Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, wrote in his autobiography that “any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants as long as it is black.” This statement is an often repeated mantra by businesses that expect to be able to offer the identical product or service to all of their clients.
This era of top-down thinking is rapidly coming to an end. Consumers are beginning to expect customized experiential marketing encounters with the products and services they purchase which offer an opportunity for customization to fit their personal tastes. Whether it’s a custom graphic on their mobile phone case, a custom avatar in their favorite video game, or a custom design for their next house, current marketing trends are pointing to empowered consumers who are more and more insistent on being able to tailor their purchases to fit their personality.
NIKEiD offers consumers the chance to have complete control over the appearance of their next pair of shoes. Visitors to the NIKEiD web page can experiment with different choices for colors and materials as they craft a personal shoe design down to the thread used to sew everything together. Users are even encouraged to create a myLOCKER account and share their best designs with the other amateur footwear designers on the site.
Starbucks’ marketing has long encouraged fans of the coffee company to modify the drinks on their menu to fit their personal tastes. Do you find a standard mocha a bit sweet? No problem. Just ask for one or two “pumps” of chocolate sauce next time. Had a sleepless night and need a boost? Kick up the regular recipe of one or two espresso shots for each drink to a “quad” (that’s four shots) and you’ll be buzzing all day.
Dell Computers has built its entire business model on designing a customized computer for each customer’s personal needs. Their website walks buyers through each component that goes into a new PC and lets them make decisions about what is important to them. Gamers can add expanded memory, a bigger monitor, and powerful graphics capabilities, while business travelers can build a laptop designed for blasting through tons of email, crunching spreadsheets, and word processing.
Here are three easy ways to start creating customized experiences for your clients:
Use your client’s name. Adding a simple cover page to a tax return that says “prepared for Donald Draper” transforms a generic document into a personal financial history. Take few minutes to figure out the merge command in your eNewsletter program to add first names to each email and turn your next edition into a personal correspondence instead of a generic message to “Dear Valued Customer.”
Build packages. If you can’t offer a 100% custom product, start by creating packages and combinations that give consumers a choice that feels tailored to their interests and needs.
Hotels do a great job offering packages to guests that offer them more personalized experiences. You can find hotel packages that cater to guests looking for “Green,” “Pet-friendly,” “Staycations,” “Romance,” “Culinary” and more. For instance, Romance guests could be greeted with champagne and roses in their room and discounts on spa treatments. Pet-friendly guests may find a luxury dog bed, food for Fido, and a map to the local dog park waiting for them.
Start your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system today. You don’t have to be in the tourism or hospitality industry to start creating customized experiences that will set your business apart. All you need to do is begin collecting details about your clients. Whether it’s with a formal CRM software or just a spreadsheet, make notes of the likes/dislikes, accomplishments, and nuances about each of your clients that make them unique as a person.
Once you start recording your observations of their preferences and personal details, look for ways to incorporate those into regular business interactions. Do they take a vacation with the family every August? This is a perfect opportunity to ask them about their upcoming trip when you meet with them in July. Do they prefer light beer over a dark beer? Surprise them with a six-pack of light craft beer the next time you send them a gift. Do they have kids? Make note of their names and ask how the kiddos are doing in school.
As this is still an emerging marketing trend (as it does take some extra work), you can really start to set your business apart from the “as long as it’s black” competition with different experiences in your day-to-day community that make your clients feel like they are valued and unique individuals.