Four Questions to Connect with Your Customers

By Ron Rosenberg

Group Of Young Friends Shopping In Mall TogetherThings are changing rapidly in the business world, and it’s essential that you recognize and cultivate every opportunity you have to connect with your customers and deliver a truly memorable experience.

Why Are You in Business Anyway?

I know that’s kind of a harsh question, but answering it is absolutely central to your long-term success. Have you ever walked into a business and said to yourself, “This place won't be here in six months,” and when you come back six months later, it’s gone? The only reason you should be in business – whatever type of business – is to offer something special to your customers. Something unique. Something uncommon. Something that helps you stand out from everyone else in your market.

This “something special” is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), and it can be based on an almost infinite number of characteristics including location, price, market segment, process, customer need, support, or guarantees.

But it has to be based on something. And you have to be able to communicate it clearly and consistently to your customers; otherwise, you become a commodity and let people make their decisions based on price, convenience, and availability.

If you're not sure where to start, try answering these three questions:

1. What is different about what you provide or how you provide it that sets you apart from your competition?

2. If you closed up shop tomorrow what impact would it have on your customers’ lives?

3. Why should prospective customers select you versus all the other options they have?

The answers to these questions will help you define a clear and compelling USP that you can use as a foundation for staking out and owning your market.

Who is Your Ideal Customer?

This might seem like a simple enough question, but, as they say, “The devil is in the details.” And the details are where you can dramatically increase the effectiveness of your marketing efforts – and see significant growth in your bottom line.

Here’s what I mean. In my marketing and customer-service sessions, when I ask groups of people who their customers are, the answers tend to be very general:

- Golf Course Managers: “People who play golf.”
- Hardware Store Owners: “People who need tools.”
- Trade or Professional Associations: “People who work in the field.”

Now, in all fairness, the answers are often a bit more insightful than these, but not always. Because in each of these cases, you can break down the answer into smaller and very specific groups.

Take the golf course manager, for example. “People who play golf” could be male or female. Old or young. With or without children. Lower-income or affluent. For the hardware store owner, “people who need tools” could be contractors, industrial companies, government agencies, or weekend “do-it-yourself” people. And in the case of the association, “people who work in the field” could be students pursuing a degree in the field, new graduates just starting out, or seasoned practitioners with 40 years of experience.

If you find yourself saying, “That’s interesting, but…so what?” then this lesson will completely change your approach to marketing. Because one of the most important concepts in effective marketing is getting the right message to the right market.

Think about it. Would you promote benefits of your golf course to a 65-year-old retired man the same way you would to a 27-year-old single, professional woman? Is the weekend gardener looking for the same thing from a home-improvement store as a full-time paint contractor? And does an architect who runs a large firm need the same from his association as a new graduate?

Of course not! And I can't even count the number of times I work with people who take a one-size-fits-all approach to their marketing, using a single brochure or mail campaign for all of their prospects or customers.

So try this exercise: get a piece of paper and write down a general description of your customers. Then write down all the ways you can think of to break down and further segment these customers, like we did before. Once you do this, you'll start to understand that your business actually serves many different groups with vastly different needs and expectations.

What’s in it for ME?

This might sound like the kind of question a selfish, spoiled child might ask, but it’s the single most important question you can answer when crafting your marketing message.

You see, despite all of their best efforts, their noble intentions, and their sincere desire to help other people, in the end, most people are only motivated to do something when it benefits them personally, and, if possible, immediately. Your ability to apply this concept will ultimately determine the success of your marketing efforts. And the easiest place to start is by understanding the difference between “features” and “benefits.”

In its simplest definition, features describe “what;” benefits describe “why.” Features describe some characteristic of what you're offering; benefits explain how the feature will help you solve a problem or improve your situation.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Health Club

Features:
· Modern, state-of-the-art equipment
· Certified, trained staff
· Convenient location

Benefits:
· Lose weight and shed inches from your waistline
· Increase your energy level to get more done
· Become more attractive to the opposite sex

Professional Association

Features:
· Advocacy and representation on critical legislation
· Access to an online research library
· Exciting content-rich conventions

Benefits:
· Prevent lawsuits that can put you out of business
· Apply strategies to significantly increase your bottom line
· Find proven techniques you can put to use immediately

Office Supply Store

Features:
· Wide selection of items
· Easy online ordering
· Free delivery

Benefits:
· Order your supplies without getting out of your seat
· Save lots of time and money
· Have your order magically show up on your doorstep

Imagine you see an ad or receive a promotional mailing from these three businesses. Which set of items would you be more likely to respond to – the features or the benefits? Clearly, the benefits are more compelling, and more likely to get people to take action.

Try this exercise. Select one of the products or services your funeral home provides. Take a piece of paper and make two column headings. On the left-hand side, write the heading, “Features” and on the right-hand side, write “Benefits.”

Under “Features” write down as many of the characteristics of your selection you can think of. Then, under “Benefits” write what each feature actually delivers to your customers as an end result.

This is one of the key concepts that can have a dramatic impact on your bottom line.

How Much is a Customer Worth?

That question might seem like a fairly simple one to answer, but when I pose it to the thousands of people I speak to each year, the answer is almost always the same: a room full of blank faces. You see, this is not a question most businesses ask themselves, and that’s unfortunate. Because when you do, it can give you one of the most important pieces of information you can have about your business: the lifetime value of a customer.

Now, I want to be clear about this before we proceed any further. When I say “lifetime value,” I'm not talking about something soft and intangible like reputation, standing in the community, or general goodwill. While these factors are important, what I'm talking about here is something much more solid and objective: the actual dollar value a typical customer spends during the total time that customer does business with you.

In fact, this formula can be used in any business to compute the lifetime value of a customer. As you follow the examples, keep one important thing in mind: not all customers are of equal value, so you have to take an average for your business or for a particular customer type.

For example, here are some professions and businesses and the typical lifetime values of the customers associated with each one:

Dentist – Patient Value: $8,500
Real-Estate Agent – Client Value: $12,250
Professional Association – Member Value: $27,000
Supermarket – Customer Value: $37,500
Computer Supplier – Customer Value: $420,000
Office Supply Company – Customer Value: $2,500,000
Industrial Equipment Manufacturer – Customer Value: $26,000,000

So why are these numbers so important? Because they should help you determine the total amount of your marketing budget; and, in most cases, give you an almost infinite number of creative possibilities on how to generate new business.

Investing some effort in answering addressing these four areas will help you focus on your marketing and get the results you want.

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June Interview

Ira Koretsky

The Chief Storyteller

Using Stories to Create a Compelling Message

This month we’ll be talking with Ira Koretsky, The Chief Storyteller, about how you can use stories in your marketing pieces to help promote your business message...and to ultimately increase revenue.

 

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