The Secret's Out

New Profits Right Under Your Nose

The revelation that it is often costlier to obtain new customers has caused many small-business owners to take a step back and look at their most priceless yet overlooked business builder--their current customer base. And from this enlightenment has sprung a whole new branch of marketing called relationship marketing. It's a field of vast profit opportunity for even the newest entrepreneur, and it's ultra-easy to implement. Best of all, there are a number of experts on the subject whose knowledge can help you maximize your use of relationship marketing.

Martha Rogers, Ph.D., co-author with Don Peppers of The One to One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time (Currency/Doubleday), is one of those experts. Rogers, a founding partner of management consulting firm Marketing1to1/Peppers and Rogers Group in Stamford, Connecticut, believes your goal, rather than to increase your customer base, should be to ensure that each customer who buys your product or service buys more of your product or service, buys only your product or service, and is happy always choosing your company over others. In a word, loyalty. In four words, a customer for life.

In the future, says Rogers, more businesses will focus on the "lifetime value" of each customer rather than the short-term profits they can get from new customers. She says creating one-to-one relationships is key and will be helped by evolving interactive technologies that small businesses can take advantage of. Today's fax machines, cell phones and e-mail technology are just the tip of the interactive iceberg that you and your customers can use to stay chummy. And interactive television is just around the bend.

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This article was originally published in the May 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Secret's Out.

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