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Ginger Conlon | April 27, 2012

Do You Know All Your Valuable Customers?

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Many business leaders consider their most valuable customers as those who are the most profitable or the largest. There's certainly no denying that. Increasingly, customers who are considerable social influencers are also moving up the value chain.

But what about the customers who don't buy much, but only buy from you. Customers who give you 100 percent wallet share. Do you know who they are? Do you need to?

I think so. But it may be an expensive undertaking. Then again, if you're already connecting with customers via opt-in email, why not ask? Or, if you're not ready to ask because you don't have an action plan of what you'd like to do once you know who those customers are, perhaps, for now, simply make it easier for them to recommend. You're already getting all their business, which means they likely prefer you (unless you're a monopoly), so would likely recommend you--perhaps gladly.

What got me thinking about this is my upcoming trip to London for the Gartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit. I fly to London once a year for that conference. I fly on Virgin Atlantic every time. I could choose other airlines that have similar pricing and schedules--airlines I enjoying flying within the U.S.--but I don't. I've tried those airlines when I lived in London for a year. Virgin Atlantic offers a better overall customer experience. So the airline has earned 100 percent of my wallet share for my New York to London travel. And if I was flying to another Virgin Atlantic destination, it would be my first choice.

Now, one flight a year certainly isn't going to keep Virgin Atlantic running, and I certainly don't expect any special treatment for my share of wallet. But I do think that if the airline's marketers knew my preference, they could benefit from making it easy for me to recommend it to the many frequent travelers I know. And they wouldn't have to do much more than they already do. They already keep me abreast of news and promotions via email. But how about, if I don't click through the email in X days, sending me a follow up: "Can't fly with us in May? Perhaps you know someone who is heading abroad. So don't keep our special a secret. Share it with your friends."

It's easy for me to suggest all this from my editor's eye view. I know that gathering and acting on customer feedback, segmenting customers, and running targeted marketing campaigns aren't easy. But I do think they're worth it. People enjoy recommending their favorite brands to others. Why not take advantage of that? You just have to find out who those potential recommenders are.

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