It’s so common that we small business marketers believe that frequently interacting with our customers is what grows relationships with them. Send them a lot of emails and tweets, touch them on a Facebook business page, respond to every comment on our blog posts, repin their pins on Pinterest, blah blah blah. Sounds good right? The more you interact the closer your relationship is with your customers, right? I mean, that’s what a relationship is right? It’s about interacting a bunch of times? Well, let me ask you a question. Was it the number of times you went on a date with your future husband when you were “courting” (sorry, it’s an old southern term) that really added up to that head-over-heels love that grew between you? Or was it the quality of the shared experience that the two of you had together during that time? Think out loud for a minute. But don’t let Loraine in the cube next to you hear this. Did it matter that you and your (future) husband happened to hear the Louis Armstrong song “What a wonderful world” playing in the background on your date, OR was it actually the fact that that song was playing the first time the two of you ever danced? The first time the two of you danced was a shared experience. And the fact that Louis Armstrong’s “What a wonderful world” already meant something special to you, and you two shared that experience together, is what built the relationship between you.
It’s the shared experiences in our lives that stand out and matter to us, not the number of times we happen to have interacted together. In your marketing, you need to build a shared experience with your customers in order to have a real relationship with them. What does that mean in a small business? Take a look at a few examples–>.
Ted’s Montana Grill
Ted Turner started this small chain of restaurants several years ago. If you don’t know Ted, he’s this “semi-wealthy” guy who seemingly would to be able to turn even dried cow pies into gold. At any rate, Ted’s doesn’t just serve up a great, perfectly seasoned, lean, Bison burger and call it quits. That wouldn’t be enough to build a shared relationship with his customers. Instead Ted’s makes it clear that they care about the environment. The tables are covered with recycled paper instead of fine linen tablecloths that have to be laundered constantly. The drinking straws are made of paper. That’s right, paper. Why? Because a paper straw simply disintegrates in the land fill whereas plastic straws will be preserved right along side a twinkie for a thousand years or so. The restrooms have these sporty toilets that may have cost more to purchase, but save on water in the long run. All of this screams of sharing this common feeling and goal with customers who care about the environment, but who still want a spankin’ good burger or steak.
Whole Foods is a grocery chain on a mission to sell nothing but the healthiest products available. A customer who is conscious about their personal health, concerned about what they eat, and concerned about how the foods were grown and sourced would normally go to a typical grocery store and have to scrutinize every product label to see what the ingredients are, and if the label mentions anything about the growing and sourcing of the product. Instead, if you step into Whole Foods, customers rest assured that every single item in the store is basically healthy. You don’t even have to look at the labels. We’re talking about tens of thousands of items here. Everything is organically produced, thus it is better for the environment. No product contains toxins like high fructose corn syrup, BHT/TBHQ (chemical preservatives), or trans fats. And everything is sourced in such a way that there are no unfair labor practices being used (such as poor treatment of workers, child labor, or human slavery). Even their coffees are all labeled “Fair Trade”, “Whole Trade”, “Rainforest Alliance Certified”, “We don’t kill unicorns”, or something similar. Whole Foods makes it a point to tell their customers these things. They reach out and show that they actually care about this stuff. It’s an experience they share with their customers who also care about these things. As a byproduct, they sell a lot more groceries and make a lot more profit.
We at Thought Reach also use shared experiences to grow relationships with our customers. For one thing, we make it known that we are obsessed with good coffee. Our customers identify with us because they too love great coffee. And since we support the Fair Trade movement, our customers who also care deeply about this cause identify with us. It’s a shared experience that transcends the normal business relationship that is based on just a bunch of interactions.
For you to apply these ideas to your business, start by thinking about what you are passionate about, and create a way to show that to your customers thereby creating a shared experience.
p.s.- No gnomes or unicorns were harmed in the writing of this article.
What shared experiences can you use to connect with your customers?