KNOW HOW

3 Habits You've Got to Break Now

Nix these old habits to build a more 'people-minded' business in 2014--and beyond.
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As 2013 draws to a close, you're probably evaluating how your business performed and what you'll need to do to improve. Wherever those evaluations lead you, remember that we're in the people economy and one of the most effective ways to grow your business is to connect with your customers in deeper, more meaningful ways.

There's a lot of opportunity in the new economy, but it requires breaking some habits that are entrenched in many companies. As the new year approaches, here are three habits you must break to reach the customer of the future--in 2014 and beyond.

Old Habit No. 1: Focusing on the Top of the Funnel

In the people economy, customer experience matters above all else. Don't think about lead generation as the best way to grow your business. Instead, focus on delivering great experiences that your customers will love. After all, attracting new customers does little good if you alienate them with poor experiences that leave a bad taste in their mouths.

In "Flip the Funnel," Joseph Jaffe explains why customer retention, not customer acquisition, can have the greatest impact on a company's growth. The rules are different in the people economy and companies must turn traditional business growth on its head. Instead of worrying about getting more customers in the door, focus on continually delighting the customers you already have. Not only will you have loyal customers for life, those quality experiences are the surest path to quantity.

Old Habit #2: Treating Customers Like Customers

Gone are the days when it's sufficient to treat a customer, well, like a customer. People are more connected than ever before, and not just in their personal lives. Now, people expect brands to connect with them on their level, and on their terms. If they tweet a complaint (or a compliment) at a company, they expect a personalized response.

Delta Airlines' Delta Assist (@DeltaAssist) Twitter handle is an example of a people-centric interaction that makes a difference. A team of Delta employees constantly monitors Twitter to answer customers' questions and solve problems. Scan the Tweets and see how often Delta's employees use "I." That personal touch can make all the difference for a customer who's stranded in an airport because of weather cancellations or whose bag didn't arrive in Madrid after a 14-hour flight.

Don't forget that your customers are people, and people connect with--you guessed it--other people. Have some personality, be human, and show you care by treating them like friends and family. They'll reward you.

Old Habit #3: Diverting Dollars from Service to Marketing

Companies use marketing to build awareness and to get customers to say good things about them. The most sustainable way to obtain customers is to deliver services and great experiences that keep customers coming back--and get them talking. There's nothing more profitable than happy customers who love your company and feel compelled to spread the word. They have the personal connection and credibility that a banner ad or a billboard just can't match.

Service isn't an expenditure to be line-itemed and cut at all costs. Service is marketing-- and it might be the only form of marketing that works in the people economy.

Charmin's 'Enjoy the Go' campaign is a great example of service-as-marketing. The company's clean, portable restrooms in places such as Times Square during the holiday shopping season, State Fairs, Super Bowls and music festivals provide an essential service. Sure, Charmin could have put up a billboard in Times Square or sponsored the Super Bowl halftime show. But the company was able to engage with people by helping them take care of business. Marketing must provide a service in the people economy.

Customer expectations are always changing. But breaking these three habits in 2014 will help you reach your customers and grow your business in the new year.

Last updated: Dec 11, 2013

AUSTIN ALLISON | Columnist | founder and CEO of dotloop

Austin Allison is founder and CEO of dotloop, the fastest-growing technology company in real estate, and the co-author of Peoplework: How to Run a People-First Business in a Digital-First World.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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