Open Letter to Manufacturers, Retailers and Marketing Teams

A customer's opinion on CRM
Dear Brands,

This is an open letter to all brands, products and businesses from an earnest customer who is fed up of being treated like a child. Things may have been different a few years ago, but, the same redundant techniques do not work on me anymore. Now, I am too smart to fall for advertising gimmicks. Today, if you show me an ointment or a brand of tea that will reduce my waistline to half of its current measurement in two weeks, do not expect me to pick up the phone and call you. Similarly, if you do not respond to my repeated grievances, do not call me a month later asking me why I didn’t renew my subscription plan. Since, your marketing gurus seem to having a tough time guiding you in the right direction, let me take this opportunity to show you, as a customer using your product, what I really want.

Speed thrills but kills
Quick service is appreciable only if it’s not quick and bad service. Prompt responses to grievances is one of the most attractive features for any customer. However, if there are only repeated phone calls where a sugar coated voice keeps parroting “Your complaint has been logged. We will address it at our earliest convenience,” then, you are on your way downhill! Customers want quick responses, but, not at the cost of effective and efficient service. Thus, customers who receive advice and reassurance, more importantly - followed by action, are far more likely to spread the good word about your brand to their friends. On the contrary, service that is sub par, incompetent and rushed is nearly one in five times more likely to be the reason that a customer abandons a brand, rather than just "slow service".

You know how every time a kid asks his mom, “Which one of us is your favourite child?”, the mom always replies, “You, of course!” This is not the mother’s attempt to put down the other children or to lie to the one asking her this question; it is merely a way of making that child feel special. In a world of more than six billion people, when someone is made to feel special, it makes all the difference. Sending out a birthday card or even texting and wishing customers on their birthdays and anniversaries gives them reason enough to stick with you. If you are a small business, then, maintaining a relationship with your clients on a first name basis will work wonders for you, because, simply addressing a person by their name makes them feel special. Thus, personalizing gift items and giving each customer their due attention could easily translate into more business for you. Don’t believe me? Ask the waiters who increased their average tips by more than 23% by simply bringing a second serving of mints to their customers after the bill!

Unexpected offers and surprises
After working all day, trying to fit all the items into a pre-decided budget, is all in a day’s work for customers. However, when a special offer like 'free shipping' suddenly flashes on their screen, you can be rest assured that everyone that customer talks to that day will be told about how perfectly timed this offer was. Rather than flashing typical offers in the side bar of your website, you can instead personalize offers and give spontaneous discounts on items or shipping charges. The kind of joy a kid feels when he’s told by his mom that he can have the last cookie - that’s the kind of joy a spontaneous and well timed discount coupon gives to a customer.

Replicating Goodwill Sunday
A lot of families all over the world have a tradition of ‘Goodwill Sundays’ - where every Sunday they set out to do any good deed, like visiting an orphanage or helping out with a charity. Other people have a ‘good deed for the day’ tradition wherein they perform any one good deed each day, whether it’s as simple as helping someone cross the road or smiling at a distressed stranger. These are acts that go a long way in creating goodwill while costing nothing. Businesses realized that they could make use of such acts and so, some smart businesses started a tradition for 'random acts of kindness', like offering free cupcakes to customers on their Birthdays or placing 'free gift' cards next to cars that have a parking ticket. These small, simple and meaningful acts of kindness makes customers relate to the humane and non-profit oriented/ customer-centric side of a business. These are acts that they will talk about and remember for years to come. And all it takes is a little effort from motivated employees looking to truly make a difference in how their brand is perceived.

Tell it like a story
There is a reason why a simple but important lesson of life like “Be honest” is often taught for the first time to children through the story of the boy who cried wolf. Children love stories that have a moral at the end. And as old habits die hard, adults too love to hear stories rather than take direct orders. Thus, while selling, if a story can be woven into the sales pitch, there are better chances of gaining business. Narrating an incident about 'how a customer benefitted from your brand' or 'how your brand has come as far as it has', makes customers relate to you more than anything. However, be sure to be honest and not make tall claims while narrating your stories, because, the last thing a customer wants is to find out that they have been lied to the whole time.

Sell your strong point
When trying to sell a product, market a factor about it that customers actually care about. Do not market a hair oil product stating that it now comes in a ‘new and attractively designed bottle’ because once the oil is over, that bottle is going straight into the garbage bin even if it’s shaped like Brad Pitt’s behind. Similarly, do not tell me that yours is the highest selling biscuit brand in the world because if I don’t like how it tastes, I will not buy it even if everyone else will. Also, do not always highlight the low price factor compared to your competitors. That is a point that not only I but almost any sharp buyer will always notice on his own. Instead, draw attention to unlikely pointers like offers on collecting five packs or that your brand of biscuit not only tastes good but is lower in calories too. Drawing a customer’s attention to such points sets you apart. These are things that will stay with the customer in the midst of the mad rush where every brand is trying to focus exclusively on their low pricing. Similarly, focus on the enjoyment that your brand could offer to your customers. Let them feel that opening a can of your soda or eating your pack of chips is associated with them having a good time and creating happy memories. These tend to stick with customers more than small time savings that they accumulate on a regular basis.

Use irony
There is a lesser known marketing tactic among smart businesses called irony. For most buyers, price is the main factor that dictates whether or not they will buy a product. Quality, durability, style, etc. everything else comes next. So, how does a company selling luxury items tap into the middle and upper middle class? Solely targeting the upper class isn’t going to lead to a lot of sales. So, rather than making a self conscious buyer turn down a product because of the price, these brands associate their product with an act of kindness. An expensive teddy bear may come with a note that states 10% of the proceeds will go to a children’s charity. A set of luxurious bath oils that comes with a bar of soap saying ‘I love you mom’ engraved in it will probably sell more than a regular bath oils set. These are small tricks that brands use to take the attention away from their exorbitant price tags.

These are just a few pointers that I can think of right now that will help your brand stick. If you’ve reached a roadblock and your group of marketing gurus come up with nothing, perhaps it’s time to pay closer attention to what your customer wants - build a strong customer strategy supported with an effective CRM software. As you can tell, I am not asking for much. Good quality, quick service and focus on your USP (unique selling point) needs to be part of your modus operandi, if you wish to make me pay my hard earned money for your product. In the recession riddled world that we live in with cut throat competition, it’s the least you can do for me. So, if you think you have it in you, bring it on!

Yours sincerely,
A customer eager to stick with your brand, if you make it worth her while.