Marc Sokol
Marc Sokol

Outbound and inbound marketing is all about providing pollen to attract the bees. “Over here! My flower is the best!”

But if I’m the bee I want to get as much of the good stuff as I can and in the most efficient way and then head back to the nest. You can almost hear Jerry Seinfeld musing on this in Bee Movie, “Go where the pollen is! Don’t get attached to any one flower!”

Are your customers mirroring the same behavior, not just for efficiency but also for the most competitive price?

In The soul of the new consumer, David Lewis and Darren Bridger contrast pseudo and authentic loyalty, pseudo loyalty being the temporary nature of customer loyalty that we often confuse with really authentic loyal customer relationships. If your customers don’t see, don’t feel, and don’t remember the difference between you and your competitor, then face it – you are just a commodity.

Look at it from the customer’s perspective:

  1. As a busy person who happens to be purchasing something from you or just considering it, I don’t have enough time or mental bandwidth to have relationships with every brand and every provider that wants to have a close relationship with me. You have to capture my attention and give me a reason to stay with it, or I’m just another bumblebee flitting from flower to flower.
  2. For some products and services I am willing to pay a premium over what I can get elsewhere. But it has to include those things that matter to me, especially if I am to pay what I consider to be a reasonable premium. That might be convenience (would I go to the closer store even though its just slightly more expensive); or it might be how I feel when I am shopping (you focus on my needs, not what you are trying to sell from inventory today).
  3. Over time I’ve decided I can trust you and what I experience about your business (so I’m willing to pay something for the peace of mind that emerges from our interactions).

Differentiation and the value proposition

The implication is clear: how can you differentiate yourself, your products, your services and your brand in a way that will matter to me? The answer is that your value proposition needs to be three things to me: meaningful, motivating and memorable.

  • Meaningful: I have to be able to recognize the differences between your product and service and the competition.
  • Motivating: I have to recognize differences that actually matter to me.
  • Memorable: These differences have to be packaged, presented, and experienced in some manner that I am likely to remember.

By the way, since there are only something like 900,000 other blog posts being written the same day as this one, it’s a real challenge to make any single post stand out as meaningful, motivating and memorable – hence the inevitable sideshow of advertisements, snarky titles, pictures, and other vehicles to impact search engine optimization (SEO), some of which accompany great content and some of which mask the message.

So why do I want to be your best customer?

First, there needs to be something about your product, your service, or your brand that I identify with. It needs to capture something about me, about who I am, or how I want others to think of me.

CapitalOne Financial Services excelled in this when they first began to co-brand their credit cards featuring attributes those affiliations different customers cared about. I could now show off my love of certain types of Labrador Retrievers, BMWs, WWF or even my Polish ancestry in every purchase if I wanted to. Suddenly my credit card became a fashion statement or a conversation starter with another person. It was brilliant, especially when you are doing this ahead of your competitors.

More important, I need to not only believe that you know me, but also that you have decided to be particularly responsive to my needs and actions. Frequent flyer special reservation numbers and service lines are good examples of this…when they work well. Databases that help customer service representatives remember my purchasing and service preferences are another good example.

Even more important, in my busy world, especially for areas where I am not an expert, I want greater predictability and a level of trust that is consistent over time. As a frequent customer, I will know if your brand promise is real.

Simply put, I am willing to be among your best customers when you mean something to me, when you address my unique needs, and when you act consistently over time across the different experiences I have of you and your business.

So go ahead, make me your best customer. I dare you!

Marc Sokol is a consultant, writer and speaker on organizational dynamics. As an organizational psychologist for the past 30 years, he has worked with people all over the world; studying, learning, teaching, coaching individuals, working with groups and facilitating organizational change. Marc is a principal at M Squared Group and blogs on Marc further holds a PhD in Organizational Psychology, co-authored two books, published articles and spoke at conferences in the US and Europe. He further describes himself as a committed father, a fortunate husband, a middling cook, a poor but willing tennis player and a good friend. The rest you will have to figure out over a beer, as he puts it.


Originally published on i-SCOOP’s Social Email Marketing blog and moved as part of an ongoing integration.