Coming Back for More


What makes your customers come back to enjoy the experience of doing business with you again and again? It’s a simple question without a simple answer, if a company hasn’t taken the time to give it serious attention.

But let’s face it, it’s the pleasurable part of doing business that makes a customer repeat the experience time after time. As guest speaker Ross Shafer so aptly communicated at the converter meeting of the Tag & Label Mfrs. Inst. at the Ritz Carlton in Naples, FL, February 25–29: When people love you, they give you more money! It’s that simple.

It’s a theme that’s had a high profile at TLMI’s annual meetings lately, and with good reason. It’s a theme, however, that shouldn’t be limited to the label converting industry; other industries also should scrutinize it.

While I wouldn’t espouse neglecting the purchase of new technology to make your company more competitive, treating your customers in a manner that truly makes doing business with you a pleasurable experience doesn’t have to cost much. It also sets you apart from “commodity-type” businesses. However, it does take commitment.

At a TLMI meeting in October 2006 (see PFFC December p20), Duane Knapp introduced the concept of genuine branding. In the forward of Knapp’s book, The BrandMindset, Christopher W. Hart Ph.D., president of Spire Group and adjunct professor of marketing at the Univ. of Michigan, explains: “At first glance, branding might be seen as something created by a marketing department. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I have done quite a bit of work with organizations wanting to become ‘customercentric.’ That’s very much what branding is about. A customercentric culture starts with pervasive focus throughout an organization to identify, understand, and satisfy customers’ needs—both external and internal customers.”

Hindsight reminds us that the devil is in the details. What’s most difficult in giving more than lip service to the corporate culture both Knapp and Shafer say we should build is the practice of creating an experience for our customers that generates excitement and then, most important of all, making it last. Knapp maps out the way to build a genuine brand with the following steps:

  • Assess your brand’s perception.
  • Determine what your brand should promise.
  • Develop a brand blueprint to communicate your brand.
  • Rule that each employee must understand and adopt the BrandPromise within the framework of a brand culture.
  • Establish how to nurture, enhance, and innovate the brand.
Whether by design or coincidence, Huston Patterson, featured this month on the cover and on p36 ("Lasting Impression"), is among those top-performing companies that have fully embraced a customer-centered culture in a manner not unlike the process described above. It has seriously considered what makes its clients (not simply “customers”) happy. In fact, it’s the company’s most important focus, along with having pride in its employees.

The effort Huston Patterson devoted to the implementation and practice of its client-based strategy has paid off in CEO Thomas Kowa’s opinion. Annual sales doubled between 2001 and 2005, and by the end of July 2006, sales for the year were up 21.9%. Ross Shafer would advise: If you want customers to come back for more, remember that no one wants to give money to people they don’t like. They want a human relationship.

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