From the September 2002 issue of Entrepreneur

Custom(er) Fit

Did you know that six basic customer types patronize your business? That's according to a recent study conducted by Stephanie Coyles and Timothy C. Gokey, analysts at McKinsey & Co., and published in The McKinsey Quarterly, second quarter, 2002.

To manage your customer retention and understand how and why your customers migrate to competitors' products and services, it's vital you understand these types and modify your marketing messages to suit them, says Coyles. Consider the messages your customers react most readily to. Are they excited by a great price? They may be Migrators. Do they like how your product or service makes them feel? They may be Loyalists. Also, check out the types of customers your industry attracts. Customers in the wireless phone market look for pricing and are less likely to be emotionally attached to a specific brand, suggests Coyles, while soft drinks, for instance, spark more emotive interest.

Don't get overwhelmed trying to please each type. "Don't go after all six at the same time," says Coyles. "Think about where your biggest opportunity is and focus there first." To read the entire study in detail, visit http://marketing.mckinsey.com/solutions/McK-Customer_Loyalty.pdf.

Damage Control

It was in February 2001 when the proprietors of Triangle Hofbrau, a German restaurant in Pequannock, New Jersey, read the review in the local paper. Siblings George and Barbara Lon had read many reviews-but this one was especially mean-spirited. George, 40, confesses he has no idea why the review was so negative. "It was [the writer's] closing statement: 'Nothing would give me more pleasure than to nail [the owner] to the wall,' " he says. "We [thought], 'Did we do something wrong?' "

Though the newspaper didn't name the restaurant, it listed dead giveaways as to which restaurant it was. Loyal Triangle Hofbrau customers reacted with letters to the editor and canceled subscriptions, while Barbara, 28, canceled their advertising in that paper. George faxed the article to the New Jersey Restaurant Association, other restaurants and media outlets to challenge the writer's assertions.

Getting the word out is all part of a good response to bad publicity, according to Kathleen Hessert, a crisis communications expert and president of Communication Concepts Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina. Your company can provide the facts to counteract incorrect information-especially on the Internet. Hessert also suggests hiring a Web monitoring service to uncover any negative statements about your company online.

The Lons have since found that their quick reaction to the review helped ease its effects. "I just wanted people to know about it," says George. "We had nothing to cover up."

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