Empathy Based Marketing

3 graphics depicting empathy, caring, listening.

In the best of times and in the midst of crisis, customer connectivity is core to business success.  That means we need to focus on helping them as real people, not clicks, and dollar signs. 

An Empathy Lesson I Learned Early

I spent over 20 years in the spa industry offering skincare and cosmetic tattooing. They are optional services and high-ticket. 

At first, like any field,  you are trying to get your skillsets perfected. Then you have to learn marketing…it’s not taught in the training programs.  You have to build the client’s trust, help them like you, let them get to know you. 

You are a coach, educator, someone who has had their problem and understands what they are feeling.

I learned that listening with empathy, focusing on the client, learning from them, and engaging with them was key. My total goal was to help them feel better about themselves and make their lives easier.

I developed great friendships with many caring, professional colleagues with successful careers.

I also met some that were of a very different nature…transactional. The client was a job, money. Regardless of what they said, they weren’t really engaging with them. And their careers were short-lived.

I’ve seen the same thing in many alternative health businesses. Supplements, CBD, skincare, and beauty products. Engaging with empathy makes a big difference.

Something to Remember

What most businesses don’t tend to keep in mind in their marketing is customers don’t decide to buy logically. 

We are feeling beings who think, not the other way around. Even the most analytical person you know depends on discipline to control letting their emotional thoughts impact their decision.

A respected neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio, discovered that every human decision depends on emotion.  Every single decision. 

We must focus on emotional connections and let them lead naturally to see conversion. That relies on really deeply knowing your customer and their emotional motivators.  

3 Ways to Enhance Your Empathy Marketing

A lot of marketing tends to be random.  A study by the CMO Council reported that 80% of markets don’t know what the next best action for their customers is.  

They need to automate to enhance customer engagement. However, automation is transactional. That makes it harder to employ emotional marketing.

Here are three ways you can apply empathy today.

Start with Your Customer

“Walk a mile in their shoes.”  You need to go into their world, their mindset to really understand them. Look for how you can make their lives better, solve their problems. What do they want?  How is their problem impacting their life? 

Do they want their pain to stop? Do they want to sleep better or perform better? Why? Feel better? Why? To enjoy life more? Enjoy their family more? 

Look for ways you can help them.

Let them know you understand their problem, feel their pain. Show them how to solve their problem. Validate it. Other customer’s success stories can be very effective at doing this. A real person they can identify with. They build trust.

Develop Digital Conversations

Think conversations first, then let them slide into fulfilling the steps of a buying journey.  None of us like to be “sold to.” We like and are quite willing to buy if something will make us happier and solve a problem.  Focus on the conversations. Extend an invitation to talk, to converse. 

Social media can be a great opportunity for this. 

Start with the conversation…invite dialogue. Listen and learn. Converse with them. Finally, recommend something that will help them.

When we focus on helping, the relationship changes. We’re there to help them…not focused on getting a sale.

Bring that attitude and those emotions into your marketing. Treat them like you’d like to be treated in their place.

Provide Empathy Content 

Customers and prospective customers don’t want more content.  They want helpful, empathetic, useful information. It needs to be customer-centric. It needs to show them a solution to their problem. Support them. Sometimes it’s hard to make a change.

Use the terms customers use. Helpful blog posts. Useful case studies. Fantastic articles. Amazing videos. It’s all about feelings, emotions, and the right word choices.

Support this with one of the things that customers want most…quality interactions with your team. Your team needs to feel your empathy, incorporate it into your company culture and share it with customers.

One Last Thought

Emails are a great place to include empathy.  Every business is ramping up an email’s place in marketing. However, I see a lot of emails that are stuck in the old long-form sales letter format.  Or on the other side…purely transactional.  

For an article on using RAS Triggers to activate empathy, you might find this article interesting. Read it Here.

It’s time to update to empathetic emails that follow modern guidelines if you want more opens and conversions.

Need help bringing more empathy into your marketing efforts? Message me: Judith@jculpcreativecopy.com.

