Posted by: East and West | 2009/07/12

Winning Share of Wallet Through Share of Mind

“@brandexpression Brands focus too much on buzz that drives transient purchasing instead of integrating meaningfully into consumers’ lives. (via @Gennefer)” from Twitter

Image courtesy of www.imagegawker.com

Image courtesy of http://www.gawker.com

What do our ads promote? What do our news releases and media advisories promote? Will consumers buy the shirt if we price it just so? Every week we browse sale ads that aim to draw us into stores to buy specific items of merchandise. TV commercials urge us to book a vacation now, because the best rates – usually for specific dates – will expire in two weeks. Will we attend that event at the mall just to buy yet another doodad at a discount?

Today we often confuse “share of wallet” with “share of mind.” Regardless of the state of the economy our customers are opportunistic when they vote with their wallets. They might be loyal to a product, but they may not be loyal to the store. When we win share of wallet, we ensure the sale today, but we have to work even harder to get the sale next week. It’s a cycle of putting out fires that will eventually exhaust us.

Sales Management 101: It is cheaper to keep a customer than to acquire another. How do we break the current cycle of short-term gains and objectives, and refocus on keeping our customers for the long term?

Are we paying more attention to our brand than to our customers? We’re all hung up on the image our brand projects. A lot of us have forgotten that if we maintain a positive relationship with our customers they will continue to come back to us.

Remember “I’d like to teach the world to sing” from Coke? Those who remember continue to buy Coke, regardless of brand – Diet Coke, Sprite, even New Coke and Classic Coke. The message was the brand, and while we remember the message we are loyal to the brand.

I won’t pretend to know what Coke marketers were doing or hoping to achieve. But they connected with me and established a relationship between the Coca-Cola Company and me. And I’d like to take a page out of their playbook and learn to build relationships with my company’s customers.

There’s a lot of talk about “controlling the message.” We need to talk more about making the message matter.

In theory, if we carefully craft the message and manage its delivery, we will be rewarded with the sales we seek. In the real world, we don’t have enough knowledge to fine-tune the message as much as we would like, and once we release it through the channels we have chosen, it really has to live or die on its own. We need our customers help us keep our messages alive.

The growing availability of the web enables Joe-on-the-street to look behind the curtain of the brand at, and into, the company that holds it up. More consumers now understand that brands are illusions and are simply the carriers of the company’s messages, and they will shoot both the messengers and the sender if those messages conflict with each other. Beauty is only skin-deep; ugly goes to the bone.

For example, when Saturn opened for business in the 1980s, it was positioned as a “different” kind of car company, implying that the business practices of all other car companies were inferior or wrong. But Saturn’s corporate owner was GM, at the time the largest of the Big Three and the greatest proponent of success through the current formula. In time, GM had to reconcile the conflict and integrate Saturn as one of its divisions; the current economy will claim the division as a victim.

Our company’s messages need to resonate with all our customers, regardless of which of our brands they buy. Our customers need to trust our companies as the source of those messages, a trust that is built up by understanding, acknowledging and meeting their needs on an ongoing basis.

Where to begin? Begin by eliminating conflicting positions between our brands. They can all be positioned uniquely, without being in conflict. Extol the virtues of organic foods, and acknowledge that the budgetary needs of the majority of American consumers by providing a quality, non-organic product. All the elements of the marketing mix again will come into play – advertising, public relations, promotions, customer service, product design and integrity – to build a relationship between our customers and our companies, not just our brands and products.

Making the shift from brand management to relationship management requires a leap of faith. We don’t quite know what changes we will have to make. But consider this: There was a time when consumers trusted companies and remained loyal to them and their brands. We can come full-circle to that state of business and win “share of wallet” because we have “share of mind.”

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