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Reaching Your Customers

 
  Hort Snacks - July 2018
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 There are lots of clichéd statements about customers, but when it comes down to it, customers are the lifeblood of any sales-oriented business. Without customers to buy product, you won’t get very far. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart put it pretty bluntly when he said “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” He’s right.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, put it this way. “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” Building, growing and then maintaining a customer base requires a lot of time, no matter the size, shape or business model. Farm direct marketers are in the somewhat unique position of dealing directly with their customers. It can be a good thing and a bad thing. But regardless, you have the powerful opportunity to know and connect with your customers. You have the chance to directly influence your customers, for good or bad.

So, how do you reach your customers? If we take a look back to how things were done 20+ years ago, you’d probably have worked hard to keep your loyal long-term customers coming back, hoping that through word of mouth, you’d pick up some new ones each week. You’d push ads out in the newspaper or hope for some local radio or TV coverage. You might have had a newsletter or a mailing list. Having a decent website probably topped the list of reaching customers. You’d have worked hard to interact with your customers at the farm and at the market, trying to help them to know and understand you. All of those tactics (and more) worked.

Is it the same today? Yes and no. The internet is a bigger deal than ever before. Having an awesome website is even more important than ever, but word of mouth has an electronic angle now. Now Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms/tools are critical components of connecting and staying connected with customers. People want to know what you are doing (and why – sort of) in real time, with frequent contact and content required to keep their attention (and their loyalty?). The potential reach of any customer contact has increased exponentially, as one Facebook update/Twitter tweet/Instagram picture is shared to hundreds and hundreds of people instantaneously. I think that Jeff Bezos illustrates this potential impact pretty well when he said “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends”. The same principle applies to a positive experience.

Besides knowing who you are, and where to find you and your product(s), people also want to know what you know. They want to experience a little bit of your life through their interaction.

When it comes to reaching customers in the modern age (if that is what we want to call it), frequency is pretty key, but quality contacts are probably parallel with efficacy. A Facebook post or a tweet work to update or inform anyone, in a superficial way. However, if you really want to create a bond and a long-term customer, it probably comes back to the basics of developing a deeper relationship. It is the one-on-one contact, the conversations and connections with the customer and their family, the conscious and deliberate care and attention that you supply.

John Russell (of Harley Davidson) said that “The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.” How you choose to engage will depend on your style, your preferences, as well as those of your customers. It’ll vary based on their age, their demographic, and a billion other cultural/social variables. It might seem daunting, but the beauty of the entire situation is that there are almost uncountable ways of reaching customers.

 
 
 
 
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Robert Spencer.
This information published to the web on June 26, 2018.