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Connect, Never Neglect A Valuable Relationship

Seven points on developing a competitive advantage

January 18, 2013 By Peter Weedfald
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Beyond products, prices and services, how do we ensure consumers that our retail brands are different and more valuable than online competitors who offer little more than a low price?

This is especially important considering the investment it takes to succeed in the increasingly competitive and commoditized CE retail industry. We have to ask ourselves, What are the value triggers we are capable of pushing and pulling to drive successful engagements internally, externally and at the last three feet of the sale? Are each of the triggers unique or are they complimentary across sales, marketing, merchandising, communications, and in-store and online operations? If they are unique, does this mean we need different, customized training for each of these functions to ensure we are competitively fueled to build valuable, connecting and lasting consumer relationships? If they are the same, does this mean we can aggregate sales, marketing, merchandising and communications as one force to build formidable consumer relationships and unyielding competitive advantages?  
Enough with the questions; let's focus on some answers.
Always connect, never neglect a valuable relationship.  Strong relationships are not built on a onetime meeting, engagement or event. They are based on a personal and business leadership philosophy, a very successful ethos that works to protract and profit the most successful leaders, brands and companies. "Connect, never neglect" is all about building faster and smarter short- and long-term valuable and profitable consumer relationships.
In sales we focus on connections to build viable, profitable opportunities. In marketing we refer to building brand equity/value opportunity triggers designed to capture short- and long-term emotional and financial relationships. At the last three feet of the retail sale we focus on building relationships by learning, serving and growing opportunity through connecting not rejecting. If we fail to build a formidable consumer relationship, your competitor will fill the void.
Relationship building is the key to sustainable customer loyalty. Connecting with old, new and future relationships is the core driver of fertile opportunity. Neglecting old, new and future relationships is the core driver of fruitless accountability.
Retailers and their partners hope the right products, prices, distribution, promotions and services will achieve valuable brand relationships. Sadly, with all this hefty investment, some companies only realize a short-term relationship. Smart relationship marketing is achieved by paying continuous attention to the customer, and by utilizing research through pulled, not pushed, future sales.

Building customer loyalty, especially at the retail level, is achieved through the relationship between the retailer's brand, the product brand and the consumer's personal brand. Yes, consumers each have their own brand personality and choose retailers, products and brands based on it. Consumers expect the sellers and marketers to treat them with respect, kindness, fairness, relevancy, and consistency across every touch point of the buying experience.
Given the importance of building relationships, here are seven of the "20 Connect, Never Neglect" Gen One Ventures marketing principals to ensure competitive retail advantages:
1. Institute vigorous relationship training: Trust me, your employees would cherish training on just how to build consumer relationships in 30 to 60 seconds over 30 days. Such training would strengthen and enhance both their business andpersonal lives. We know retail sales and product training is done righteously every day, but relationship building is much different and as important as basic selling and product training chores. If your salesperson cannot garner attention, interest, conviction and desire with a consumer in the retail aisle within 30 seconds, you already lost the potential of the sale, the profitable up-sell basket, the lifetime opportunity for this consumer to engage and buy from your retail brand again and again. The net, stop chasing internet price competitors and instead focus on building and chasing in-store consumer relationships based upon your brand value and in-store highly consumer valuable team members.
2. It's not about who your brand identifies or targets: Instead, it's all about who knows, targets and values your brand, your services and your sales people. Consumer pull outweighs expensive push through advertising and marketing stimulants. Brand leadership generates the pull relationships at the last three feet of the sale and creates return visits.
Your brand opportunity and identification lives and breathes through your employees and their ability to build relationships. The stronger and more valuable the memory and image of the store experience, the stronger the customer loyalty. Valuebegets value, especially through a retail and consumer relationship.
3. The very best opportunities lie in danger: Rejection is at the core of business opportunity. The reason most sales people fail is they cannot handle consumer rejection. Teach them how to build fast relationships and execute smart sales strategies. Employee turnover will slow down dramatically while sales and brand value will increase.
4. Retail is detail: Details of the floor exchange and the relationship built in the aisle with each consumer determines the future or failure of your business. The details in building consumer relationships start with a kinetic smile; a positive and refreshing attitude; a love of the job, store brand, product and technologies; and a passion to serve, learn and grow relationships. The salesperson should be a product/tech expert who consumers enjoy engaging with.
5. Service imagination, service relationships: Consumers don't buy the cold steel of a television or the cold steel of an extended product warranty. They buy the dream of watching the super bowl in their living room or the latest movie in their den with their children. Teach your sales team to sell the dream and expectation of the purchase. Don't ask if they want to buy a two-year extended warranty. Instead, ask if they would like their new TV delivered, visually and audio tuned and enhanced for the best Super Bowl experience. Create and enhance the relationship of their dream and their home theater experience and you will create a lasting and profitable relationship.
6. Brand is a promise: What's yours? How is it different than your competitors'? How do you articulate and realize brand value through consumer relationship pull, not expensive forcible push? For many retailers their brand promise is already well embedded and recognized based upon their successful and differentiated business model stimulating consumers to pull themselves into their stores, instead of pushing or forcing them into a relationship. Experimenting publically your brand promise is as dangerous as a plumber fixing an electrical outlet while standing in a pool of water. State your brand promise and then deliver it through smart consumer relationships.
7. Unleash capacity: Only through consistency and frequency can you build lasting consumer relationships. Only through smart dauntless in-store and online CRM strategies can your brand compete on all retail fronts. Retailers must combine best in-store and online practices to beat e-tailers whose only proposition is a low price. A crawling machine creeping through the cloud can never create greater personal relationships than a retailer with a highly trained and disciplined in-store sales team. Unleash competitive capacity by unleashing smart and valuable in-store consumer relationships.
Connect, never neglect a valuable opportunity or relationship, especially in your retail aisle.

Peter Weedfald is the President of Gen One Ventures and Author of Green Reign Leadership.





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