Valentine's Day can mean big business for small companies. Three lessons in love for entrepreneurs:
1. Listen to the one you love, and express devotion. Begin by reading The Cluetrain Manifesto, which contains sage musings like "Markets are conversations" and "Lack of open conversation kills companies."
Then initiate a two-way dialogue with your customers. Some starters:
- Ask for input. Conduct an online customer survey (try www.yourfocusgroup.com), or hand out survey cards at the point of purchase (try www.myworktools.com).
- Create an emotional connection with customer appreciation notes and "love coupons." Think "Thank you for your loyal business" or "Good for one free service."
2. Bare your Lovemarks. In 2003, marketing and branding firm Saatchi & Saatchi coined the term Lovemark--defined as a charismatic brand that people love and fiercely protect. Aim to be a Lovemark brand by nurturing respect (performance, trust and reputation) and love (mystery, sensuality and intimacy). Learn more at www.lovemarks.com.
3. Love only those who love you in return. Consultants Don Peppers and Martha Rogers suggest you build enduring relationships with your most profitable customers, and tactfully find unprofitable customers "a different partner." Their new book, Return on Customer, hits shelves in April.
Kirsten Osolind is CEO and founder of Re:invention Inc., a Chicago-based marketing consulting company.