Today, competition in the business world is
tight. Many business owners feel that their customers are making
decisions solely based on the deals they can or can’t provide
Maribeth Kuzmeski says that doesn’t have to be
the case for your
customers. She says by
tapping into your customers’ emotions and really
connecting with them, you can
build loyalty that will keep them coming back in
good times and bad
If you’re a business owner in today’s
less-than-pleasant economy, it may seem that more and more of
your clients and customers are opting to cut ties with you in
order to cut every ounce of fat out of their budgets. Today,
most people are making their business decisions based on the
almighty dollar. And there’s so much competition out there that
your clients can easily find some other business to give them
the product or service you provide for a lot less.
Maribeth Kuzmeski says that it has never been
more critical than it is in business today to establish strong,
genuine connections with clients. Without these connections,
your product or service can easily get lost in a sea of noise
and similar offerings. However, when you provide better service
and support than your competition, your customers won’t go
anywhere, and those who do will come screaming back.
“You have to create strong emotional
connections with your clients that won’t quickly be canceled out
when they find a better deal somewhere else,” says Kuzmeski,
author of the new book …And the Clients Went Wild! How Savvy
Professionals Win All the Business They Want
(Wiley, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-470-60176-1, $24.95,
In …And the Clients Went Wild!,
Kuzmeski lays out a blueprint for cultivating loyal clients and
generating growing sales through a collection of principles and
tactics that have proven successful for others. The idea is to
trigger a strong emotional connection in the minds of prospects
and clients—followed by a response that is so powerful that your
loyal clients won’t be able to stop talking about you.
“What many business owners don’t want
to admit is that great companies—big and small—have maintained
their loyal customers, even in these hard times,” says Kuzmeski.
“Loyalty does still exist for companies that have a deep
understanding of their customers’ wants and needs.”
But how do they do it? Read on for
Kuzmeski’s advice on how you can turn your customers into fans
them by always going the extra mile.
People expect great service from luxury companies like the
Ritz-Carlton or Rolex. As in, I always stay at the
Ritz-Carlton because the service and comfort they provide is
unbelievable. Or, I’ll never have another watch that
isn’t a Rolex. But they don’t always expect great service
when they aren’t paying top dollar for a company or service.
Surprise your clients and customers by always going the extra
brands, you pay a lot and you get a lot in return,” she says.
“That’s how it is supposed to be. But you can create the same
kind of loyalty to your brand by simply going the extra mile
when people might not expect you to. Recently, for example, I
was leaving a Holiday Inn and saw that the manager was standing
at the door saying good-bye to all of the guests. He asked me
how I enjoyed my stay and whether I stayed at the Holiday Inn a
lot. He told me that he really wanted to see me back at his
hotel again and offered me a discount on my next stay.
simple gestures, but he took the time to make a personal
connection. He made an effort to have meaningful conversations
with his guests, and in the process, he managed up other
features at the hotel, such as the restaurant. And it didn’t
cost him a penny to do that. He went out of his way to provide
great service. And because I usually don’t care where I stay,
the next time I need a hotel in that city, I’ll go with that
manager’s Holiday Inn.”
something to talk about. To get your
clients to go wild about you, you have to give them something to
talk about. Something that is just a little more exciting than
what your competition is doing. Give them a reason and they will
keep coming back.
to talk about’ is often my business card,” says Kuzmeski.
“Instead of your run-of-the-mill card, my business card more
closely resembles an NFL or MLB trading card. It features a
picture of me in a football jersey and all of my stats—my
weight, height, age, and college alma mater. People absolutely
love it. I am constantly asked who designed it for me and
whether I can send them more. In fact, just recently, I was in a
business meeting, and everyone was passing around their business
cards. When I passed out my card, it set off a ten-minute
conversation about how unique it is. I guarantee you there are
people out there who still remember me because I handed them
this one-of-a-kind business card.”
referrals, not new clients. We all do
it. When times get tough, we tend to avoid difficult
conversations with clients. But what we should really be doing
is getting in front of them and showing that we truly care about
our relationships with them.
“I was recently
approached by a financial advisor client of mine,” says Kuzmeski.
“He had gotten new clients only through referrals his entire
career, but recently his referrals had dried up. His reaction
was that he needed to just go out and find new clients. The
truth, of course, is that he needed to get in touch with the
clients he had already been working with for years.
business climate, you have to get out from behind your desk and
go see people, even when the conversations might be
uncomfortable for you,” she adds. “Have breakfast with them.
Have a lunch meeting with them. No matter what you do, get in
front of them! Your clients might not always like what you tell
them, but by showing up for them during tough times, you build
their trust and you help them reduce their anxiety. People do
business with people they trust, with people who they feel have
their backs. And those are the kind of people clients will want
to refer to their inner circle.”
high-touch over high-tech. As things
have gotten more automated and technology has taken hold, it is
so much easier to choose high-tech communication over high-touch
communication. Keep in mind that people aren’t buying from a
store; they are buying from the salesperson. Be human.
