My dad is a fishing tackle salesman. He sells to small stores throughout the northern Illinois region, helping them to restock favorite tackles and talking them through all the newest tackle technology.
In some ways, he reminds me of Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman. When I was a kid, my dad did ALL his sales by traveling store-to-store with catalogs. My sister and I spent many summers riding along with him, sharing a Snickers bar, staring at leeches and minnows in tanks, having “tea parties” in ice fishing tents.
Though my dad has been very slow to change (and honestly, so have his customers) he has embraced certain aspects of new technology, like using a laptop to display new tech and showing customers videos of something in action. He doesn’t fax in orders anymore.
BUT there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, that he’s VERY good at. And that’s building relationships. Marketing is the same way.
Customer Love is About Building Relationships
For a while, marketing was mainly done through catchy headlines on billboards, flyers, and catalogs. Building relationships happened through “snail mail” and tracking conversions (aka do they like us enough to pull out their wallet?) was much harder since people couldn’t just hop on their phones and go to your website to take advantage of a sale or discount code.
With the emergence of digital marketing, some things got easier – like tracking conversions – and some got harder, like standing out against all the “noise” of the internet.
But one thing – the thing that matters, remains the same: customers can see right through inauthentic marketing.
1. Determining Compatibility
Are you going to swipe right or left? There’s no Tinder or Grinder (yet) for matching people with their ideal brands. So in marketing, the hunt for “the one” uses some combination of these techniques:
- Market research: actually testing products in the market with the people you believe you created it for and analyzing the response.
- Developing personas: using the analysis gained from the research above to create 4 or 5 characterizations of ideal customers to reference when creating campaigns and content.
- A/B Testing: Creating a couple of versions of CTAs on your website, ads, email subject lines, and images to see what resonates with your target market.
On the customer side, they are carefully considering all of these attempts to win their hearts and wallets when they appear in their Instagram or Facebook feed and deciding whether they want to even enter the conversation with you.
2. Building Trust
No matter how much technology changes, the need for trust in a relationship never changes. Dozens of promotional emails, deals with hidden qualifying criteria, or aggressive retargeting are red flags for customers who are just getting to know you.
Heck, they would likely be deal breakers for just about anyone. No one wants to be around someone who’s begging to be liked. Especially someone who talks WAY too much about themselves.
Building trust is about authenticity. It is about adding value when you reach out to your customers – through education, Earlybird sales, special deals (no strings attached) and genuine communication. It’s also about knowing when – and where – they want and need to hear from you.
3. I Think We’re in Love
Your customers are opening all your emails. Your click-through rates are fantastic. They’re reading, sharing, and commenting on your content. You ask a question or invite responses in a social post and actually get engagement.
This is the sweet spot. Things feel good. You know who your customer is, what they like, and what adds value to their life. It makes you feel good to provide those things.
No hard sells. When you offer them something you sell, it’s a genuine recommendation accompanied by content that educates, motivates, or inspires.
This product solves a problem for them. You’re making life easier, whether it’s by selling them a pair of lightweight, breathable, waterproof pants for all their adventures, or a piece of software that makes collaboration at work easier.
4. Nurturing a Long Term Relationship (and Knowing When to Walk Away)
Some of the bait and tackle shops my dad sells to have been working with him for 15 or even 20 years. They are loyal to him; these customers have become his friends.
He knows them so well that he can make extremely accurate recommendations about products that will sell for them. He can get away with what’s essentially a hard sell – calling or emailing specifically about a new product he thinks they should buy now, in time for summer.
He can do this because they know that he knows what he’s talking about, and they believe he has their best interest at heart.
When he makes a mistake, he owns it. He’s charming, but also authentic.
This is a quintessential long-term customer relationship. It’s comfortable, but you can’t rest on your laurels. My dad’s customers would call him to account if a new product came out elsewhere that he hadn’t told them about, or if he sold them something gimmicky.
As for knowing when to walk away…
Some relationships have a lifespan. Sometimes you’re right for each other at a certain point in life, for a certain amount of time. You’re solving a problem for that person that’s somewhat temporary.
In this case, knowing when to let go is important. You will build MORE trust when you acknowledge your relationship will end at some point, and you are prepared – and you help them prepare – for that eventuality.
You will find that your old customers still love you because you parted on good terms, and are very quick to refer you to their friends. It’s also the only scenario when it’s totally okay to date everyone in your friend circle 🙂
- Have you ever used a dating app?
- How did you know you found “the one?”
- Do you have strong relationships with your customers?
- Do you know your customers as well as your closest friends?