My post "The Downturn Is a Rounding Error" and Tom's subsequent post on this topic generated some great discussion on the concept of forming long-term relationships with customers—what I call We relationships.
Here's how I define a We relationship: When your customer never thinks of you without thinking of both of you. A customer can think that your company is wonderful, as in "They do a great job." But, when your customer can't think of you without thinking of her relationship with you at the same time, then you've achieved a higher level of connectedness.
Example: There are 8 diners near my house that I can choose for a breakfast meeting. They're all pretty good. But I can’t think of one of them, Rhapsody Café, without simultaneously thinking of my connection to this restaurant, and my relationship with Ramon Abarca, the owner. Early on, after I first started visiting Rhapsody with clients and associates for breakfast meetings, Ramon began to acknowledge me and offer to find me quiet tables for my business conversations. He showed interest in me, and, over time, we had conversations and got to know each other. These short conversations were relationship-building encounters, and, as I heard his stories, I became interested in his success. Now, it's impossible for me to think of Rhapsody Café on its own, without, at the same time, thinking of my good times there and how Ramon and his team have made me feel comfortable. That’s a We relationship, and Rhapsody Café gets a disproportionate share of my business.
Consider that your customer thinks about your product only a small portion of the time. But she thinks of herself all day long. When she can't think of you without thinking of both of you, you have connected yourself to what she really cares about: herself.
How often do you experience this kind of We relationship?
[See Steve's book on this subject.—CM]