Dopamine Rush…Silver Bullet to Sales

Are all dopamine rush triggers

The motivator response in our brain triggers us to take action and rewards us with a dopamine rush. It’s a surge of good feelings following a pleasant experience. It’s as old as man himself.  

A key part of survival, the primal brain includes a series of triggers that make us take action.

When we take the action, it rewards us with what is called a dopamine rush.  It’s that good feeling we get from eating ice cream, chocolate, and the like.

Can you imagine???

Our caveman ancestors spent a lot of time searching for food. Can you imagine trudging out there hunting for an animal to kill?  Hot. Cold. Windy. Wild carnivores looking to eat you. 

It took strong motivation to do it.  The primal brain drove them on. When they did see an animal, maybe rabbits, deer, bison…or a wooly mammoth, their brain rewarded them.  It offered triggered good feelings. 

The reward of satisfaction and anticipation spurred them on to the kill. Success…more good feelings rewards.

Dopamine Rush Today

We’ve come a long way, but our brain hasn’t changed.  We get a dose of adrenaline to escape a potential accident from the crazy driver in front of us. Or the idiot pedestrian who steps out into the street without bothering to check if there are cars coming.

We get the feel-good rush from foods we like and more.  We are rewarded for finding a mate, having a baby, having a circle of friends, being a part of the team. 

All of these trigger a dopamine rush.

Men get an emotional high from an action movie or a football game.  

Women get their highs from finding a perfect gift for a friend, bringing someone joy, getting a hug. Or a positive shopping experience.

When we get one of those responses, it triggers us to repeat the behavior.

In Marketing

If you have a clear avatar of your customer, the dopamine rush can be effectively triggered in marketing efforts. Our goal in their interactions with our business, or brand, is a positive experience that triggers the rush. If we succeed, they are likely to return to purchase again.

It must be a positive experience to get this trigger. Poor experiences with any touchpoint of our interactions trigger the opposite response and drive them away.

So before any active marketing campaign is undertaken we need to make sure all interactions lead to a positive experience. Website design, navigation, content, customer support, purchasing, post-purchase, shipping, and delivery all need to be positive.

Then we can undertake to target the dopamine response in our marketing efforts. We can implement them on our website, social media, and emails.

3 Techniques to Trigger a Dopamine Rush

All three techniques tie into the fact we are reward-driven pleasure seekers.  As much as we want to avoid pain or injury…we seek pleasure. There are several ways to get that result.  Here are three techniques.

Create Excitement

You can trigger the rush by creating excitement. Offer them fun. Let them win something.

You can generate excitement with a contest. We are driven to try to win, come out on top. 

Flashing lights create excitement. 

Having a winning ticket creates excitement. 

Winning at bingo triggers a reward response.

Lottery bingo games trigger the response.  State lottery games and casino gambling trigger the response. Sometimes so effectively that people become addicted.

Safeway uses this annually.  So does Publisher Clearing House. 

So do game shows and every business that put contests on Facebook or Instagram.

Use Trigger Words

Generate anticipation and curiosity by incorporating trigger words.  Focus on words that generate curiosity, imagination, and anticipation.

  • All you can ___________
  • Exclusive
  • By invitation only
  • Just
  • Now
  • Not yet
  • Ready now
  • Only 
  • Sold out
  • Bonus
  • % off
  • Limited
  • Kit     (we love kits)

Use words and phrases that make intrigue your customer and make them want answers.

  • What does this mean?
  • What’s going on here?
  • How will this help me, I need to find out.
  • Pre-announcement of something new
  • Helpful hints on how your product can be used or give them the most benefit.
  • Celebrate milestones with them – theirs and yours

Free samples, free trials, and free demos work well. Feeling like we got more than we paid for absolutely triggers the response.

Stay in touch…if we know and like a brand, we like to hear from them. Stay in touch in a way that feels individualized and personal. You can use phone, text, or emails. They all strengthen the bond and trigger the rush.


Games make things fun.  They give us rewards. And reward programs attract us. That’s why we sign up for them even if we don’t use them. 

If we can fire up their anticipation for getting those “points” a bigger discount, or a free gift, we have a home-run.  

Does your reward program offer multiple levels? Who wants to be in the “entry-level” group? 

