As an industry, we have a tendency to focus more importance on the outcome of customer interaction rather than what the customer actually needs.  Nowhere is this disparity more apparent than in retention marketing. When standing on my soapbox and trying to impart this principle, I often use the phrase “What about ‘Bob’?” because it seems to resonate, in its silliness, the seriousness of the situation.
     As business people, we want to retain as many customers as possible – and, for as long as possible. We email our customers when oil changes are discounted. We call them when they haven’t been to see us for a period. We send surveys after they purchase to find out if they intend to return. We consistently focus on the results of our full frontal media attack, and then we scratch our heads and wonder why we don’t have the retention numbers we want.
     Let’s think about Bob – our average customer. For the sake of this conversation, Bob has an ex-wife and a daughter who is about to embark on her college adventure. Bob has a dog, a housekeeper who does his laundry, and still has the 2013 Honda Accord that he bought new.   Bob is in the market for a new car.  We think if we tell Bob repeatedly that WE are GREAT, then he’ll buy a new car from us. If we speak loudly in Bob’s direction via the TV or kitschy video clips singing on YouTube that Bob will react to our hype.
     The truth is, Bob doesn’t care about any of that. Bob cares about how he FEELS about this impending large purchase and wants to be secure in his trust in the dealership visited. Bob wants to know that when he purchases a new vehicle, not only is he going to be able to feel confident with the decision but also feel confident about continued maintenance of his old one.  The old vehicle is now the “new” car for his college-bound daughter.
     In short, Bob isn’t necessarily looking for a coupon. He wants to know that his ex-wife isn’t going to scream at him because their daughter’s car broke down. And, with proper maintenance, the new vehicle will last until his retirement age – by then, he can opt for that fancy red sports car he’s always wanted, and won’t have to rebuff an upsell technique every service visit so he CAN afford that sports car one day. Bob wants to feel good about his purchase and his continued maintenance. Bob’s trying to trust you; you just have to give him the slightest amount of consideration when marketing to him.


Anytime your marketing effort doesn’t include a deal that is sweet enough, or you feel like the latest iteration of your website needs a little more ‘pop’, take a second and ask yourself, “What about ‘Bob’?” If you are using that “pop” to overcompensate an overall poor customer experience, “Bob” all the coupons, specials, free coffee in your waiting area won’t get “Bob” to come back.    

Lynn Adkison