I went to a lecture the other day given by a very clever man called
He’s written a new book called Sticky Marketing which amongst many fascinating insights, argues that a focus on the relationship between supplier and customer is outmoded and to ensure any kind of relationship durability, brands need to offer customer engagement.
He argues that sales based relationships are essentially transactional and are therefore competitively vulnerable. Any customer offered better for less by a new supplier would be negligent not to consider moving their business.
Engagement as it suggests is based on delivering significant incremental offerings which the customer will value.
As an example we can consider Dorset Cereals a brand that has grown six fold in as many years in an apparently mature, price sensitive market controlled by big players.
Of course the product is sensational but so was the original whose sales were stuck at £5m.
Sensational growth has been delivered by offering innovative packaging, and a web based customer interface which enables added value promotions (from wellies for Glastonbury to VW camper vans) and regular highly responsive customer dialogue
Relationship would have been just about selling a good product.
Engagement has been all about the added value that an honest tasty and real product could bring to its customers without a penny spent on advertising.
Check out their site at http://www.dorsetcereals.co.uk/ and send a life’s too short postcard to a friend!
It also struck me that Grant Leboffs ideas were hugely relevant to the Client Agency interface.
Agencies always focus on satisfaction with the relationship, and in doing so they focus on transactions.
There is no doubt they are important but given the abundance of qualified competition and highly informed customers, unless your transactional offer is unique you are competitively vulnerable.
Of course some relationships are deepened by personal interaction, and when this is the case it’s important to ensure that skilled and personable staff manage these interactions effectively
BUT the mistake most Agencies make is to assume that personal relationships provide reliable insulation for inadequate delivery.
The fact is that Clients fire Agencies for failing to deliver excellence in the transaction, often sacrificing good personal relationships as a consequence
As W.H. Auden put it
Almost all of our relationships begin, and most of them continue as a form of mental and physical barter… to be terminated when one or both parties run out of the goods
Leboff argues that it is customer engagement and not relationship we need to create, value and measure.
Time spent understanding what a specific Client will value and then focussing strategic effort towards high quality added value delivery of it is the essence of engagement.
Or as Auden puts it, it will only be a matter of time before you ‘run out of the goods’ and the relationship is terminated!