GUEST POST from Shep Hyken
Nothing lasts forever … or does it?
If something could last forever, what would the business model look like? Products could include a lifetime guarantee with a marketing message that says, “Buy it today and never have to buy it again.”
Think about it. If the marketing message is true, you’ll never have to spend another dime on that product. This is a tempting proposition for the customer, but it doesn’t sound as appealing for the company that offers this lifetime guarantee. If the company keeps its promise, it will never have you back as a repeat customer. It’s a one-time sale. Or is it?
Everything I talk and write about is based on a customer experience that gets people to say, “I’ll be back.” But maybe the goal doesn’t always have to be getting the customer to come back. Maybe it’s about a product the customer buys only once. And that product does what it’s supposed to do, but the experience during the buying process was so good that while the customer doesn’t come back, they tell everyone else about it. That means one customer could equal many more customers.
Google the search term “products that last a lifetime,” and you will find plenty of them—everything from All-Clad cookware to Zippo lighters and everything in between.
These companies create products that do last a lifetime. Because the quality is so good, either the customer tells others (great word-of-mouth marketing), comes back to buy the product as a gift for someone else (so maybe there is an opportunity for repeat business) or returns to buy other products the company offers. The point is that the guarantee builds trust. The experience creates confidence. That combination makes customers want to come back.
I bought a set of Cutco steak knives. They have a lifetime guarantee. The salesperson said I would never buy another set of knives again. The salesperson was almost right. I didn’t buy another set of knives for myself, but I did buy some as a gift. Point made!
But it goes further. Cutco sells more than steak knives. It sells bread knives, paring knives, carving knives and more. I may never buy another set of steak knives, but I need other knives—and I’ve bought them, all with similar lifetime guarantees.
Speaking of Cutco, my friend, John Ruhlin, is the No. 1 Cutco knife salesperson in the world. He’s also the foremost expert on gifting and the bestselling author of Giftology. He recently wrote about the Centennial Light Bulb, which inspired me to write this article. For those not familiar, it’s the longest-running lightbulb in history. So far, it’s been on for more than 1 million hours—that’s more than 121 years! Ruhlin says, “This lightbulb is proof that manufacturers could make long-lasting products. But they don’t. Because where’s the money in an iPhone that lasts forever?”
Actually, there’s a lot of money in an iPhone that lasts forever. Let’s say that Apple did create an iPhone that would last forever. You’d still purchase accessories such as screen protectors, earbuds and more. That’s nice, but there’s a bigger picture. Apple is not going to stop with that version of the iPhone. It will make updated versions. While some people will take pride in carrying around an antique phone, others (as in most) will want the latest and greatest, despite the lifetime guarantee.
While Ruhlin’s angle is about creating a gifting experience that builds a relationship forever, I’m approaching this subject with the idea that with the right experience, you get customers to either come back or talk about you forever! As a business, even if you aren’t gifting your customers a tangible item, you are gifting them an experience. Okay, gifting may not be the right word. How about giving? The customer wants and expects that experience, and when you give it to them, they come back. Even if your product is one that lasts forever, sell it with an experience that gets customers to talk about you, and, even better, gets them to say, “I want more of that.”
This article originally appeared on Forbes
Image Credit: Shep Hyken
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