I have cool friends in this writing business of mine.
One of those friends is a business strategy consultant by the name of Noah Fleming.
He was trained as a consultant by Alan Weiss of Summit Consulting. That fact alone provides enough credibility for Noah to build a consulting practice for decades to come.
Then, he wrote a book titled Evergreen.
I was fortunate to secure a review copy of that new book, I read it, and then I asked 5 questions of Noah and his book.
The questions are below, with Noah’s written answer below each one:
QUESTION #1: Your book starts off strong; tell us what being “addicted to sex” means for the small to medium sized business…
The thrill of the chase.
The satisfaction of a successful seduction.
It has long been said in the business world that customer acquisition (getting customers) is sexy, and retention (keeping them) is boring.
Why is that?
It’s simple. The marketing stuff is more fun. It is sexier. It’s glitzy and glamorous! It’s far more exciting than focusing on the customers you’ve already got.
The problem, though, is that the customers you’ve already got are there for a reason. They like what you do. They want what you offer. They’re willing to spend more money with you. But many companies have already moved on to the next marketing campaign and the elusive new customer.
It’s an addiction and we need treatment.
QUESTION #2: Explain a little bit about the “Three Cs”…
The Three Cs of an Evergreen organization – character, community, and content. These are the core principles that I believe generate true customer loyalty, great marketing, and an evergreen business.
I have worked with over a thousand entrepreneurs, executives, and companies since 2005 I noticed that the best all focused on three key areas whether they knew it or not.
When I looked outside my client base and looked at some of the world’s top companies, I found many of them were also carefully focusing on the same three things.
Character is about why you do what you do. In Simon Sinek’s great book, Start with Why, he found that the world’s best organizations started with “why” before considering the “what.” Character is all about your why but taking it to a much deeper level.
The second C is community. The best companies in the world are building a strong sense of community amongst their customers. In the book, I give examples from various industries from restaurants to mechanics, to toy manufacturers. I show readers how to do it in any type of business.
The third C is content. Your content is the thing you give in exchange for money. Your content is your core product or service, but it’s no longer enough to rely on that to bring customers back again, and again, and again. The other Cs shows you how to make your content stand out!
QUESTION #3: I love how you stick with the “Evergreen” theme throughout the book. My favorite chapter is chapter 6, about becoming intimately familiar with your customers. Surprisingly, you reveal why Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is broken starting on page 107.
Then, you reveal how to fix it. Can you give us a little taste of what you mean by “fixing it?”
Measuring CLV is often seen as the holy grail of data analysis. It’s an idea that’s seductively simple & makes great intuitive sense. “Of course, if I knew the average value of any new customer, it would be useful in my business! I could use that to figure out how much I was willing to spend to attract new customers, and have an idea of the total value of my business.
What’s not to love?
The biggest problem with the concept of CLV is many companies allow it to become the driving force of all of their marketing efforts. They treat the entire customer base as an amorphous blob instead of accurately breaking down the different types of customers that make up their customer base.
Instead of looking at the entire customer base as a bunch of “average” customers, I suggest building archetypes for your various types customers, and I show readers how that’s done.
QUESTION #4: On page 162 you show the letter Amazon uses when they “fire” customers. This is in chapter 8 of your book. Can you give us your perspective on Amazon’s letter, and also what it means to “give yourself permission to fire customers?”
Amazon is one of the most customer-focused companies on the planet, but they’re not going to let people walk all over them because they’re afraid of losing them. Even Zappos will fire a customer if they have to.
I identify two types of problem customers in the book: problem children and Hungry Hippos.
The problem child is the customer who is insatiable and never content, no matter what. They exist in every customer base. No matter what you do, they can’t be pleased. They are typically the lowest-value, most price-sensitive customers you have.
From a returning-customer standpoint, they might be considered loyal, but are they worth it?
I was visiting a client recently when the phone rang. It turned out to be a specific “regular” customer. The problem? Not one single employee wanted to take the call. The customer was rude and arrogant.
This year for Christmas I’m giving my kids the classic kid’s game Hungry Hippos – the classic game where players whack a lever that causes their hippo to “eat” a marble. The player whose hippo eats the most marbles wins. Many companies have customers who are Hungry Hippos. These customers may frequently visit. They might even be great spenders, but they are concerned with eating the most marbles.
This is the customer who overstays his welcome at the buffet, or takes the concept of “unlimited refills” literally. It’s the customer who constantly complains and wants discounts or cheaper pricing. They’re the customers who constantly call the cable companies asking for discounts, or the ones intent on figuring out how to use an obscene number of coupons!
In the Amazon example, Amazon fired a customer who was constantly returning and exchanging opened Blu-ray discs. Not once. Not twice, but dozens and dozens of times. Amazon isn’t dumb. We’re not dumb. We all know what he was doing, and Amazon knows there’s a better customer out there to replace this one.
QUESTION #5: In chapter 10 you focus on “getting back lost customers” … can you offer the readers some actionable pointers on how they could start doing that until they get a copy of your book?
Sure. Look at your business over the past year and do this.
Who are the customers who stopped doing business with you this year?
Do you know why?
Have you lost any major accounts, suppliers, distributors, retail outlets?
Try this: Pick up the phone and call three lost or inactive customers. Seriously. Just try it. Tell them they’ve been missed.
Figure out why they left if you don’t already know.
Ask them what you can do to gain their business back in 2015.
You can pick up a copy of Noah’s new book via Amazon from this link.
You can research more about Noah Fleming and his marketing services here.