red tulips | copyright Jill J. Jensen

 

 

Attracting Perfect Customers: The Power of Strategic Synchronicity

Stacey Hall and Jan Brogniez
San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. ©2001

 

As the headline on the back cover of this book states: "Stop looking for perfect customers." Marketing-and-business-survival heresy? Not so. Focus, instead, on attracting perfect customers, say the authors, and your business dreams will come true! The difference in words is not just a matter of semantics; the shift in perception, attitude, and approach is crucial to success. It's not magic; it does take effort. And with an infectious splurge of enthusiasm, the two authors use the evolution of their own business and stories from other practitioners of this system to show us how.

While readers might be tempted to extract a few of the juicier plums (the "lighthouse" story; the "strategic attraction plan") and move on, real value is found in the preliminaries — the very rational underpinnings for the theory — and in working through the activities that take you step by step through the process. After all, wouldn't you really rather be doing just what you want to do for people who truly need your product or service and are enthusiastic about paying you what you deserve for it? It's not a pipe dream to believe that can happen. In fact, the authors contend, we're our own worst enemy in that regard, because we still believe that "business is war," that we have to "beat" our competition for customers, that we "lose" if they "win." Time to dispense with the war analogies.

Michael Gerber's The E-Myth Revisited identified the reality that far too many entrepreneurs discover far too late — marketing is critical to the success of any business. The majority of people who start businesses (and especially sole proprietors), however, just want to do the work they like best, whether it's income tax preparation, business consulting, auto repair, executive coaching, pie baking and candy making, or technical writing. They don't want to think about marketing. But if their business is to survive, they must.

Hall and Brogniez know that traditional marketing models, "which put emphasis on capturing market share and stealing customers away from competitors, require a business to adopt a mind-set of acquiring ever-larger numbers of customers. This never-ending search for more customers requires an abundance of people, time, and money, resources that are usually in short supply, even in the largest companies." Yet, the result of this approach is that 80 percent of business profit is actually generated by only 20 percent of customers. And we think that's a cost-effective approach?!?!

The authors wisely ask the next logical question: "If these 20 percent account for the vast majority of profits, why does the company need the other 80 percent?" And they follow with an explanation of the "strategic attraction" process that demonstrates how it is "possible to build a business where every customer is 'the best'" or "the most perfect" for a particular business.

Based on the fundamental law of attraction (like attracts like), this process reminds us that "attraction increases as we become clear about who we are and what we want." We are encouraged to let go of traditional marketing approaches and the business-as-war mentality because "each business mission is as unique and distinct as the people who create it, and the clearer you become about your business mission, the more effectively you and your company can attract your most perfect customers to your real or virtual doorstep."

Hall and Brogniez defy conventional wisdom. "In our experience," they state, "it is no longer necessary, logical, or productive to work eighty-hour weeks, struggling to stay ahead of the competition, because there is no race — not even in the fast-paced world of dot-coms. It is also no longer necessary to get to the marketplace first. Your most perfect customers are patiently waiting for you. In fact, they are looking for you and are counting on you to stand still so that they can find you at the most perfect time and place."

Want to know if you and your company are ready to attract "perfect customers?" Take the Lighthouse Test. "Imagine a lighthouse standing strong and tall on the rocky shore of a beautiful harbor." Although the day starts out clear with calm waters and many boats at sea, a storm quickly blows in. The powerful beam from the lighthouse glows brightly, offering direction, safety, and security.

"Notice that not all of the boats need this beam of light to guide them to safety," continues the test. "Some have more confident captains and crews, and some are fully equipped to manage through storms safely and effectively. Now imagine that the lighthouse gets upset because some of the boats are choosing to follow their own path. The lighthouse feels that it's not successful if its light is not guiding all of the boats in the sea. It sprouts arms and legs and runs up and down the beach acting like a searchlight, doing its best to catch the attention of all the boat captains, attempting to encourage more of them to depend on its light. What do you think would be the result? Most likely, the boats whose captains are depending on a steady, constant stream of light to guide them safely around potential dangers would be damaged or destroyed in the chaos and confusion." Some might come dangerously close to the rocky shore. Others would run aground. Those with the most confident captains and crews choose to stay where they are and rely on their own resources to weather the storm. No matter what, "very few boats would be served well or at all" by the lighthouse frantically flailing away on the beach.

How often do we feel we must try to serve absolutely every possible customer or our business will fail? How rarely are we encouraged to think first about what we do best, then identify the customer who is perfect for us, and finally, to stand still and let them find us.

If you're ready to stop running up and down the shoreline trying to flag down customers, take time to work through the "strategic attraction plan" in this book. Before you know it, the "most perfect customers" will be attracted to you — and you'll be working smarter, not harder.

 

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