If we’re interested, we want more. Our seek pleasure drive wants us to have achievement and recognition.  We want to be in “the group.”  We want to be elite. …all dopamine rush triggers.

Want to read more about how rewards programs can benefit your business and learn about different types.  See my companion article here

When I work with clients we start with their target customer and the type of RAS triggers that they respond to. Then we develop the plan and the rewards system that best suits them. Need help? Message me: Judith@jculpcreativecopy.com.

Value Added…Bonuses, Rewards & Discounts

Our perception of value can be modified with bonuses rewards and discounts.

While avarice and greed have negative connotations the concept of getting a good deal is hardwired. We love bonuses, rewards, and discounts.  We love to feel we got great value for our investment.

The value doesn’t even have to be ours

My sister has physical dexterity issues, so when she mentioned she needed a new camera, I jumped to help her find something suitable. 

I remembered the challenges I’d found with the small profile digital cameras.  It can be hard to get crystal clear photos.  Stability issues. 

I started researching the best cameras for unsteady hands.  Something a bit bigger but not too bulky.  I found a useful website and emailed her the information.

“Thanks for the help!” Came the reply.

There’s a Walmart near her and I knew it would be easy access if she had any problems. I went online and checked their offerings. 

I knew she needed stability, the ability to easily transfer them to her computer, and maybe a bit of a zoom lens. The website I found had also suggested a larger view screen over a viewfinder for people who wear glasses.

I found a little Kodak PIXPRO FZ152. The price was reasonable for her budget, just $82, marked down from $149.95. Forty-one reviewers and a good rating. 

So I shared the link with her via email.  I did suggest she purchase an SD card to go with it.

A little while later, she messaged me, “Hi, Judi, I just ordered Kodak FZ53 digital camera!. It’s red!  It comes with a carry case and an extra memory card for just $100 with free shipping!”

I could hear her excitement so I shot an email back, “Congratulations!!  Have fun with it.”

Then I realized the number was different.  I looked it up. The camera she ordered is smaller, flat, and would be harder for her to hold. The FZ53 was available solo or in a bundle.  Gena had gone with the bundle. 

Then I noticed there was only 1 review and it had 1 star.

My heart sank.  I clicked to read the review, “Not worth buying. does not come with entire bundle. camera quality sucks.”

Sis had gone for the “good deal” but may turn out to be a bad purchase.  Thank goodness Walmart has a generous return policy.

Positive value building

As a business owner, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to sort through offerings. As a digital marketing specialist, I work with clients to make sure their offers are buyer-friendly. 

At the same time that we make the client feel good about their purchase, we make sure the company will feel good about the sale.

It’s about finding the right balance for both the seller and the buyer to have a positive experience.


One thing I see a lot of marketers miss…not all customers respond to the same type of offer. If you are always focused on creating value one way, you may be missing sale opportunities.  You are also training your customers on what to expect.  

Mattresses and furniture are a case in point. Stores that sell mattresses and or furniture are always having sales. We’re talking deep discount, fire sales. Clearance sales. Going out of business sales.  

People know this and when there isn’t a sale…they generally wait.  Sometimes they wait long enough to get a sale and free delivery.

3 Value Techniques

With the current social situation, more people are wanting to purchase from companies that support change and inclusion. Expect Gen Z to be strong on this issue.

Some people like to buy products because they feel good about the company’s story.

Others buy because of company philanthropy or involvement in the community. 

Millennials look for environmentally friendly products. They want to “make a difference” with their decisions and their purchases. They will pay more to do that.


In the CBD niche, online sellers typically offer discounts. Does that mean it’s the best method?  Not necessarily as we can see from the furniture stores. 

There was a woman who ran a small boutique in the southwest.  She had ordered some turquoise jewelry and it hadn’t sold well.  Headed off on vacation she had an afterthought and messaged her assistant to mark it down to half-off.

When she returned a huge amount of the jewelry was gone, but there was no sale sign.  She picked up a bracelet and noticed the price was twice the original price. Her assistant misunderstood and instead of marking it down, doubled it.

