The Customers We Keep Pt.1

WE CAN PICK OUR FRIENDS, BUT WE CAN’T PICK OUR FAMILY. IT TURNS OUT WE CAN’T CHOOSE OUR CUSTOMERS EITHER.

We all know the motto, “the customer is always right,” – but what if we’re just not that into them? Sure, patronage helps us pay the bills. But some of us are guilty of wishing our customers walked the red carpet, not cleaning up after those who do. And that type of thinking has no place in building a business. Even if you hate your customers, you can grow with them anyway. All you need to remember is customers come for your solutions. And if you want to keep them loyal, pay attention to their needs. Unfortunately, one popular publication learned that lesson too late.

WANTED: AFFLUENT CUSTOMER BASE

“You don’t seem to like your readers,” the newly installed editor-in-chief said to the CEO /publisher of the iconic publication. The magazine had been around for nearly 100 years. Still, the new CEO no longer saw value in the readers who helped the flagship magazine become a household name. 

Leadership wanted an affluent clientele, readers that luxury-item advertisers coveted. The loyal but low-to-middle-income earning audience could never get the attention of those big-ticket item sellers. The EIC was correct; the publisher wanted a new audience. Eventually, the publication’s nearly 2 million in circulation dwindled to nothing.

The CEO-publisher blamed digital competition for their chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. Except the readers didn’t leave, the publication abandoned its readers. And with it, they threw away the most challenging part of growing any business, gaining customer trust and loyalty while maintaining excellent customer relationships.

Let me put this in a digital perspective. Imagine sending out this newsletter to nearly two million email addresses of people who voluntarily signed up for Brand News Quarterly. I look at the list and say, “Nah… these people aren’t valuable. I then proceed to not archive but DELETE two million email addresses. Now, I’ll have to start at zero and build my list of elusive customer prospects. Except Brand News Quarterly is an unlikely destination for this unknown reader. You’re correct if that doesn’t seem like a good business decision. It’s not. 

Yet, that’s how the unnamed publication began to lose its readership. The publisher didn’t blow up their mailing list – they ignored their customer base.    

The bankrupt publication sabotaged its brand loyalty gains in search of new customers. They also made three missteps during their restructuring.

  • Rebranding during the print industry’s digital disruption phase,
  • without creating a new destination for the prospective audience,
  • While abandoning their loyal audience.

THE CUSTOMERS WE KEEP

The unnamed publication owned its customer base of nearly two million print subscribers. This large and receptive audience would receive the magazine before it hit the newsstands. Since these almost two million readers learned about the “next big thing” before anyone else, they promoted the stories to others before the magazine went public. Then about ten days later, an additional quarter-million magazines hit the newsstands and grocery stores. In the late 80s, the term for shared media was “pass-on readers.” This publication’s pass-on readership measured 5.2 per copy. So, 2 million subscribers generated nearly 7 million more monthly readers.

This publisher didn’t need a digital platform interface to reach their customers. The product went directly to the subscriber’s home. They didn’t need to go through social media, amazon, or even bookstores to reach their customers. But sadly, by the second decade of the 2000s, Bankruptcy liquidation forced the publisher to sell the magazine’s brand name, photo archives, and cosmetic line.

I’ll let you in on a secret – prominent business leaders aren’t the only group who throw away customers. Startups and soloists may ignore customers who’ve purchased their “solution” products. Some entrepreneurs fail to consider their goods and services as solution-based products that can set the foundation for a new business. Same for creatives, especially since their art attempts to answer a question or solve a riddle. The bottom line, if they focused on a solution, they’d soon meet their customer. The next step that follows: is keeping them. And if done right, those customers will keep them in business.

In Part 2 of “The Customers We Keep,”

We’ll show how noticing the problem helps build an entire business based on its solution. We’ll also provide an example of how most of the profit comes from your ownership of the customer relationship.


Build-A-Brand

“Storytelling is my passion. And Brand stories are a surefire way to build an engaged community around a single idea.”     

Mel Hopkins

In her “Build-a-Brand” Newsletter, Mel Hopkins, an experienced, passionate storyteller, teaches professionals how to craft a personal or corporate brand identity. Hopkins then provides the tools entrepreneurs & employees need to build awareness for products, services, and businesses.

Hopkins is a veteran print & broadcast journalist. She has worked as a news anchor, reporter, and newscast / Special Projects Producer. Hopkins has written and produced several documentaries for network television and radio, raising hundreds-thousands of dollars in sales revenue. Her feature article pitches have garnered millions of dollars in earned media for her clients. As a gothic romance writer, Hopkins takes readers on adventures that whisk them from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Hopkins can help tell your story in ways that’ll make your life read like a legend in any era.             

What’s Your Blog About?

If you can’t explain your blog in one sentence, it probably won’t attract readers. But you don’t have to invest a lot of time in your blog, manuscript, or service to know if it will succeed.    All you have to do is describe it to someone who doesn’t have a clue.   

It’s that simple. 

If you can’t, then stop what you’re doing and go back to ”why” you’re doing it in the first place. Once you determine your “why,” it will be easy to know who you are trying to reach with your creation and how it can help them.  When you understand why and how then you’ll have a successful outcome.

For example, the first version of this blog came while I was “flying the friendly skies.” I intended to create a daily log about life as a stewardess and discuss my perspective from 35,000 feet.   

Meeting people from all over the world,  I learned that we all desire the same thing. So, naturally, I wanted to talk about human behavior. My blog attracted a mix of travel writers and bloggers who write about the human condition. Although it appeared I was writing about travel, it was a different type of travelogue. It was one that focused on travelers going to destinations. So, it turned out that less than 1% of those subscribers commented or read my blog at all.  I learned my “who” was a tiny audience who, like me, was also interested in or didn’t understand why people did the things they do.

Oddly, as a career marketing and communication professional, I do know what motivates most people.  But I rejected the assumption.  I didn’t want to write about pedestrian human behavior or how marketers manipulate consumers. It feels wrong to stereotype people or put them in boxes. Even when they prove the assumption to be correct most of the time. My goal was and continues to be to move us out of those boxes put our humanity on display. Therefore, my travelogue featured anecdotes of worldwide travelers.  It was my goal to hold up a mirror to show how we unpack our humanness. If the blog had a logline, it would read:

An embittered stewardess finds her humanity while in service to travelers worldwide.

The prospective audience was curious to find out how being in service to weary travelers helped reopen the stewardess’s heart to find love, compassion, and creativity again. With clear direction on the subject, I could:

  • decide what I wanted to accomplish with my blog,
  • know who I was writing to and why,
  • determine which topics are most important to them.

If I did that, my blog would have been a success.  That is if I considered my blog as a business at the onset. But I didn’t.  In the beginning, it was more of vanity publishing, and as a result, the blog has been through several versions in the last 5 years.

So, there you have it, an example of how to fail at blogging. Don’t waste 5 years figuring out how to grow an audience for your blog.   

Before you post your first word,

  • start with why you’re writing it.
  • Who you’re writing the blog for,
  • and how the blog will benefit them…and “they will come.”
  • By the way, what you hope to accomplish with your blog could be altruistic, i.e., make a social impact.  But remember, you will need to generate enough income to keep it going too.

If you’re still wondering what most people want, it’s this: people want others to acknowledge that they matter.

~Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, and a very Merry Christmas!