer service, packaging, and shipping. These strategies are important for us to build positive customer relationships over time. Finally, we are working to create service offerings that better match customer lifetime value. For instance, we launched our Premier team to help address the unique needs of large corporate orders. In addition, stay tuned for an exciting announcement about our upcoming Loyalty Program.
While every business is different, we hope this article helped spark some ideas and perhaps help shaped a new way to think about your brand. At DiscountMugs.com, most of our customers are buying promotional products such as pens, tote bags and drinkware to give away to customers and prospects as a way of reinforcing their brand image. This is a great tactic that can leave a lasting impression but remember that there are many other brand contacts to think about. Are they all reinforcing a consistent message? If the answer is yes, then you are well on your way to building lifelong customer relationships.