How to Take Your Product From Something Customers Buy to Something They Can't Live Without
One of the most useful lessons all successful entrepreneurs learn is to think of customers as their company's most important asset; yet too few businesses think about whether they, in turn, are an asset for their customers.
Becoming a valuable asset for a customer means doing more than dealing with the initial problem your product or service is designed to solve. How else can your brand help customers and become an indispensable part of their lives?
A classic example is coffee shops. On the surface, they are merely a place to purchase a hot beverage. But beyond the frothy lattes and blueberry muffins, coffee shops are where people relax, socialize and, increasingly, work. Buying a coffee is like the price of entry to these essential community spaces.
To help your business go the extra mile and become an integral element of someone's day, try these four ways of making an asset out of your brand.
1. Help them become more regular customers.
U.K.-based dry cleaning chain Timpson offers free services to unemployed people when they have a job interview. Helping people who may not be able to afford to dry clean a suit is an excellent community service. But it's also a smart new business strategy, as people with jobs are more likely to need and be able to afford regular suit cleaning. By becoming an asset to unemployed people, Timpson creates more regular customers with high levels of brand loyalty.
Some of my company's best customers almost exclusively drink our beverages, but they are also busy people who don't always have time to get to the store to replenish their supply. That's why we created a subscription delivery service to save people time and effort, while also making them more regular customers.
2. Open their eyes to new things.
Boxed food delivery services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh take the hassle out of meal planning and shopping. In addition to reducing the need for shopping lists and supermarket trips, fans of meal kit services often praise them for bringing variety to mealtimes. Instead of cycling through the same old standards, the weekly recipes allow people to eat seasonally and explore new and exciting foods from around the world. This sense of discovery elevates these services beyond mere convenience and become an essential daily asset.
My business has recently begun expanding our product range as we explore other ways to fulfill our mission of making people healthier. Now our customers are discovering how products like sunscreen and deodorant can be better. By continuing to open people's eyes to how they could be living healthier, we become an increasingly valuable part of their lives.
3. Enhance their lifestyle.
Nike is a global leader in athletic shoes and apparel, but in recent years, the brand has also become the hub for a community of athletes. NikePlus Membership provides free in-person and video workouts and yoga classes, while the company's mobile apps allow people to track run times and share them with friends. For devoted fitness fans, Nike is now more than just the swoosh on their running shoe.
My company recently launched a blog featuring recipes, fitness advice and beauty tips. By expanding our reach beyond our products and into content, we'll become even more of an everyday lifestyle asset for our customers.
4. Let them be flexible.
Another way to be an asset to your customers is to give them the ability to change their mind. Buying your product or service shouldn't be an unbreakable commitment. Department store Nordstrom has a famously open returns policy. Each case is dealt with on its own merits with the "ultimate objective of making our customers happy," and there is no time limit on returns. The store is not always the cheapest place to shop, but customers value the flexibility it provides.
As a subscription service, my business makes it easy for customers to edit or cancel their orders at any time. By giving them the flexibility to change their minds, our service is not an ominous monthly liability but an asset they can completely control.
Stand out from the crowd.
Though the brands mentioned above are from diverse industries, they have one crucial thing in common: competition. Each market features lots of players, and it's hard to offer a truly unique product or service.
That's why it's increasingly vital to deliver more for your customers and become an asset they simply can't live without.