We’ve all seen the data that shows it takes far more effort and expense to get a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. So why do many marketers persist in investing so much more heavily in the attraction side of the equation – mainly advertising – than the retention side of customer relations? Likewise, why do they invest comparatively little in employee engagement efforts that reinforce customer satisfaction and loyalty?
The answer lies partly in the traditional emphasis on promoting name recognition and brand identity. That’s important, but it’s just part of the broader definition of marketing we use at Landes & Associates: To create, sustain and continuously improve relationships with the organization’s key stakeholders.
So here’s a crucial question.
If the holy grail of effective marketing and branding is to differentiate a product or a service or a company from the competition, are ads really the best way to do that? Or is advertising mainly a leveler to make sure that the brand shows up on the playing field as a contender for people’s attention? More to the point, how much does advertising really affect dedication to a company, product or service?
Ask yourself about your own purchasing patterns. When was the last time you seriously considered changing the toothpaste you use or the coffee you drink because of advertising? When it comes to personal care services, the case is even more striking. How often does advertising sway you to a new hairdresser, banker, doctor, dentist or auto mechanic? If you’re like most folks, you rarely switch unless you get upset. Bottom line, choices like that almost always come down to the quality of the relationship.
To differentiate, relate.
No doubt, some consumer behavior is shifted by advertising. What’s more, it reinforces the “smart choices” people make in purchasing the products and services they’re already using. So advertising does promote some degree of brand loyalty. But when it comes to being a differentiator, customer relations
has the edge over advertising for three main reasons:
- Customer choices are affected more deeply by experiences than promotions
- Most organizations make a relatively small investment in customer relations compared to advertising, so it’s easier to stand out from the competition
- Customer relations strategies are not as easy for the competition to see and copy as it is with advertising
And where does employee engagement fit in?
In “The Customer Comes Second,” author Hal Rosenbluth puts it this way. “Only when people know what it feels like to be first in someone else’s eyes can they sincerely share that feeling with others. We’re not saying choose your people over your customers. We’re saying focus on your people first because of your customers.”
The role of customer relations is clearly more critical in some industries than others. Still, if differentiation is the goal, especially in a bottom-line conscious economy, every organization should take a hard look at shifting more attraction dollars to the retention side of the business.
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