The Best Kept Secret in Marketing: “The Connection Principle”
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Strategy, efficiency, technology, financial acumen, advertising – it all matters. It all contributes to business success, but nothing beats the power of the “The Connection Principle.”
Take a break and go on a trip with me to the beach to discover why it’s the best kept secret!
Imagine you are on beautiful Anna Maria Island off the west coast of Florida. You take a break from the sun and make your way up Bridge Street, the island's retail main street. You stroll past several stores that feature the expected beach tee shirts and souvenirs and then you come across… This hand-painted sign:
OUR SHOP IS OPEN JUST FOR YOU!
Curious? Hard to resist? Put a smile on your face? Perhaps you’ve learned something about who is inside before your hand even touches the doorknob?
Business and retail basics insist that we get customers in the door any way that we can. And, there are many ways to accomplish this – for example a large banner that says "50% Off Today!” But let’s ask ourselves, “What are we really trying to accomplish as we get them in the door? What is the REAL goal?”
The Connection Principle is about much more than moving someone from point A, to point B, to point C and making a sale. It's about getting them to come in, to get to know you, to remember you and yes, on some level to care about you.
Ultimately, it's about creating a connection.
Let’s head back to the beach to the “Open Just for You” sign. You are entering the front door of an art co-op, a place where local artists sell their art and hand made products featuring the beauty of the beach. The store, called The Back Alley, bills itself as "wild treasures for funky souls."
I like art. I like to think I am a funky soul. Even more, I like to think that I am special enough that someone is open "JUST for Me." To top it off, I can't resist a clever and nice moment that is directed right towards making me smile. Can you?
Let's go back to the 50% off banner. Yes, people will likely rush into that store; they may buy and they may even tell others about the great bargain that they discovered. But will they feel connected to the business?
The Connection Principle means going beyond product and price. It reminds us to include all the "P’s" of the marketing formula—Product, Price, Place, Promotion and People—and then add one more to that: Personality.
Personality—you might call it “Brand” —is the emotional component of your business. It's about a customer experience that creates a connection. It is a “game-changer” – it makes a huge difference.
My consulting brain tells me that a much larger percentage of people will walk in the door of The Back Alley shop because of the fun, hand-painted "Just for You" sign than if they had a typical “Open” or “Big Sale Today” sign. But more importantly, the people who do walk in will likely feel connected to the Back Alley artists. In fact, they probably feel connected before they even see the first product.
The Connection Principle is based on long-term thinking; moving a business from short-term sales, to long-term sustainable success. It’s based on the emotional connection, and we know that people are more likely to buy when they feel an emotional connection.
But the goal is not just the sale. The real goal of The Connection Principle is that moment when your customer "sells" you to someone else – known as “word of mouth” marketing. When the customer shares their excitement, their surprise, their affection for your place, your product and you - there is no better marketing in the world! It’s smart. It makes business easier.
It's surprising - no, I will say it's shocking—how many businesses still put most of their energy into looking for new business, while ignoring the opportunities to connect with the current customers and to reap the rewards.
So we need to ask ourselves, “Why would we settle for just a sale when we could be creating an entire team of customers who do the marketing for us?”
Creating connection requires some extra thought and strategic, focused effort. And most importantly, it requires three three key ingredients. You must:
1. Know who you are: Your BRAND
2. Know who they are: Your CUSTOMERS
3. And add CONNECTION points throughout the business process
Yes, you have to know your Brand – what makes you different, and be willing to stand in your customer’s shoes and design the experience from their vantage point.
Simple, but profound. Simple, but smart. Simple because, the word of mouth marketing that it creates is the most powerful marketing that exists! Yet, “The Connection Principle” often loses out to fancier, high-tech and frankly, more expensive solutions that don't reap a long-term reward. I often wonder why so many businesses refuse to focus on building a connection. If I had a dollar for each time I have heard that “Connecting with the Customer” is a "fluffy” or a non-essential part of business, I could buy a castle in France. In fact, I smile each time I hear a hard-driving business leader who doesn't have time to invest in a few strategic ways to connect with the customer. Is it too simple to be taken seriously? The world-class success stories – from Disney, to NIKE to Singapore Airlines definitely know their Brand and they design every single aspect of their customer experience to create a solid connection to their customer. They decide up front – what is it that we want them to walk away and say about us as they insist that others choose us too?
At the end of the day, it’s really about connecting to your customer and allowing them to connect others to you. And that begins at your front door.
So now, let's return from the beach and consider this the perfect moment to stand in your customer's shoes. Step outside and look at your front door from another vantage point. If you were your customer at that first moment that they interact with you - do you sense the beginning of a connection? Or just another place to shop? Who knows, there may be a great opportunity waiting...just for you!