Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grab On with Weak Connections

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” So wrote C. S. Lewis, well-known to many as the author of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
     This quote, with which I begin, was where Stuart E. Jackson, a vice president of L.E.K Consulting, ended a Bloomberg Businessweek piece. Mr. Jackson had described the value in business of weak links—connections you make to acquaintances of customers when you know very little about the acquaintances.
     Weak links don’t substitute for strong ones; they augment them. It’s the difference between saying to customers, “Please recommend us to your friends,” and, “Please recommend us to your friends, and recommend those friends talk about us to their friends.”
     To better fit the realm of retailing and the world of social networking, I’d tweak the C. S. Lewis quote to read, “A customer referral relationship is born at that moment when the consumer says about the retailer: What! I’m thinking there are many others who, like me, could benefit from what you offer. I’m far from being the only one.”
     People yearn for connection, so links can be based on considerations having little to do with the product or service. For instance, when a customer finds they have the same birthday or place of birth as a salesperson, the customer gets more interested in making a purchase and is more likely to be satisfied with the purchases.
     Researchers at University of British Columbia and INSEAD Singapore set up a study in which a personal trainer offered a fitness program to prospective enrollees. Participants who believed the fitness instructor was born on the same day as them became more likely to rate a sample program highly and to sign up for a membership. And dental patients who believed they were born in the same place as their dentist were more likely to rate their care highly and to schedule future appointments at that clinic.
     The BBW piece points out that spreading the news about your store through weak links goes best when you’re offering a glorious product or service. In honor of C. S. Lewis, who gained spiritual sustenance from a Belfast garden, I’ll end with, “The connections thicken, like roots in a garden patiently and persistently winding and weaving their ways through the soil, linking to sources of nourishment.”

Click below for more:
Announce Commonalities with Shoppers
Disclose Selectively to Facebook Referrals

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