Are You in Danger of Losing Customers You've Taken for Granted?

Look at your business’ version of an election map. Are you in danger of losing Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, too?

It’s a communications question every CMO should be asking themselves today. If nothing else, the presidential election – which saw Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton by flipping several Midwestern states that had voted reliably Democrat for decades -- reminded us all a valuable lesson: If you take for granted any segment of your supporters, you risk losing them.

So much of marketing and communications is focused on bringing new customers into the fold. Many marketing campaigns set out to identify the clients and customers your business wants to win over, and clearly that’s important for growth. New customers often pay more for goods and services than existing ones, and sales, marketing and communications usually target new and emerging customers.

But you can generate all the new business in the world and still just be running in place if you’re simply replacing customers who have left you for a competitor. That kind of customer churn can sink you. By not understanding the needs of your base – the early adopters, the clients who come back year and year – you run a heavy risk of having them jump ship.

Loyalty isn’t a magic bullet for businesses today. In fact, loyalty is harder to maintain, if attainable at all. Research from consulting firm Peppers & Rogers Group found that 80 percent of customers who leave or switch companies for a competitor say they were “satisfied or completely satisfied” with the business they left at the very time they switched. So much for those client-satisfaction surveys you’ve been spending so much time and money on.

Thanks to the proliferation of social media platforms and rising mobile usage, people must contend with a massive amount of corporate messaging every day. Most marketers know this makes it how harder to get attention from potential new customers. What they forget is that all this noise puts your existing customers in play for competitors, as well.

That’s why you have to make sure your messaging and marketing campaign attract new customers, but also energize the ones you have. Retention of customers, after all, is just one side of the coin. Growing your existing client – more to the point, increasing the lifetime value of that customer – takes not only retaining them, but exciting them enough to buy more of your goods and services. So any messaging has to be focused on both new and existing clients.

And there’s another lesson to be drawn from Clinton’s unexpected defeat.

Not only did she fail to speak to her base effectively, assuming they would just come out and vote for her, she is also guilty of not listening to what mattered to them most. Following the election, Democratic strategists have universally criticized her for not once visiting Wisconsin after her primary victory. Those visits aren’t just about giving a speech, but rather hearing directly from voters about the issues that matter and responding effectively.

Listening to customers is a vital, but too-often overlooked part of communications. Tailoring messages in a boardroom, without listening to your customers tell their stories, almost always leads to your brand story falling flat.

Hillary Clinton learned that lesson the hard way. The good news is, if you understand the needs of all your clients, your path to victory is likely easier.