Today there is one commandment of marketing success.
Get it right and everything falls into place. Miss it, and all of your marketing efforts are in vain. It is the foundation to building relationships with customers and prospective customers.
The First Commandment of Marketing is: Love thy customer.
That’s right, I dropped the L-bomb. Love is a word that makes many of us squeamish in a business context. But we are talking about relationship marketing here. And love is the guiding force for bringing positive influence in any relationship. Including the customer relationship.
That is the end game, isn’t it?
Okay, let’s take a look at why it is so important to your success.
A new view of customer relationships
Not so long ago I came across a blog post by Jayme Soulati that asked the question: “Is there a place for love in business?” It is a provocative thought for marketers in a desperate race to win more customers and sales.
As you might expect, commenters approached the subject from many angles. Here is mine.
In business, we need to shift our thinking about the word ‘love’ from a gooey Valentine’s emotion to the action word that it is. More than a sentiment, it is an act of service and giving. Acting in love towards customers and prospects is a strategic imperative.
Skeptical? Read Jay Baer’s book Youtility.
The fundamental premise in his book is to turn marketing upside down, quit trying to be amazing, and be helpful instead. Giving useful, helpful information to customers is a key to succeeding in the connected economy, he says.
Power in the buyer-seller relationship has shifted to the connected consumer. They now have more ways to get more information along the buying journey. Marketers no longer control the information flow like they once did.
That is why we need to turn marketing upside down. We need to turn from self-serving, self-motivated, self-promoting behaviors to giving customers the information they need, want and desire. In short, we need to act in love.
Why is this so hard?
I believe the one-word answer is fear.
The relationship (marketing) killer
At its core, fear is focused on self. As marketers, we are focused on: my success metrics, my market share, my brand message, my competitive position, etc. This inward focus extends to how we think about and relate to customers:
- We target customer segments
- We capture customer leads
- We acquire and retain customers
- We take customers from competitors
- We leverage upsell/cross-sell opportunities
I don’t dismiss the importance of these strategies at all. But when they become the entire focus of individuals and organizations, it affects how we act toward customers. We look for ways to exploit or manipulate them to meet our goals. It is a mindset based on fear of loss. It breeds paranoia that can drive bad business decisions and customer relations.
Here is an example.
A retailer in Melbourne, Australia was concerned about lost business from ‘showrooming.’ It responded to the business threat by requiring all customers to pay an entrance fee for shopping in the store. This picture of its notice in the store window was posted on Reddit with lots of commentary.
You can understand how a business focused on self-interest and fear of loss might look for ways to control the situation. Then take this action. But I doubt customers were feeling the love.
How can you get out of fear and into a ‘love thy customer’ mindset?
Relationship marketing made simple
The short answer is love. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, goes the old adage. An orientation that serves the needs of customers takes your focus off yourself and directs it outward to them. This is turning marketing upside down.
What does that look like?
Like everyone with a pulse, your customers have a desire to feel important. Give them what they desire. Some of Dale Carnegie’s classic principles of influence apply here:
- Be genuinely interested in them – authentic outward interest
- Let them talk about themselves – listen
- Talk about what they are interested in – solve a problem, help make life easier
- Make them feel important – and be sincere
Each of these timeless principles has one thing in common. It’s all about ‘they’ and ‘them.’ That is the First Commandment of Marketing in a nutshell. To love thy customer is not about sending them candy and roses once a year. It is to conduct your relationship with them in a way that serves their need. Give to them, and they will give you their business.