Treating Customers Differently

February 4th, 2016
Steven Howard

Customer Retention Marketing: The Art of Keeping Good Customers™

I have written often about the growing need to treat customers as individuals — with individual needs, wants, desires, likes, and dislikes.

There are four steps to go about this, and are detailed in the book The One to One Fieldbook by Don Peppers, Martha Rogers, and Bob Dorf.

They identify four key implementation tasks that can be used as a guide for initiating individual relationship marketing programs, or what they call 1:1 marketing. These four steps are:

  • Identify — identify your customers in as much detail as possible. You need to know more than demographic data like age, address, income. You also need to know their habits, preferences, and reasons for transacting with you. This information needs to be linked across your entire operations.
  • Differentiate your customers — customers are different in two critical ways: they each represent a different level of value to the organization and they each have different needs from you. The more you can differentiate your customer base, the better you can prioritize your efforts so that you gain the most advantage with your most valuable customers. Additionally, such differentiation allows you to tailor the organization’s behavior to each customer based on that customer’s individual needs.
  • Interact with your customers — every interaction with a customer should take place in the context of all previous interactions with that customer. One goal of every interaction with a customer should be to acquire additional information about that customer that can help you make decisions or implement new strategies.
  • Customize — customize some aspect, or many aspects, of how your organization interacts with and behaves toward each individual customer. In order to practice true 1:1 marketing, the production or service-delivery aspect of your business has to be able to treat a particular customer differently based on what that customer said during an interaction with you.

In the past, being customer-oriented has meant operating in order to meet the needs of the typical customer, or the average customer.

Fewer and fewer businesses today can afford to focus on the average customer. Your future growth, and future profitability, comes from satisfying the needs of your most valuable customers.

To treat your most valuable customers not as average customers, but as your most valued customers, requires that they be treated as individuals — with individual needs, wants, and desires.

This is the true essence of what is often called 1:1 marketing and what I now call Customer Retention Marketing, the art of keeping good customers.™

Key Point: it is important to treat your customers, particularly your most valuable customers, as individuals with individual wants, needs, and desires.

Taking Action: what are you doing in terms of identifying and tracking your most valuable customers? Do you really know their preferences, likes, and dislikes?

How can you do a better job of differentiating the organization’s behavior based on individual needs?

How can you do a better job of disseminating customer-specific information throughout the entire organization so that each customer receives a seamless experience that caters to his or her needs?

What can you do to differentiate and customize your service delivery, especially for your most valuable customers?


This article is partially excerpted from our book Powerful Marketing Memos, available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

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