Coffee is for closers

Coffee may be for closers, but that’s about all the rewarding we should do. The relentless focus on transactions, conversion rates and closing statistics is well past its expiration date.

Sure you could get married on a first date, but I’ll wager that’s not the best idea.

Today the shift must be toward building relationships–and that starts with earning attention and establishing trust, not making a quick deal.

In a new model of retail KPIs we start first with awareness, which is mostly about breaking through the noise and achieving share of attention. We then focus on engagement that is intensely relevant and remarkable in the truest sense of that word. And we accept that one transaction doesn’t count for much, particularly if it’s achieved through uneconomic and unsustainable discounting. What does matter is continued engagement and interaction that, overtime, leads to loyalty (not mere frequency) and brand advocacy.

Brands that adopt this mindset and plan of action will be far better positioned for a digital-first, customer-in-charge world.

For everyone else, well, enjoy the steak knives.



The upside of denial

Is there any?

If your experience is anything like mine, you know how seductive denial can be. Denial is the temptress that helps us avoid pain. Denial keeps us in our comfort zone like a warm bath at the end of a long day. Denial creates the sense that defending the status quo is working or that we can go around our problems rather than through them.

But mostly it creates an illusion of safety when the reality is anything but. It works incredibly well–until it doesn’t.

Denial is cunning and baffling. It’s the monster lurking beneath the surface, hiding in the closet and buried in the chatter of our monkey mind.

In a business setting, denial allows us to trumpet our booming customer acquisition statistics, while ignoring the other engagement metrics that are falling apart. It causes us to crow about our rapidly growing e-commerce business, while the reality is that it’s entirely channel shift. It’s the glowing press release, the clever Powerpoint, the rah-rah company-wide meeting or the slick investor presentation that contains all the right buzz-words, when everyone else knows it’s the proverbial lipstick on the pig.

Denial kept Sears from ever really dealing with Home Depot and Lowe’s. It kept Blockbuster and Borders from confronting digital. And on and on.

Too often denial feels like our friend, when in fact it is every inch our enemy.

As David Pell humorously reminds us: “Among the dinosaurs, there were many asteroid deniers.”

“I believe these words came from the Pokemon movie…”

We are overwhelmed by choices. We are bombarded by information. Winning the battle for our precious attention gets more difficult by the minute.

Engage me from the outset, or lose the opportunity to build credibility, earn trust, cultivate a relationship.

Get to know me, show me you know me, show me you value me. Rinse and repeat.

So when you send me an e-mail encouraging redemption of my loyalty points when I don’t have any, you create an indelible message about your commitment to being personalized and relevant.

When your customer service reps initiate a conversation by emphasizing how much you value my loyalty, and then promptly do everything to show that those are hollow words, trust evaporates quickly (I won’t tell you who did this recently, but their initials are AT&T).

When you want to seen as a credible Presidential contender and you start a serious message with “I believe these words came from the Pokemon movie…” your fate is sealed (I’m going to miss you Herman!).

To win more than your fair share of attention, you need to start strong and engage quickly.

When you don’t, we stop listening to what comes next.

And the battle is lost.

“The List”

We all know that consumers are faced with a myriad of choices. And the continuing explosion of data and connectivity often serves to make the buying process overwhelming.

This is why focusing on “The List” is critical.

We all have our Lists. If I ask you what restaurants you are likely to consider for your birthday celebration, I bet you already have your List. If I ask you what brand of car or tablet or phone or running shoes you are likely buy next, you probably have that List too.

If a consumer is already familiar with–and active in–a category, their List is largely set. If you aren’t on it already, you have virtually no chance of making the sale. And chances are if you aren’t at or near the top of their List, your odds are pretty low as well.

To make “The List” a key part of your customer growth strategy there are a few key questions you need to answer:

  1. For your target customer segments where do you stand on their List?
  2. If you aren’t at or near the top of their List, what are the factors you need to address to get there?
  3. If you are currently at the top of their List, what are the drivers of preserving your position and distancing your brand from the competition?
  4. What’s your plan to get to, and stay at, the top of “The List?”

In a world where commanding share of attention and breaking through the omni-channel blur gets more difficult by the minute, I’d get started if I were you.

And I’d probably hurry.



Will you miss me when I’m gone?

The retail graveyard is littered with once powerful brands that used to command strong market share and intense customer loyalty.

The current retail scene is filled with brands in–or on their way to–the intensive care unit, as they struggle to re-ignite comparable store sales and reverse declining margins.

Just this past week, former retail juggernaut the Gap announced they were closing one fifth of their US stores in yet another bid to restore their former luster. Will many of those customers that lose a nearby Gap location truly miss them, or will it be merely a minor void, quickly filled up by a myriad of other stores selling roughly similar merchandise with an equal or superior experience?

The brands that thrive in a world where mediocrity is readily apparent to all will maintain a relentless focus on their core customer segments. They will build deep insight and leverage that insight into value propositions that engage customers in unique and powerful ways. They will treat different customers differently. They will track the critical measures unique to each segment that correlate with strong share of wallet and compelling customer advocacy. They will aggressively attack any weaknesses in these measures.

And by doing so, they will build and retain relationships with the customers that matter.

The ones that would miss them if they were gone.

The retail graveyard and intensive care unit is filled with companies that failed to take these steps.

I hope you’re better than that. I hope you will act while you still have time.