Winning the Customer, Part II0
By Frank J. Rich
Few would argue that children need structure. In fact, they thrive on it. Good modeling and easy directions grow security in a child’s development. Modern psychology has come full circle, shelving the idea that asking children to make their own choices is unhealthy and often dangerous to their development.
Not coincidentally, adults do well with much the same direction and structure. Buyers respond best to those who know them and their wants, needs, and buying inclinations. It makes sense; we are better able to serve them when we know who they are and what they want or need. Buyers are like all people; they want to feel included. They want to be named in some way, labeled, if you will. When identified with their preferences people respond as insiders, those who are more highly regarded and cared for.
When we join anything, as social creatures are wont to, we are more likely to participate or contribute to the group’s message when feeling included. Countless studies show that participation grows in those that believe they are an integral part of a group. In a recent study, when voters were told they were more politically active this group was 15 percent more likely to turn out to vote than the control group that was not labeled. The net: give your customers the compliment of the discernment they possess for having crossed your threshold, in whatever terms apply.
We reward consistent behavior. We hear often: “I would never do that, ” or “I would always do this.” People want to be “counted on” to be themselves. We make a promise, then work hard to keep it, or excuse it. When treated well in a restaurant we say: “We’ll be back!” It’s the sense of belonging we crave, and which is a vital gate to Maslow’s next level of hierarchal needs; namely, self-esteem. On our way to fulfillment, the highest level of need, we relish the recognition of our specialness by others. Rewards are what we seek … to feel better, to be better, in the eyes of meaningful others.
Windfalls are followed by generosity. Lucky streaks at the gaming table lead to egregious overspending, followed by rationalizations. Turning losing into gratification by claiming it’s all in fun is common in casinos. Rewards of most any kind encourage repetitive behavior.
Why then are so many businesses reluctant to discount more than 10 percent? The closer we get to “free” the more compelling is our urge to participate. Clever goods and services companies know this well. Free shipping, carte blanche returns, 2-fers, instant prizes, and others are examples of the ways that attract prospects to turn into customers. If the drinks were not free on first class flights, people would gladly pay for them. Once labeled as superior, we feel the need to live up to the label, and we do, repetitively.
I watched in amazement as a convention booth captain invited people to spin a wheel with a guarantee that they would win something. Though prizes were small in value, people lined up to spin the wheel for the “instant gratification” it held. The idea is simple: they needed to feel special, and winning always does that for us.
Make your customers winners, elite decision makers, repeat customers, and best customers, using all the things you can think of to bring them in and relate the needs of each to feel good about themselves. Walk into a jewelry store and ask the price of something in the case. More often than not, the clerk responds with: “You’ve got good taste.” Then the game is on as she moves you into categories that confirm your self-worth, even when it stretches your resources. We spend more at Christmas than at any time in the year. The reason: it makes us feel good about ourselves. The moment we anoint another as special is the moment they align with your desires for them, no matter the cost. Labels work!