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.


Show Up, Be Present

PB and I had been friends since high school. In my minds-eye, we’d been friends for much longer. Except I can’t remember our history before that moment. My earliest memories of us together were the cheering squad in junior year and senior year.

We went to the same college and were inseparable during freshman and sophomore years there too.

Fast forward to our 30th high school reunion. By then, we were both moms of twin girls, she with 3 older sons and me with my oldest daughter, who she had visited in the hospital soon after I gave birth. Life had changed for both of us, but once again, we were joined at the hip.

Two years later, after celebrating another 30th reunion for another milestone, PB wanted me to show up to share her joy, our joy really at a birthday celebration for her beau. Unfortunately, after several “reunions” in a two-year span – while also experiencing one of the most confusing times in my life – I couldn’t. It’s been ten years, and we haven’t spoken since.

It wouldn’t have crossed my mind because I like to think I respect the boundaries of others. I would’ve continued believing it, too, If I hadn’t gone to sleep angry.

Earlier that evening, I’d commanded Dug, my grand-puppy-son, to respect my brother’s boundaries. Dug obeyed and left my brother alone. But I made the mistake of not respecting Dug’s boundaries and proceeded to move him along by picking him up. Dug helped me understand I, too, had overstepped by snarling and then nipping my hand. He didn’t hurt me. I told him all was forgiven, but I refused to speak to him for the rest of the evening and well into the morning. So, my subconscious went to work.

PB worked her way into my dream. I woke up with her on my mind. I immediately remembered how it felt when PB stopped speaking to me after I pushed her back from crossing my boundary. A boundary I didn’t know I erected years before.

I always thought wimps set boundaries. Seemed to me that one should evaluate every situation to determine its limits and go the distance if they decide.

In fact, I still do.

So imagine, to my surprise, learning I have set several boundaries that I didn’t acknowledge until today. What’s worse, I realized I will rarely go beyond those boundaries to show up for anyone. Yet, I have loving friends who show up for me in ways I will always treasure.

Recently, my not-so-humble oldest twin daughter reminded me they “turned out so well” because, as I once told my daughters, my friends cared for me when I was pregnant. They were also there for me throughout the girls’ formidable, I mean formative years. My friends were my girls’ “village.”

I reviewed my past behavior to see if I was theirs. From listening to my friends’ intimate accounts and stories, I noticed I show up when there’s a spiritual, emotional, sometimes a physical crisis, much like the village Shaman. And it has a lot to do with the boundaries I’ve set, possibly because of the trauma I’ve experienced.

Boundaries are like priorities that we’ve set for ourselves, whether socially-engineered or due to cultural programming. Further, these boundaries don’t necessarily protect us unless we know how we’ve acquired them. I’m not sure how or when I acquired my boundaries, but they’ve allowed me to show up in my career as well as in my personal life.

I heard a line from some show I was streaming; maybe Resident Alien or some Hallmark movie – and the character said, what she did for a living wasn’t who she was.

I disagree.

What we do professionally, we do personally, and vice versa. The same behavioral characteristics and skill set we possess appear in our professional lives.

If we take time to know ourselves, we’ll see who we are, and what we do is one and the same. No matter how hard we try to separate the two, it will inevitably come back to the same point.

Had I realized this ten years ago, possibly, I could have salvaged my relationship with PB?

But then again, boundaries also serve as a wall to prioritize and focus on what is important. Allowing us to show up and be fully present when we do.

Currently Working On:

We, humans, are capacitors of energy. We emit that energy via vibratory signals. We even speak about our energy levels in terms of “feeling low,” or “high on life,” etc. So, even if we don’t remember the physics of being – our language describes our energy output and often reception too. For example, when you go into a building and get a chill and say, “It doesn’t feel right in here.” Or we’ll say, “this place has a certain warmth about it,” we’re referring to the energy left behind. If we go deeper – what if our mind is a receiver and our heart a CPU (central processing unit)? And what if what engages our mind causes our energy to fluctuate, creating signals that extend way beyond us? If this were the case, what if others are sensitive to the signal output and can “read” it -and respond to our vibration accordingly?

Well, it seems we do this more often than we care to admit or notice. Especially when we reach out to others to inquire about their activity. We may think no one cares about what goes on in our daily lives. But occasionally, someone will ask, “have you seen, watched, listen to, participated in,” etc… The questions seem to be more than small talk and more like a gauge to see where our lives may have intersected. Recently, I’ve noticed when I’m engaged in something that has all of my attention – I attract others who are also deeply involved with the same topic. I’ll get a phone call (yes – the pandemic has brought back phone visits), and sure enough, the conversation will turn to something I may have been reading or even thinking about. Now I have an ally in my quest.

What happens when friends or family connect with you and begin with small talk? Well, this is where reading signals come in handy. I contend that we all have the ability to read each other’s vibrations. We may have forgotten how to do so. So, here’s a trick – don’t censor yourself in the conversation. If the conversation begins, have you seen – if you haven’t, share what you have seen, read, or done. Maybe one more exchange, and I guarantee you, it will trigger why the person called you in the first place. It is there when you will soon realize that you’re riding the same wavelength or train of thought. – Now you can move forward together.

Also, here’s one more thing. I have no idea why I felt compelled to write this post, but here it is.

I’m studying 5G, Ultra-Wideband, Semiconductor chips, sensors, and the Internet of Things. I’m also currently studying kundalini and reading the “Cosmic serpent DNA and the origins of knowledge” by Jeremy Narby.

Happy Friday!