If asked, most in business wouldn’t hesitate to say “yes, we love our customers – at least we appreciate them immensely.”

To show their appreciation, many product or service providers may offer any manner of incentives to encourage repeat purchase such as discounts, rebates, rewards and – thanks to technology – exclusive mobile or other digital offers.

Those incentives by in large involve price reductions. While a discount or rebate is nothing to sneeze at, there comes a point when you have to ask if you’re connecting with your customer in a way they can “feel” and care about, or are you buying the customer’s “love” temporarily?

We’ve often counseled our clients that it’s better not to compete for the customers’ “love” on price alone. Only by knowing your customers can you maintain preferred or better demanded status that keeps prices in line with your profit goals  AND keeps them satisfied. True engagement versus purchased patronage is a sustainable advantage, if for no other reason than the work to achieve it is great.But once under way it’s cheaper, easier and clearly delivers greater revenues from happier, better connected customers.

The Harvard Business Review sums up our sentiments perfectly in the journal article, “Marketers Need to Stop Focusing on Loyalty and Start Thinking About Relevance”: “Loyalty remains important, but …the future of marketing — and, in the big picture, many businesses — depends on serving a customer’s most relevant needs in the moment. In this way, companies need to become more like living businesses, building and sustaining symbiotic ties with their customers as if those relationships are with a concierge, butler, or friend.”

In other words, do what it takes to maintain a genuine relationship with customers that illustrates you’re meeting their needs. How do you attain such a relationship? A few suggestions:

  • Ask them what they want. Be genuine, don’t bombard them with surveys or make them feel like a number. That approach won’t make too many feel valued
  • Study customer habits. Digital channels to customers are making this easier.
  • Adapt to the customer’s needs. Change is constant, be sure they know you’re listening.

How do you show “love” to your customers?