customer preference vs.
market differentiation

Businesses wage war with their counterparts in an attempt to convince or convert the market to their business proposition, claiming they are each distinct and different from one another. And for some internally-focused reason that difference is the basis for making them a better choice. Nothing will change this for American advertising loves a good fight. But it ignores a critical principle, "the greatest profit is found in keeping the customer you already have.

"Why do companies spend millions of dollars to get business but do almost nothing about keeping the business they have? Why is it examples of good service are so rare they become topics of conversation? Why is it the best offers are made to new-business prospects? An attempt to address this issue seems to have contributed to the increase in "brand" advertising. But branding remains primarily, a high-cost validation of a users choice — not a pure persuasive instrument directed at converting. One only has has to ask "What can this process do to retain clients, or make them loyal?" The answer is a resounding "not much." I don't believe there's anything that makes me regret doing business with someone more than seeing an offer for new customers that is half the price I paid yesterday. Should you use any long-distance provider as an example, there doesn't appear to be much value in keeping my business until I'm gone. Then I'm worth $25 and the better rates I should have had in the first place.

Wouldn't it be great if all the people with whom we do business said "We really appreciate your business and because you continue to use us, we're going to give you (fill-in the most attractive offer here). Growing a business isn't about being different, it's about "creating preference. Preference in its most basic form means your client prefers doing business with you. They enjoy the "process" of working with you. Their perception is, "This person understands my needs." Eventually this perception and preference translates into loyalty which in a very "non-magical" way becomes long-term profitability! Whether you are a bank, computer service's firm or a mechanic -- your focus must be on short-term and long-term positive customer experiences. Customer experiences such as...

Certainly these aren't the only issues. But the key issue remains a true "service" organization isn't going to make a perceptual difference in the lives of its customers unless it begins putting "service" back into the "business" equation. Service is to business what the golden rule is to society... "Do unto others..."

What a Client Relationship is Not!
There seems to be a huge movement to gain more and more knowledge of the customer... "CRM." Customer Relationship Management has exploded on the marketspace like some god-sent, viral, "end-all-of-your client problems" solution. But data is not a relationship. Relationships aren't managed, they are nurtured. Yes, you now "know" the client as much as humanly and technologically possible. But are you servicing them in a way that meets the emotional needs of a business relationship? Are you connecting? This connection is the key to an on-going relationship.

The Truth
At the heart of our future is this simple truth... we must service the customer in a way that makes him/her "prefer" us as vendor of choice. We must be capable of looking into the eyes of our customers and, without blinking, say we can make a difference in their business lives. Do this and competition is the guy sending his resume to you.

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