People bought more because they perceived if it was this expensive, it had to be quality.  

When there were only a few pieces left and the season was nearly over, she left the altered price tags on and put up a sale sign of 50% Off until Friday. 

Those last pieces were gone quickly. Value and urgency combined.

If something looks good but the price is too low…they wonder what is wrong.  I’m not advocating you raise all your prices. I am advocating that you take a good look at the pricing, your target market, and the value balance. 


In numerous studies bonuses outperformed discounts.  While discounts are price reduction determined by the company. A bonus is something the customer earns.

A bonus might be based on a quantity purchased.  This happens routinely with some alternative health supplements. Especially, those sold via long-form sales letters.  

Invariably, while you can order one, the price keeps getting better if you order more. Often the sweet spot will be at least three or four of the same item.

There are also the buy one item at the regular price and get a second item for a reduced price. Women’s retail often does this.

A third bonus type is based on dollars spent.  The amount of the bonus goes up every time you exceed a threshold.  Spend over $50, save 10%. Raise that to spend over $100, save 15%. And the big one…spend over $200 save 25%.  People reach for it like the gold ring on a merry-go-round.

Rewards programs

Most of us have at least a fist full of rewards or loyalty program memberships.  Amazon Prime, Airline miles, credit cards that reward you spendable points, Costco rebates.  The list is nearly endless.

However, not all get used equally.  Over half barely get used at all. Here are some that have been used very effectively.

Points programs where you earn based on dollars spent.  My local nursery has this and the rewards points convert to a discount on future purchases. I recently got a plant free.

Amazon Prime is an example of a paid membership program.  You pay your monthly/annual fee and get free fast shipping and other bonuses.

Sephora and Victoria’s Secret use a tiered community program.  Your status is determined by how much you spend. The more you have spent in a calendar year, the higher your bonus and the number of perks you receive. 

Nike rewards buyers based on a fitness achievement like running a 5K with badges and discounts.

There are many variations of rewards programs. The key is finding something that matches your specific business model and philosophy and your target customer.

All good rewards programs enhance customer loyalty and long term value. It’s a project well worth pursuing.

When I work with clients

My goal is to help them add new clients.  At the same time, we focus on bonuses and rewards to retain existing clients. It’s far easier, and less expensive, to keep a customer than to replace them.

Key RAS Triggers Drive Sales – Including CBD

Emotional RAS Triggers are Key to Sales
Key RAS Triggers Work to Make Sales

The RAS or reticular activating system in the brain alerts or arouses us. When selling something, tapping into and activating the RAS system is a key way to trigger sales.

Think back to your last car purchase…

I’ll not quickly forget mine. My 20-year-old car was starting to have reliability issues. While still okay as a backup, get-around-town vehicle, I was no longer feeling safe about road trips. 

I’d been pleased with all the years of reliable service, so decided to go for the same brand. It was safe, reliable, and made me feel good driving it. 

The salesman did all the right things.

He asked questions and listened.

“What are you looking for?”

“The same great reliability, but I’m thinking I might need something a dash bigger so it’s easier to get my Mom’s rolling walker in and out.”

“Okay, let’s start there.” He took me to the model that was the next size up.

I’m just under 5’2”. Short/petite…pick your choice. I slid behind the wheel. I felt like I was in an old sit-com I had seen on television. Carol Burnette dressed as a little girl, sitting in this monstrous chair. The car felt like it was ten feet wide and twenty feet long.

“It’s nice,” I murmured, but it’s so big.”

“All right, now let’s go see the C300.”

I remember the first adjectives that popped into my head were muscular and sexy. I’m a marketer…I know better…yet, that’s how the brain works.

I slid behind the wheel and it felt… “right.” 

The fact that it was the previous year model that had been purchased as a fleet car, but had only 34 miles on it didn’t hurt. It would be sold as a “certified used” vehicle. That meant a great warranty…just like a new car, with a lower price tag. 

Emotion first…appearance, touch, feel. Validation justified by value for investment.

Emotional triggers are tightly nested in the RAS. They serve to alert and protect us. Friend or foe. Threat or suitable mate. And they also trigger a buy response.

