I read about Abraham Maslow’s work on “peak experiences” while studying marketing at university, the same time I was ghostwriting for women’s magazines on how to be a better lover. According to Maslow, these ecstatic states are especially joyous and exciting moments in life that are often inspired by great beauty, art, and of course, intense feelings of L.O.V.E.
And as I juggled an essay on peak experiences and a looming deadline on finding and keeping Mr Right, I experienced a lightbulb moment. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were right: All you need is love. Especially when it comes to attracting and keeping good customers.
But what is love really? A quick Google search on romantic love gave me 58.4 million results. So I went to the highest authority of all on romantic love: Hollywood.
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return.” This “Nature Boy” lyric by Eden Ahbez released in 1947 (popularised by the film Moulin Rouge) tells a story of a strange, enchanted boy who wandered far and wide only to learn that the greatest thing was love.
Yes, that’s right. Love is the answer. Even in business. The more you give customers love, the bigger returns you reap. And it all starts (and ends) with relationships. Needless to say, it doesn’t happen overnight because like any meaningful relationship, you need to work at it. For starters, that means attracting Mr or Ms Right Customer – one with whom you can potentially build a long-lasting, fruitful and meaningful relationship. Because while one-off shopping affairs with the wrong kind of customers offer immediate, short-term highs, they can’t sustain a business. So don’t be afraid to gently ditch a customer you deem unprofitable (the kind that’s high-maintenance, low return) if this gives you freedom to spend quality time with customers that are likely to spend more, more often and for longer with you.
What kind of customer does that, you ask? The kind that feels loved by you.
Showing customers a bit of love is really not that hard. My local hairdresser Hairroom Salons in Hawthorn worked out how to make me feel special. They wish me a happy birthday every year with a nice little letter and a discount voucher in the mail. They record all my visits and my hair complaints. They even know I don’t like too much product on my hair. So I keep going back because every time I visit, I feel special.
My GP has learned some good bedside manners lately too. Having suffered from a minor health issue, I have had to visit my GP numerous times the past eight months and I am impressed by how organised they are. I’m dreadful at keeping appointments. Time flies and I forget my commitments. But my GP sends me an SMS reminder a day before so I don’t miss my appointments. How thoughtful and marketing-savvy at the same time.
I am also impressed by Cafe Blanc on King Street, my favourite barrista in the Melbourne CBD. Not only does he make damn good coffee thoughtfully served in beautiful collectible teaspons, he knows how I want it and calls me by my first name. And everyone loves the sound of their name.
More importantly, he is genuinely interested about how I’m feeling, takes the time to chat to me about my day and treats me like I’m his only customer in the whole world. All in less than one minute. Ordering coffee doesn’t take long and making it isn’t rocket science. But my barrista knows his job is more than just making me good coffee every morning. That’s a given. He understands that his real job is to give me the strength to face the daily rat race with a smile on my face. So I keep going back to him – and I tell all my friends who care to listen - because he makes me feel loved.
These little gestures that say “I’m thinking about you” or “I care about you” are what good loving is all about. And everyone needs a bit of loving. It builds intimacy, fortifies relationships and keeps customers coming back for more (and bringing their friends with them too). Now, that’s a good business strategy.
When was the last time you showed customers some love?