Dig for a way to be memorable with your clients.
“So how do you
dig deeper with clients?” asks Kuzmeski. “The best way is to pay
attention. Acknowledge when a client might be under special
circumstances. If you work for an airline and you see a mom
traveling by herself with three unruly children, help her out.
If you work for a hotel and an especially stressed-out traveler
walks up to your counter, give him your ‘stressed-out traveler’
discount. If you know a client has been taking care of a sick
parent or child, ask her how everyone in the family is doing.
Keep in mind that even if whatever you do to dig deeper lasts
just a few seconds, your client or customer will remember it for
family. Why do you cheer for your
favorite sports team? Maybe because you watched the games as a
child with your dad or grandmother. Or maybe because attending a
game with thousands of other fans is like going to one big
family reunion. Think about how you can tap into these feelings
to build loyalty with your clients.
“I was raised a
Packers fan,” says Kuzmeski. “As a little girl, I would sit on
my grandmother’s lap and watch the games with her. Packers fans
are some of the most loyal fans in the world. Win or lose, it’s
easy to find a Packers fan nearby to either celebrate or
commiserate with. I feel good when I cheer for the Packers, so I
keep doing it every season, no matter what. I think you see the
same feeling surrounding things like Ford trucks or certain
cereals such as Cheerios or Frosted Flakes. People buy Ford
trucks because it’s what their grandfathers did. They eat
Cheerios or Frosted Flakes every morning because that’s what
they ate every morning before school when they were kids.
“You have to
create a feeling with people that you are a part of their daily
lives. Create an emotional connection so strong that they can’t
imagine choosing any of your competitors over you. Once you
inspire this feeling, you will have a customer for life. One of
the keys is to create a memory or attachment point that can be
experienced together in close relationships. For instance, make
sure your clients bring their grandkids to your client
appreciation picnic, offer a free round of golf to newlyweds, or
offer a stuffed animal for new parents who have opened up a
child’s bank savings account.”
experience. It might sound easier said
than done, but if you make customers want to be around you,
they’ll keep coming back. Many businesses today risk becoming
viewed as commodities in the eyes of their customers. Customers
end up feeling like they can get that level of service from
anyone, so, sure they may come to you sometimes, but they go to
your competition just as often. You have to create an experience
for your customers that they want to keep repeating.
example of a company that succeeds at creating an experience no
matter which store you go to is Ikea,” says Kuzmeski. “It is
truly an experience any time you go. First of all, no matter
when you go the place is crawling with people. People are
eating. People are just wandering around. People are buying. And
the crazy thing is that rather than be annoyed that there are
tons of other people there, you end up feeling like you are part
of something really great.
“There are a
number of ways to create an experience for your clients. You can
put out freshly baked cookies for them. Offer them coffee from
the best place in town. Always try to take their calls or make a
point to call them back within thirty minutes. Start every
meeting with them by asking about their biggest concerns.
Provide a postcard about your company after each meeting and ask
them to fill it out and send it to one of their friends or
family members. The list could go on and on. Just find the
experience-maker that works for you and that you can
passionately fulfill every day for every client who walks
through the door.”
“Loyalty did not die with the
recession,” says Kuzmeski. “In fact, the great thing about
client loyalty is that when you really have it, it never dies.
Your customers will keep coming back to you in thick and thin.
You just have to be willing to put in the work to create the
emotional connections with them that turn into unbreakable
loyalty. When you do, your company and your bottom line will be
better for it.”
Maribeth Kuzmeski, MBA, is the author of five
books, including …And the Clients Went Wild! How Savvy
Professionals Win All the Business They Want (Wiley, 2010,
ISBN: 978-0-470-60176-1, $24.95,
and The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful
Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life
(Wiley, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-470-48818-8, $22.95,
She is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults
with businesses from entrepreneurial firms to Fortune 500
corporations on strategic marketing planning and business
growth. Maribeth has personally consulted with some of the
world’s most successful CEOs, entrepreneurs, and professionals.
An internationally recognized speaker, she shares the tactics
that businesspeople use today to create more sustainable
business relationships, sales, and marketing successes.
She is an international keynote speaker and
regularly speaks to audiences on topics relating to business
development, marketing, and sales strategies. She is also a
member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and
regular media contributor appearing on Fox News, ABC News, WGN-TV,
and in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the
New York Times, BusinessWeek, Entrepreneur,
Maribeth graduated with a degree in journalism
from Syracuse University and has an MBA in marketing from The
George Washington University. She lives in the Chicago,
Illinois, area with her husband and two teenagers.
Clients Went Wild! How Savvy Professionals Win All the Business
They Want (Wiley, 2010, ISBN:
www.AndTheClientsWentWild.com) is available at bookstores
nationwide, major online booksellers, or directly from the
publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797.
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