30 years of marketing…

Not just being a woman, but dominantly marketing to women for the past thirty years, I realized how effective RAS triggers could be.

Women expect to be treated with respect, we as marketers have to keep that first and foremost. 

Give us a great buying experience that caters to our emotional RAS triggers. Then help us validate it with the proof to back up the value.

Keep your customers Key RAS Triggers in mind

To effectively use RAS to trigger sales, you have to take into account who your customer is. Male, female, demographics, psychographics. We all have slightly different triggers. 

When selling B2C or D2C you are selling to the end-user. Their RAS triggers are different than if you were selling B2B – one business to another. 

Selling B2B you are selling to someone whose job is tied to their performance. Poor performance, making a bad choice, not only costs the business money, it could cost them their job. The sale process is uniquely different.

When dealing with the end-user, the more clearly you have her defined, the easier it will be to trigger a sale. 

Her? Yes. Studies have revealed that 85% of all consumer goods have a woman making the buy. When you consider her circle of influence, husband, kids, parents, friends and colleagues…she influences 95% of all sales.

3 Key RAS Triggers

There are numerous ways to approach the use of RAS in marketing. You can find techniques divided into eight or more categories. However, there is a fair amount of overlap. I group them into Urgency, Avarice, and Dopamine Rush.


A sense of urgency triggers us to take action. It ties back to the fight or flight syndrome. If we see fire coming, we get out of harms’ way. If we’re in the grocery store and hear the intercom announce a five-minute sale or free-gift, we may head on over…now.

We don’t want to be left out. We don’t want to be excluded from an opportunity.

Holidays and events trigger a sense of urgency for desirable items. Christmas gifts, decorations, and food choices. Fourth of July grills, hotdogs, hamburgers and beer….and don’t forget the fireworks. Ski slopes opening. Camping season starting. Back to school deadlines.

For a product, we particularly like or want, and there are only three left…scarcity triggers our urgency button.

Urgency is often tied to time, a deadline, or physical limitation… like limited quantity. “While supplies last,” or “ends at 3 PM” both trigger a sense of urgency. 

You can also see the trigger of urgency in action on the television sales channels. The clock is ticking, the stock is limited and the phones are ringing.


Some might call this greed, yet that is a word with a lot of negative connotations. Everyone likes to feel they got a good deal or good value for the money or time invested. That doesn’t make them greedy.

We like the feeling we get for our savings and value. Discounts, bonuses, free shipping, reward points. 

When we see holiday items on sale…that triggers two buttons both urgency and avarice. 

Keep in mind, it’s not always a discount sale. 

Rewards programs, a special gift with purchase, packaged vacation deals all offer enhanced value and trigger purchases.

Bonuses are a superpower that can dwarf discounts in sales analytics…ROI. 

A great example is those infomercials where the guy is selling a pack of knives. They focus on what the knife excels at. Only at the end to they start stacking on the bonuses. At this point the viewer can’t help themselves, they pick up the phone and call, or click the buy button.

The bonuses enhance the central product.

Bonuses make it work better, more efficiently, provide additional information and at FREE, they enhance value. The bonuses are typically a limited time offer, so we add scarcity and urgency to the mix.

Dopamine Rush

Dopamine is the “feel-good” hormone. It is released when we experience pleasure. Having sex and eating chocolate are both tied to a dopamine rush.

A sense of belonging is important to both men and women. Fitness centers, elite clubs or groups use this. So do Harley Davidson, Husqvarna, MAC and IT Cosmetics, and numerous soft-drink and beer manufacturers. Brand advocates.

The higher your ranking with an airline…the earlier you get on and off the airplane.

For men, the triggers also tie into sexual prowess, self-esteem, and manliness.

Women have the equivalent of the masculine triggers. As caregivers, they add a broader range.

Among the female triggers are benevolence, social value, empathy, and personal gratification.

Charities frequently play to remorse and benevolence to get people to chip in and help out. The viewer/reader is better off and needs to lend a hand, donate.

When your social values align with a company, you are more apt to spend with them. “Family-oriented,” “your trusted source,” both promote social similarities. Helping humanity can do the same.

