#TBT: Customers Aren’t Slaves — Stop Trying to “Own” Them

Happy #TBT! Here’s an oldie-but-goodie post from Jim: Customers Aren’t Slaves — Stop Trying to “Own” Them.

Customers don’t want to be owned.

In fact, to the great astonishment of marketers everywhere, customers don’t even think of themselves as customers. They think of themselves as human beings who might (or might not) happen to like what you and your venue have to offer.

So, besides the general repulsiveness of the sentiment behind wanting to “own” the customer (gee, how 19th century of you), most marketers make it much worse.

They misunderstand what they’ve got when someone gives them personal information and mishandle it once they’ve got that information.

These marketers believe, as a core marketing principle, that success comes from simply being able to reach a customer, especially with an email. If you’ve got their info (and you’re not breaking any laws), you’ve got ’em.

They talk about data mining and slicing and dicing, and personalizing, and customizing offers, but in my experience, this is almost always just talk.

Owning the customer in reality means nothing more than putting that person’s email address on a great big list of other email addresses and hitting the send button.

Well, let me make this simple: The customer doesn’t like it, and the customer has no interest in being owned.

The customer may have an interest in doing business with you, but not as an indentured servant; not as your possession, and not as another name on your ‘list.’

Instead, the customer might be willing to give some of her attention to you if you earn it by providing a value that makes it worthwhile.

So don’t try to “own” the customer. Try to “earn” the customer’s business. An email address (or any other information you can use to contact them) is nothing more than a limited permission to initiate a relationship.

Put differently, getting an email address is not the finish line for you as a marketer; it’s the starting line. Before, the person was a stranger. Now, you’ve got a chance to keep their attention, provide them value, and delight them, and if you do, you may have a long, mutually beneficial relationship with that customer.

Think “earn” the customer, don’t “own” the customer.

Got a comment or question? Join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.

Sign Up for Emails