It’s that time of year when classic Christmas movies seem to run non-stop on cable television. And we have to confess that we kind of like it. One of our favorites goes all the way back to 1947. And in addition to the conventional storyline about a little girl who rediscovers the meaning of Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street introduced a rather radical approach to doing retail business.
Remember how the mysterious Kris Kringle sends a customer to Macy’s archrival, Gimbals, to make a purchase, telling the startled customer that Gimbals has better skates? The store manager is horrified, but what happens next really knocks his socks off. The customer—who has just been advised to make a purchase at a competitor’s store—tells the Macy’s manager that she is now a Macy’s customer for life!
What seems like a miracle to the Macy’s store manager is really just a foreshadowing of one of the basic tenets of inbound marketing: Put the customer’s needs first and empower her to make the decision that’s best for her.
What does that look like if your name isn’t Kris Kringle and you don’t work in a New York department store? Here’s one example.
Let’s assume you are a custom homebuilder. Potential clients (people looking to build new homes) will be scouring the Internet looking for information about that process. You can try to sell them a house (which isn’t going to work because nobody buys a house online). Or you can provide them with helpful information that will answer the questions they have about things such as: common homebuilding mistakes, how to choose a builder, how to decide how much house they can afford, what kind of floor plan will fit their lifestyle or where to get design ideas. Like old Kris Kringle, your focus isn’t on you (or the store you work at), it’s on the customer.
How does that help you? People like doing business with businesses they trust. And they also like doing business with businesses that are knowledgeable and helpful. The information you provide helps establish you as a trusted expert. And by offering free downloads of information, you also qualify the leads you get. A “looky-loo” probably isn’t going to download and read specific information about the custom homebuilding process. A serious prospect is.
Sometimes, you may end up sending somebody away. Kris Kringle did it, sending the woman from Macy’s to a competitor because what they offered better met her needs. You may find yourself doing the same thing. If the prospect has a maximum budget of $250,000 and your homes start at $300,000 you should send her away (nicely, of course). She’s really not a good prospect. If you try to sell her a home you’ll both end up frustrated.
But more often, you’re likely to win a customer for life if you provide her with the information she really wants—and needs. And while that may not be a miracle, it’s still pretty nice!