When we give a gift and the recipient enthusiastically loves it, we get an emotional empathy response…we get to share their joy. So purchases that create joy give women a dopamine empathy response. They feel good and are likely to repeat the pattern. Find that perfect item and buy it quickly.

Studies have shown women get a dopamine rush every time they have a positive buying experience. It’s similar to the rush men get from an exciting sports event. 

Marketers behind the modern department store capitalized on the dopamine rush. 

They invited women to come in, not occasionally, but frequently. Decades before they could vote, women could grab their purses, visit, connect, and shop. And shop they did. It triggered a social change. They had found a place they could act independently. No one monitored their every movement.

Shopping empowered women. When you combine that with the quest for a perfect gift to trigger an empathy response, you have potent buying urges.

Key RAS triggers are powerful

When you create a buying experience that combines these three triggers the power explodes into sales. Urgency or scarcity, getting a great deal or bonus, and a positive user-focused buying experience is a great formula for successful sales. 

This is equally true in person, or online. It’s something I keep at the forefront when I work with clients.

  • In-depth knowledge of the customer.
  • A clear understanding of the product being offered.
  • Then tie it into a fabulous experience complete with urgency, and a great value

Need help with RAS triggers to connect with more customers, make more sales and keep customers loyal? Message me: judith@jcupcreativecopy.com.

Are Sales Training Your Customers?

Have you noticed that everything is on sale right now?  Businesses are trying to recover from lost revenues. So many are focusing on slashing prices and having sales. It’s a bonus for everyone right now, but are sales training your customers?

I don’t know about you, I’ve lost count how many sales emails I get daily. 

I had a friend, let’s call her Kathy, who had a beauty salon. When things got slow, Kathy had a special.  Discounted services. I remember a conversation we had…

Sales train customers to wait for them.
Sales Training Customers Photo by Justin Lim Unsplash

The high price of sales

“I’m so excited, things are picking up, Judi. Putting that special on Facebook really worked.”

“I’m delighted for you,” I responded but something I’d heard once kept niggling at the back of my brain. I didn’t say anything as I certainly didn’t want to be a downer.

Two days later I got a call,” We’re booked a month out!  Clients are coming out of the woodwork for our specials.”

So several months later when things slowed down again, Kathy ran more specials. The books again filled and Kathy was all smiles.

I didn’t see Kathy for a while, then dropped in to visit with her at her salon. 

The phone rang and she raised a finger to pause our conversation and reached to answer it. “Hi, this is Kathy, how can I help you.?”

I leaned against the counter waiting for her to finish.  

“Specials? I’m sorry, you missed our offer last month.”

From where I was standing, I couldn’t miss the caller’s response. “Oh well.  Could you let me know when you’re having your next special?  I’ll just wait.”

My gaze flicked to Kathy’s face…it was crestfallen.  She had trained her clients to wait for sales.

I’ve seen this scenario repeated over and over by diverse businesses over the years.  

Many department stores actually initially price goods above the MSRP knowing they will have to mark them down. They skim the cream with the first sales.  Then in 5-6 weeks maximum, they start dropping the price….and it never goes back to normal.  They have to move it out before the next batch comes in.

I used to love shopping with my girlfriend at Nordstroms in San Francisco.  Our mission…to see what great new stuff had reached the markdown stage.

Think of your local furniture or mattress store… they are ALWAYS having some sort of sale.  Instead of adding value or creating a desire another way, they focus on discounting products. Sure, we know they mark them up then mark them down, but they’ve trained customers to watch for the word sale.

Are sales training your customers?

It’s important to keep in mind, our marketing techniques teach our customers what to expect from us. If we’re always having sales, they lump us in with budget discounters.  

It’s the halo effect or guilt by association. 

While it might be a win for businesses and consumers in a pandemic when most people’s funds are crunched, this can become a fixed mindset or cycle. 

Sales will become more and more dependent on the discounts you offer. They will become commonplace and expected.

With lower profits, it gets progressively harder for a business to stay viable. What you need…alternatives.

At the same time, your brand’s value is dropping in the eyes of the consumer because of the constantly discounted prices.

