- Do you know what your customers need from you? They won't tell you.
- Are you reading between the lines, observing and anticipating? You pick up these important cues by hanging out with customers — in their worlds.
- Have you walked a mile in their shoes? You should become their favorite pair of slippers.
You need to surprise and delight them. RedEnvelope gets this. The slippers this gift cataloger sells not only are fluffy, but they're also monogrammed and therapeutic. Give your customers more than they know what to ask for!
2. Customers should be part of the product development process. Remember how everyone likes to be in the kitchen on big family holidays while the head chef lovingly rattles off assignments: "You mash the potatoes!" "You stir the gravy!"? People like the opportunity to contribute. With this in mind, ask yourself some more key questions:
- How can you invite your customers into your product creation, selection or editing process?
- Do you have a panel of merchandising experts "on call" (or e-mail)? Better yet, can you have them right in the thick of it with you as co-creators? Innovation is yours for the asking. Just ask.
Jones Soda does this when it solicits customer photos and quotes for product labeling. Ben & Jerry's routinely asks customers for ideas on potential, quirky flavor combinations. Customer engagement is an integral part of both brands. Needless to say, both brands have raving fans and so, too, can most catalogers.
3. Mind the brand. Products often become purposeless because they lose their anchor to the brand. New offerings somehow slip into the line and you realize (often too late) that they really weren't yours to sell … they were meant for your competitor.
Pat Connolly, Williams-Sonoma's executive vice president and chief marketing officer, once said about this at an industry event, that in some ways it was more important to Williams-Sonoma's brand what wasn't in its catalog than what was. The editing process was fundamental to success.