I talk a lot about targeting your marketing efforts to focus upon a specific niche market. This practice, however, can be a dual edged sword. By targeting a tightly defined niche market, you can experience the benefits of your customers referring others like them to you and your business. However, treating those customers with disresepct can have disasterous consequences.
There’s a sign that is posted in back room of retail establishments that reads, "The customer is not an interruption of your work, he/she IS the reason you are working!"
In marketing speak, when you respect your customers and strive to treat them with respect and meet their needs, it’s called "brand loyalty". When these "brand loyal" consumers tell their friends, family and neighbors about your magnificent product or service, it’s called "WORD OF MOUTH MARKETING". This creates an ever widening circle of "brand loyal" customers or clients who tell others about your MAGNIFICENT product and/or service. This is the beauty of niche marketing.
When you engage in routinely disrespecting your customers, it’s called "the demise of brand loyalty".
Michael Scrage at Financial Times defines it perfectly (the emphasis is mine):
In reality, the declared demise of brand loyalty is 180 degrees misunderstood. A review of the past decade reveals customers have not been cavalierly unfaithful to established brands; quite the opposite. Established brands have cheated on and betrayed their most loyal customers. They charge more and more for less and less; they chase after the youth market or the hot segment du jour; their "innovations" frequently add more complexity than value; and their willingness to apologise and compensate for errors or mistakes is nil. The more provocative marketing argument is that "brand inertia" far more than "brand loyalty" has kept so many customers for so many companies for so long.
He continues with
Consumers are neither sheep nor fools. They can sense when companies are consistently more loyal to investors, employees and regulators than to the people who buy their products and services. They behave accordingly. Customers are not being disloyal; they are being discriminating. The central marketing question confronting brand leaders therefore is not "how can we radically increase customer loyalty?" but "how can we radically increase our own loyalty to customers?"
In other words… you can’t fool your customers. If your focus is upon the bottom line… they’ll know and they’ll react. If you’re lucky, they won’t be able to find anyone else who cares less about them than you and your business does and they won’t jump ship.
For some reason, the Walmart story comes to mind. Long ago, Sam Walton respected and cared about his customers… and his business grew. Sadly, he died but the company he created lived on. One by one, his heirs lost access to the inner workings. For a while, it wasn’t obvious to the consumer that they were being viewed as "sheep and fools" by Walmart’s management.
Then, Walmart changed ad agencies and suddenly, the message began to disintegrate. How many slogans has Walmart had this year? How many ad agencies have they gone through?
I’m sure the jumping from one agency to another is a desperate attempt to find someone who can "capture" the lie…. "Walmart really cares about you, our customer!"
Sure… that’s why Walmart quit offering layawys…. why they then launched their own "reloadable bank card" product. WAIT? I thought the reason free layaways were discontinued weeks before Christmas was because the niche customers didn’t need it? They had credit cards to use.
Even when you’re as BIG as Walmart… when you view your customers as "sheep and fools" it’s IMPOSSIBLE for it not to show through in everything you do!
Respect your customers…
Don’t TREAT them with respect… because you can’t do that if you really do NOT respect them.
Your customers aren’t stupid, they aren’t lazy and they aren’t sheep. If you think they are, then it will show through in your marketing efforts.
Disrespect of your customers is a CANCER in your business. If you overhear an employee talking about your customers in a disrespectful manner, NIP THAT IN THE BUD!