Like Exceedingly, Love Strategically

Chalk up another new source for learning or reinforcing marketing lessons: HGTV. Yes, that HGTV, the cable TV network. On occasion, I will find myself watching HGTV shows with my wife. A recent chance encounter with an episode of Love It or List It reinforced an important aspect about managing customer relationships. The format of the program is that a designer and realtor work with homeowners deciding whether to renovate a home or move to another. The end result is the homeowner will either love the renovation and stay or find a new home to be too irresistible and list their home for sale.

The homeowners featured in the episode I watched recently were weighing the stay or move dilemma, but both the designer and realtor knew they had their work cut out for them to please this couple. The tipoff? The home that the couple owned currently was chosen after looking at 255 houses. I don’t think I have been in 255 houses in my life, much less look at that many when deciding to buy one! After watching a few minutes of the program, it was understandable why they looked at so many houses – both the husband and wife had specific desires and demands for which there was no negotiation.

Yes, the program was for entertainment, but the behavior of the homeowners probably was not an act. They were hard to please, perhaps an extreme case of a difficult customer, but a drain on a business’s resources, nonetheless. One of the hardest lessons for me to learn in the earlier days of my professional career was that all customers are not equal. I wanted to like everyone, treating all customers the same. And, if there were customers that were not as profitable or took too much effort to serve, I was confident that I was the salesperson who could change the relationship and bring them along. Not all customers are equal, I came to understand. Some customers are more valuable and loyal; they deserve to be treated as a priority. Less valuable customers are not to be ignored, but they are serviced in a manner consistent with their value to the organization.

The take away from Love It or List It for marketers is to like exceedingly, love strategically. Having friends is great, and social media gives businesses a forum for making friends with customers and others regardless of their financial worth to the firm. But, realize that some customers are more important than others and should be treated accordingly. Tactics such as assigning dedicated customer service personnel, customized products, and rewards of merchandise or credit are examples of how valuable customers’ worth can be acknowledged. Determine which customers should receive the most love and show it to them. In other words, love strategically.