Customers are the beginning and end of marketing. If you’re not customerorientated to today’s tight markets, you can forget it. It is so fundamental; it’s almost ridiculous to say it. Caring for customers comes naturally to all great marketers.

As a customer yourself, however, you’ll recognise many companies show their customers almost criminal neglect. They go for the one-off sale, forgetting – if they ever knew – that the next sale starts as soon as the last sale is closed.

In the new world of marketing, the sale is no longer as important as the relationship. Smart marketers build a long term relationship with their customers – earning brand loyalty, creating buying habits that become part of a customer’s lifestyle, and forging a profitable relationship.

Many executives believe their product sells itself or that sending letters to customers (“like Readers Digest”) is to lower themselves.

These are men of the past. They are dinosaurs that may, with a little luck, survive to retirement…the last of a dying breed. The men and women of the future are already talking to customers and building relationships that are the basis of solid, long-term market share. They know the value of relationship.

A customer-neutral or customer-negative attitude spells death for a marketer. Only the public service can afford to ignore its customers. Yet so many large companies treat their customers as mere taxpayers – shackled to them by force of habit or brand loyalty inherited from easier, less-competitive days. This attitude was OK in the easy ’80’s and ’90’s, but the new world is a cold, bitter place if you’re not used to competition.

Fat and lazy companies are harried by small, piranha-like companies eating away at their market share. Even within companies the young piranha that understands “relationship” is harrying the men of the past.

The piranha gains a competitive edge by keeping its eye on the ball – the customer.