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January 14, 2011 / jasonpinto

How We Treat Our Best

Sears Tower

106 years ago, one company demonstrated how your best customers can become ambassadors for your brand. They also showed how companies could, in turn, show further appreciation to them.

In 1905, Sears wrote to their top customers in Iowa and asked each one of them to share 24 catalogs among friends and neighbors. If this led to purchases from that group of 24, the referring customer would be compensated. This program proved successful in Iowa, and was eventually rolled out to other states.

In conference rooms and coffee shops across the world today, marketers are trying to create content that will go viral. They are dreaming up videos that will generate thousands of views, and they are writing eBooks that they hope will downloaded and shared.

It’s true that great content must exist in order for your brand to increase awareness and build buzz. But in order for that content to spread, we must do more.

Identify our Best

Does your company know without a doubt who your top customers are? If so, is that list also known by management, by the sales reps, by the marketing folks, and by the engineers,  developers, or folks “on the floor”?

I cannot think of too many good reasons to hide that list from key employees. Sure, all customers deserve to be treated fairly. A customer who may be causing you trouble today may one day turn into your biggest fan; thus, you do not want employees to deliver bad service to them if they are currently not on that list.

But in the end, there will always be some customers that sit on the top of the pile. Identifying them may help you to prioritize actions and expenses, and help you grow your business.

Encourage Them

Nearly every business wants others to spread word-of-mouth about their products or services. But sometimes they forget to take an important step to receive help: ask for it!

While we are careful not to cross the “pushy” line, we may find that buzz grows faster when we ask happy customers for testimonials, or when we gently remind them about our “refer-a-friend” programs.

Reward Them

Sears gave stoves, bicycles, and other items to top customers that helped drive business for them. If our budget allows, we certainly could look into providing “big-ticket” items as rewards. But sometimes our “Thank You” can be just as meaningful by doing little things — this might include sending a hand-written Thank You card in the mail, or having flowers or candy delivered to their office.

What is Old Is New

The content that was shared and built buzz 100 years ago may be different from what gets the job done today.

But the fundamentals that made it happen back then can still guide us successfully.

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