One of my first jobs was in the camera department of a large department store, which taught me a great deal about sales and marketing. My manager, who I will call “Abe,” showed me how to turn one-time customers into loyal clients. He never sold anything to a customer that he didn’t need. Abe followed every sale with free education about the equipment. He allowed returns. The most amazing thing about him is he did all this without thought of material reward.
Unlike many salesmen, he did not sell a higher-priced camera to an individual for the sales commission. He tried to ascertain the needs of the customer, and fit those needs with a camera that would not only meet those needs, but allow the individual to grow and learn about photography.
This man had a passion for the art of photography, a knowledge of technique and equipment, and a true concern for the individuals who came to him. I don’t remember his name, but I will never forget the lessons I learned from him. I have found these principles of honest, ethical salesmanship to be the foundation of a good marketing strategy, and a general life philosophy.
What is the difference between a customer and a client? A customer is someone who walks into your store and buys something from an indifferent clerk. He could buy the item from anywhere, and next time probably will, because his experience was indifferent. He is buying convenience, and nothing more. If another store is more convenient, he will buy there.
A client is the potential customer who wanders into a store and has a positive experience — he gets a great product that he loves, and feels a rapport with the salesperson. He comes back for help, and eventually buys more product or services. This customer is now a client.
What is at the base of the customer v.s. client difference? Relationship. People have a need for community. The very thing that our consumer-based culture denies us, is what we crave the most. A community begins with a simple friendship between two unrelated people. Micro relationships are at the very basis of society, and are why anything works at all.
Looking at a microcosm inside a petri dish of molecules or even quantum particles, we can see clearly how like likes to group with like. On a bigger scale, we can see how like birds flock together, how people gather wherever they can: coffee shops are about so much more than coffee.
We cannot quanitfy these tiny little relationships. They won’t show in any marketing analysis. Social networking is successful today because of the way that people naturally group themselves. Yes, we can try to monetize these tendencies, but wouldn’t it be better to reward the Honest Abe who is making those relationships that change peoples’ lives?
You can’t force relationships or communities. People will go where they will, forming new pathways connecting Point A to Point B. We can, however, change our focus, from a sterile consumer-based society into a rich culture of relationship and community. We do this by rewarding those hardworking relationship-builders on the front lines; let their philosophy and ethics run the company instead of letting the company run them.
We can do this by making the company “culture” one that encourages long-term relationships between employees and clientele. We can do this by creating a favorable environment for the growth of community and relationships. I leave the details to your imagination and creativity.
Copyright 2009 Aliyah Marr