Marketing with Tabasco sauce

The mantra of the modern customer is, “If you want me to think you’re different, show me you know what makes me different.”

As I wrote in an earlier article, Do Differentiation Differently, it’s getting harder and harder, in our marketplace of plenty, to prove to customers that our products and services are unique and irreplaceable. Sure, you should always strive to differentiate your products and services, and limit the number of competitive options your customers perceive, but it is much easier to differentiate yourself in the mind of a customer by honoring and acknowledging what makes him or her unique.

This seems like a daunting task — acknowledging the uniqueness of each one of your customers. After all, people are pretty complicated beings, and it’s hard to know all of your customers really well.

The good news: Your customers will appreciate that you recognize what makes them unique when you acknowledge just a few things about them.

An example: Two friends of mine were married at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. A year later they returned to spend their anniversary weekend at the hotel. When they gave their car to the valet attendant, they received the same service everyone else received that day. The doorman smiled and greeted them in the same way he had greeted hundreds of people that afternoon. They rode the same elevator to their room that everyone else rode. Their room was decorated like the other rooms on their floor. But on the nightstand by the bed, a bottle of champagne awaited them with a personal note from the general manager welcoming them back for their anniversary. Later that evening, after a wonderful meal in the restaurant — straight off the menu – the maître d’ brought them a special dessert, as a gift of the hotel, in honor of their anniversary.

They had at least 500 points of contact with the hotel that weekend, and two of them were highly personalized. But they couldn’t stop raving about how the Four Seasons personalized their stay.

This is a great marketing lesson: a little bit of personalization goes a long way. This has always reminded me of the way you can use herbs and spices in cooking; you can add personality to an entire dish by just adding a small dose of the flavor. Imagine adding a few drops of Tabasco sauce to an otherwise bland bowl of chili. The few drops flavor the entire meal.

Think of your own experiences as a customer. How often have you felt that a business really “gets” you after acknowledging something that is only one small part of you? It works!

PinatiThere is a restaurant in Jerusalem,Pinati, that I visit every time I’m in the city. Even if I haven’t been there in six months or a year, I’m greeted warmly and within 30 seconds of sitting down my favorite soup, “marak kubeh,” shows up at my place.

My financial advisor, Frank Reid of Sila Resources, learned a few important things about me that he integrates into our work together, which makes me value his help immensely.

I’ve been shopping at the Music Gallery in Highland Park, IL, for 35 years, and the owner, Frank Glionna, knows enough about my music interests, business and personal life to give me a highly personalized feel when I shop there.

What about you and your customers? Are you adding a few drops of Tabasco sauce to each relationship? Are you showing them that you know what makes them different? If you are, they will certainly think that you are different.

Steve Yastrow

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