Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Give your roses to the living.


I am still receiving an email newsletter from The Wizard of Ads, even though my preference these days is to follow things I'm interested in through the Sage RSS feed reader that I have installed as a plug-in for Firefox.

It can be relied on for the occasional insight. And it is always engagingly personal and personable. I have grown to feel quite familiar with Roy Williams, its author.

This morning he recounts a story about his mother's generosity at Thanksgiving, inviting strangers in need to her family table - in spite of the fact that her own circumstances were modest; and how she would treat a friend to a trip away, simply out of generosity. His mother would say "We should give our roses to the living and not save them for the dead."

“When a person dies, everyone who loved them will cancel their other obligations, send a big bouquet of flowers, jump on an airplane and fly across the country to look at their dead friend in a box.” Mom waited a moment for this to soak in. “If I’m going to cancel my plans, buy roses and travel because of friendship, I’m going to do it while my friend is alive to smell the flowers and enjoy the adventure with me. And if my friend passes before I do, I'll sit quietly at home and remember the trip we took together.”

Like the best logic it is simple enough to be obviously a truth.

I wonder if its corollary in business is that many marketers ignore, forget or take advantage of existing customers, forgetting to reward us or simply ignoring us while they woo new customers with offers and promises that simply rub us up the wrong way. New customers are needed to compensate for the ones who move on to a happier hunting ground or are lured away by the promise of another harlot company offering the chocolates and flowers we become nostalgic for.

It is a war of attrition in the so-called attraction economy. Consumers are, some suggest, simply attracted by the next bright, shiny thing. In our hearts we would prefer to be treated with care, concern and respect by the companies we have chosen to do business with. I don't mean overwhelmed by them, there's only so much contact I want with my bank or a restaurant, car brand, clothes retailer (or what have you). But the opportunity to delight 'the living' must be worth so much more in cold hard profits than always triaging the hemorrhage of customer attrition - and worrying about where the fresh blood will come from.

In a noisy market, clamouring for attention and attraction, there is a quiet place that I am sure most of us would prefer to enjoy - once you've got your slippers under my bed - don't ignore me or treat me with indifference or I won't be there when you come home.

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