Originally written for The Startup on Medium.
Nothing else, especially early, will matter as much as how well you treat your customers
One of the best marketers I’ve ever known was a garbage human.
He was a screamer. A dilettante. A user of fear.
He worked people to the bone, berated them repeatedly and took every opportunity to line his own pocket.
He was a pain in the ass to be around, arrogant and insufferable.
Unless you were a customer.
To the customers, he was a golden god.
He remembered their names. He remembered the wine they liked. He asked how their kids/businesses/families/ dogs were doing. He comped food if diners were unhappy, and rewarded loyalty by gifting comping regularly. His holiday parties were the stuff of legend, free food and drink until everyone had their fill, and then some.
The man elevated the customer experience like few people I’d ever been around, and he knew how crucial it was to his success.
He understood that treating his customers well was the best marketing you could ever undertake, and his restaurants were wildly successful because of it.
Often when I’m meeting and talking with companies, they have excuses for why they aren’t successfully growing their business, or marketing their product(s).
“We don’t have the money. We haven’t found a world-class CMO. Competition is fierce. Our website sucks.”
In the example above, even with all his negatives, and let’s be clear this guy was fighting uphill when it came to many, many things, he was able to build a very successful business, while limited in similar ways.
For all his faults and for how much more difficult he made it on himself, he talked the talk, and he walked the walk when it came to service. He put customers first, and in business today, that’s what successful marketing looks like.
It’s not finding clever new ways to “trick” people into checking out what you have to offer, it isn’t trying to out-feature or out-spec the other guy, and it isn’t putting your ads or logo on every available flat service.
Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem.
You can thank Mr. Seth Godin for putting it so succinctly.
Now, I get it.
Taking care of people means time, building trust requires effort, empathy doesn’t have a KPI. This is effort and it does not simply just happen overnight.
Business is hard, you have bills to pay and possibly investors to appease, revenue has gotta grow.
We all want more customers, and we want them now.
While I’m not asking you to stop everything you’re doing to keep the lights on, I would like everyone reading this to start reframing how you’re going about building that business.
Ask yourself, did you start your business to make quick money, or are you in this to build something great, and a company that lasts?
Do you want a fly by night business full of uncertainty and stress, or would you like to build a company that can last?
Wouldn’t it be better to have a business that isn’t beholden to the ups and downs of the market, one that can withstand competition and trust its customers to understand when mistakes ( inevitably ) do happen?
Companies that go the extra mile can be all those things. Companies that care for their customers and treat them right don’t spend as much to drive revenue, they don’t worry as much in tougher business climates, and they bring customers back without having to discount and give away the farm.
There is endless data to support this.
93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service. ( HubSpot)
Investing in new customers is between 5 and 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones. ( Harvard Business Review)
Increasing customer retention rates by 5% increase in profits anywhere from 25% to 95%. ( Bain & Co)
The kicker. It is so easy to start doing this, almost all of us already know how to do it.
Be human. Be decent.
Treat people how you would like to be treated. Think back to the last time, wherever you were, that someone took special care of you and how good that felt and how deeply it connected with you.
Be like my restauranteur example, except be kind to your customers and to your employees / partners.
If you’d like more specific examples of how you can improve your relationship with your customers, or how to introduce moments of wow to their journey, drop me a line, I’m @kmore on Twitter and I love to talk about this stuff.