You don’t know that much about your customers…but you’d better start.

Target can tell you if you’re pregnant.  They can tell you if your teenage daughter is pregnant.  If she shops at Target.  And she probably does.  Amazon knows that I like to barbecue.  They also know that I have a soft spot for diving watches.  Zappos knows that I’m a fan of Filson luggage.  And Costco.  Costco knows it all.  The short list includes:

1.  What type of gas I put in my car

2.  What type of car I drive

3. When I typically fuel up my car

4. My shoe size

5. My waist size

6. My shirt size

7. That I own a small business

8. My credit score

9. That I wear glasses and the prescription

10. That I take blood pressure medicine (awesome)

11. That my wife and I have recently travelled to Mexico

12. That my in-laws are elderly and require care giving

13. That I read fiction

14. That I prefer salmon to steak and pizza to hot dogs

15. That I have an interest in electronics

16. That my parents began shopping at Costco in the mid 80’s

17. Where I live

I’m sure there are many more things that Costco know about me.  Was it coincidence that a vacation edition of the Costco Connection showed up in my mail box when I was feeling particularly burnt out from a long travel season last spring?  Probably not.  Target knows that if I suddenly start buying certain types of lotion and certain types of vitamins that my wife is most likely pregnant.  Target’s behavioral profiling software identifies 25 specific products that, when purchased either together or in parts, indicate that there’s a bambino on the way.  The details of this behavioral profiling technology are well detailed in Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/16/how-target-figured-out-a-teen-girl-was-pregnant-before-her-father-did/

Orwellian or not it’s high time for small business owners to begin seriously holding themselves accountable for a new type of  measurement: How much do you really know about your customers behaviors and buying patterns?  If you omitted “lead source” and “ticket price” from your answer what would be left?  Odds are not that much.

You may not know anything about your customers that has any lasting value to influencing repeat business or the likelihood of a referral.  It’s time to start.  Start thinking in behaviors rather than transactions.  Start looking for cross-sell intersections.  Start viewing the home as an integrated whole.  Start considering the multi-faceted opportunities to created unforgettable value beyond the simple installation.  Your customers found you.  They bought something from you.  That’s a start.  Perhaps you call them to say “thanks for your business.”  Perhaps you visit them to check in on things.  It’s not likely.  Most people don’t.  Most move on to the next cold lead and the next cold transaction and the next battle to the bottom of a price war–neglecting the active and vibrant and networked consumer network that is quietly dying on the vine somewhere in your data base…waiting for you to say “I haven’t forgotten about you.”

You don’t know that much about your customers…but it’s time to start.  After all, small businesses are in a race for relationships.

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