07 December 2006

One size fits all – or does it?

Many businesses take this approach to their customers and in all fairness, there probably was a time when this was a reasonable concept. After all, competition was limited, there wasn’t as much information available and there simply wasn’t as much choice. But today things are very different. As customers we are all far more informed, aware and vocal about what we expect and what we want. So what does this mean?

Quite simply it means that business owners have to get a little smarter about the products and services they sell. For example lets talk about loyalty programmes. Since their inception the concept was quite simple – make up a blanket programme that applied equally to all customers. For example buy five cups of coffee and get the sixth one free. Standard stuff and really marketing 101. But now, innovative companies are getting much smarter about their loyalty programmes, to the point where they are tailor making a range of loyalty programmes to suit different age groups.

A Japanese petroleum company has broken its loyalty programme into different age groups. They realised that taking a blanket approach to cover all markets really wasn’t working because each age group had different needs and expectations. Different rewards for different ages. They use iTunes as incentives for the under 25’s, electrical goods for 25-40 years olds, health products for 40-55 years olds and clothing for 55 plus.

But the really smart concept here is the fundamental realisation that not all customers are the same and this is the culture that we all need to accept and embrace to make our businesses grow. Rather than making our customers fit into what we are offering, it is more important to make our businesses fit what our customers want.

Doing this requires a change in head space. Instead of thinking of customers as a collective group, think of them as groups within a group. There are similarities and common bonds, needs and expectations in these sub groups and tailor making products and services to meet them will bring exceptional results.

It takes time, effort and some clear thinking to start the process. The first step is break your customers into their groups and then start to address the needs and expectations of the groups. Teach your staff about the groups, give them names, get to know them as well as you can and build your business culture around understanding these groups and your business will not only shine it will become legendary.

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