3 Alternative Techniques

There are actually lots more than just three techniques, but these are particularly suited to those with an online presence be it products or services.

As an alternative to a discount, they tend to lean on scarcity and urgency as motivators.

Transparent Pricing alternatives

Transparent pricing is about showing “how” you control costs so you can offer a product at significantly lower than a competitor.  You feature both the quality of your product, and the steps you take to control costs.  

For example, Everlane is an online eCommerce operation.  They have few brick and mortar stores, no traditional advertising, and offer no discounts. 

This snippet from a Google ad explains their concept well:

Timeless Pieces Made with High-Quality Materials Designed to Last for Years. Shop Modern Luxury Basics. Ethically Sourced, Radically Priced. Ethically Made. Radical Transparency. Modern Basics. Types: A-Grade Cashmere, Luxe Alpaca, Soft Cotton, Italian Merino.

A look at their website confirms they have high-end goods and very few items on sale. I would assume those that are…weren’t good sellers. 

They also incorporate a social responsibility aspect with their 100% Human line. A portion of all sales benefits the ACLU human rights efforts. 

Subscription alternatives

Dollar Shave Club is one of the best known of this type of marketing. By cutting out the middlemen, they went direct to consumer, D2C. They went with a simple basic product…a razor.  Their target market 20-30 year-olds who wanted a razor without the frills.

For their subscription, they no longer have to remember to buy razors. The products are auto-shipped on a monthly basis.

This model used in the alternative health industry extensively.  The challenge for the consumer is keeping up with their product usage so that they don’t end up with a backlog. 

It’s a fact, some people use more than others.  Options on the delivery schedule might resolve this issue and increase the customer lifetime value.

A variation on this theme are Membership programs.  Commonly, there is an annual or monthly fee automatically charged. The member then either gets automatic gift packs or can use their “credit” to select items they’d like to purchase.  Wineries and wine clubs often use this style.

Freebies and Extras

The products are sold at full price. For each purchase level, which varies from company to company, you get bonus gifts. 

I’ve seen this used with cosmetic lines like MAC and IT. Cosmetics have a broader markup, especially D2C. The company can expose buyers to products they either love or haven’t tried.

The perfume industry also uses this format to give extras with good cause.  Why?

Studies by psychologists revealed the people would rather have a 2-for-1 than getting something at 50% value.  They transfer the value of the priced item to the gift item…regardless of its true value.

A clothing company for surfers called Surfstitch also uses this model. They offer free gifts at the $100 and $200 mark.

The type of program you might want to incorporate could be one of the above or other alternatives.  All rely on value, convenience, scarcity, and or urgency instead of giant markdowns.

When I work with clients, I want to understand their goals and ideal customer. Then I can recommend one of the various strategies to build brand value and loyalty without constant sales.

3 Keys to Optimize Your Customer-focus

3 keys to being more customer centric
Keys to optimize customer-focus

Your customer-focus could be the biggest key to getting and retaining customers. How well you focus on the user, your customer is the most important aspect of business success today.  

Beware being business-centric

I remember the weekend I decided to do something about chronic pain. I’d had hip pain for months, stabbing with every step I took. I tried everything. That weekend I decided to try oral CBD.

I’d been getting emails for a while from a major company. What I read said they had a trustworthy reputation. That week, I’d gotten an email about a sale they were having. 

After going to the website and locating the product I wanted to try, I tried to enter the discount code from the email.  It didn’t work. It was late afternoon on Friday.  I tried to reach out to them, but with a two-hour time difference, no help was available. Maybe in the morning.

Saturday morning, I tried again.  The code still didn’t work. I tried to reach them…no one covered questions on the weekend. 

Pain and frustration soared. I finally, placed an order and in the notes section, explained that the code didn’t work. 

About a week later, I received my product – full price, no discount.

The next month, I needed some CBD chewies for my anxious dog. A discount code came in an email so I tried again. They were a highly respected company after all.

You guessed it…the code didn’t work.

