The first rule of marketing

Ok, like with anything dynamic, there are many important laws of marketing. But I’m going to go ahead and put a stake in the ground and focus on customer retention.

I think this is the most important rule:

It’s easy to get someone to try something once (acquisition), but if they have a bad experience (customer retention), it’s exponentially more difficult and much more expensive to try and get someone to come back and try again later.

I’ve seen (and been a part of) too many companies make the deliberate decision to try and get ahead by pouring money into a clever marketing campaign without having the pieces in place to make one’s experience with a product or service to be truly remarkable.

It’s easy to fill the bucket, but if your bucket has leaks… or no bottom at all… pretty soon, you’re going to run out of prospects as the people who have bad experiences with you give you poor reviews.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Jeff Johnson on the marketing for Johnson’s Auto Repair – a local auto repair shop.

Auto repair is a tough business because no one trusts an auto mechanic. Most people don’t know much about how their cars work, so they feel like they’re at the mercy of what an auto mechanic tells them.

To be successful in auto repair, you obviously have to first have awareness – people need to know you exist before they can try you out. Then, if you get them in the door, they need to have a great experience or they probably won’t come back.

Jeff has been growing his business since he opened it, and he rarely does any advertising at all. But I would argue he does great marketing.

Why? Because he understands the fundamental premise above: if people have a great experience with his shop, that is the best marketing he can do.

You can look at acquisition and customer retention as a chicken and egg thing. But in fact, if your existing customers love you, they’ll do your acquisition marketing for you.

Johnson’s Auto Repair’s customer do that. And that’s why when representatives from Angie’s List or Yelp call and try to get him to advertise, I tell them we don’t need it. His shop grows every month, and he does no advertising at all.

The only marketing money he has spent in the past year was on his website, which hadn’t been updated since before the Internet was invented. (OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration…)

A remarkable and consistent customer experience is critical to business development and growth, and it’s also part of marketing. If you’re marketing department is not aligned with the product or service people, you’re probably throwing money away.

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