February 16, 2017

Don’t Count On Customers Showing Up Tomorrow

I had the opportunity to be part of a Jeffersonian dinner last week. The way it was explained to me, Thomas Jefferson liked to get a diverse group of 12-14 people around a dinner table and then moderate questions based on a certain theme. The goal is that everyone at the table has a chance to talk and share their experiences and thoughts about the theme of the night. Risky in this day and age of politics I know, but this dinner was actually focused on the food industry.

At the table we had several small farmers be it with a focus on produce, fruits, and/or meat of different type. We also had two restaurateurs from a high-end restaurant, a few food consumers, a small food business who took farm-raised produce and turned it into a shelf-stable item, and me. We also had a food buyer who was planning to be there but ended up getting sick at the last minute.   Regardless, it was a fascinating chance to talk with and listen to folks on different sides of the food industry and hear about the challenges and opportunities they faced.

Throughout the evening I kept thinking – this would make a great blog article – but one thing in particular stood out that I wanted to mention.   One woman, who with her husband runs a small ranch raising cattle and chickens, mentioned that she doesn’t think about her customers tomorrow but is focused on what she needs to do today to convert people into becoming customers a year from now. That long-range outlook blew me away but yet, as she said, it takes time to get in front of consumers, it takes time to become recognized by them, it takes time to educate them on what makes your product different/better/worth the expense over a competitor, it takes time to help them feel comfortable with using the product (i.e., recipe ideas, etc.), it takes time for consumers to feel confident that they can trust your brand and what you say you stand for and behind….it takes time.

Without a doubt we all want customers as soon as we can, but this woman so eloquently reminded me that we need to be looking at customer acquisition as a long-range game. No one thing we do will suddenly flip the switch for consumers and have them knocking down our door. Instead, what can we be doing today, tomorrow, and the day after that in order to turn someone into a customer in the next year?

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