Poor communications sour customer-focus

I’ve never ordered from them since. They had damaged my trust. If you can’t supply customer support, send out coupon codes that don’t work, and never respond to messages…I don’t care how big you are. 

That huge company is business-centric. They do what is convenient for them and it better be good enough for the customer. If they aren’t careful, they will run out of people willing to deal with them online. 

Having run my own e-commerce firm for 25 years, I certainly realize every business has limitations. However, there needs to be workarounds in place for customer support and to make the customer feel cared for.

The world has changed dramatically in the last three months. Many of us are staying at home and shopping online.  We depend on the websites we interact with to anticipate and take care of our needs.

A business-centric model generally fails at that. More and more people are shopping online, It works and is growing rapidly.  Online has proven to be a way for businesses to survive and thrive in the middle of a crisis. 

Retention is better than replacement

Online advertising can be expensive. It’s all about the bottom line. Cost of acquisition, sales made, and lifetime customer value.

It is eight times more expensive to replace a customer than to keep one.  That in itself is an excellent reason to get more customer-focused now.

If customers have a great experience with you/your website, they will tell their friends.  If they have a bad experience, they will tell twice as many. 

That makes a customer-focused business model that much more valuable.

3 Keys for improving your customer-focus

There are lots of ways to make your website more user friendly, but these three simple steps will help you move forward. They are all based on getting inside the client’s head. 

Think of what they might ask you? What might they want to know if they came to your booth at a Farmers Market, or visited you at a fair or other sales event?

I use the Farmers Market analogy because it strikes at the core. Sales are a person to person exchange. 

What do you want from that organic fresh produce grower? What do they grow,  how do they grow it, what makes it different from the next booth?

The same is true for online shopping. We need to remember and treat it as a one-to-one interaction.

Key 1 – Your website should focus on talking directly to your customer in a conversational tone

Going back to our Farmers Market…you walk along the sidewalk, (following social distancing) and trying to observe what is available at each stall. 

Does their signage make their product clear? Does it look good? What does it tell you about those products? And today…what efforts are being made in the arena of infection control?

If it looks interesting you make your way to the display table. How are you greeted? Do they ask if you are familiar with their offerings? Do they share their unique selling position, (USP)  in a clear and conversational manner?

The beauty of your website is the potential to share more in-depth information than may be possible at a booth where others are waiting for their turn to buy.  Layout and ease of use. 

Is the website fresh and current in appearance?

Does it look like their kid put it together on his aging tablet with out of focus images?

Are there answers to questions the customer hasn’t thought of yet?

How do customers get help?

I know you can’t be open 24/7. Help your customers by clearly addressing how they can get questions answered.  

How can they reach you?

What is your response time?

What if there is a special and your code doesn’t work or they have problem placing an order?

Company size is not an indicator of customer-focus. 

A small business-centric firm sent an e-sales letter that was intriguing and I place an order for their special.  They followed up with 5 emails then went quiet. 

No further contact.  Three weeks later, I checked and the product had never been shipped. Click-bank issued me a full refund. 

A customer-centric small local winery ran a special on their to-die-for Rosé. The discounted price worked but heavily discounted shipping didn’t kick in. They helped me solve the problem in a quick 2-minute call. 

Mindset and focus, not size. Find ways to improve customer service.

Move on past Covid19…

It’s time to give up the coronavirus excuses. Shipping is pretty much back to normal…although buyers tend to be more accustomed to delays.

Sure, some items may be out of stock and take longer than we’d like to become available.

That is the new normal.

Most businesses have found ways to get things done and work remotely. 

If your phone system doesn’t allow call-forwarding, maybe it’s time to go VOIP.  It’s inexpensive and totally customizable. Use the control settings and people can’t call you during designated “closed” hours…instead they are directed to your message system. Simple.

I know several firms where they published a list…need to reach us, we’re working remotely. Customers could contact alternative numbers/emails to get the support they needed.

Move past negative coronavirus messages. Share the positive changes you implement to make your company, product, safety, and customer care even better.

Focus on being helpful. It’s time for positives and inspiration. It’s time for connections and networking.

You and your business are the messages you send out via your website, social media, and email communications. Make them count with customer-focus.


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