The Value of Friendships

I was going through some of my old presentations and ran across a great piece that I had used as an idea starter at a marketing ideation meeting. I apologize to the original author as I didn’t make note of his/her name at the time; however, his/her points are well worth repeating:

Many retailers go to a lot of trouble making their customers feel like “guests.” I’d like to suggest that they would be better off trying to forge friendships.

Treating your customer as a guest isn’t a bad idea, it’s just short sighted. A guest may be pleased and satisfied with a particular visit, but it doesn’t translate into the same affinity and desire to return again and again, that is felt when visiting a good friend.

Friendships are special things. You go out of your way to see friends. You care about their health, what they need, and you enjoy their company. Guests are frequently unwelcome and sometimes they know it. Friends are rarely unwelcome.

It takes two to create a friendship. Retailers have to get to know their customers and listen to their concerns in order to establish the trust necessary for a strong, loyal, long-lived friendship.
At this moment, hundreds of retailers are trying to capture loyalty. Retailers understand the concept of repeat business and want to do what they can to get it. Both online and offline stores, from Amazon.com to WalMart, use a variety of tactics to get to know their customers’ habits.

Statistics indicate that profits can be increased by 25-125 percent just by retaining 5 percent more customers. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that loyalty, guest, and personalized programs are becoming big business. They all share the same basic goal of capturing market share and gaining repeat business. Smart retailers should be looking at these programs as a way to turn their customers into friends.

It takes patience. It takes more than one visit. However, as friendships develop, great things start to happen. The increased loyalty brings referrals (new friendships). It makes marketing efforts more efficient and effective. It can help a retailer gain co-op advertising from vendors designed to meet their friends’ needs. Friends visit more and spend more because they know that this retailer is a friend who cares about they want.

Friendship is the most effective branding a store can ever use. It isn’t loyalty programs that set retailers apart from their competition, it is friendships.

Edit: The author is Melody Vargas.

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