Peter Drucker is quoted: The customer never buys what you think you sell. How often do you shop at the do=it-yourself stores such as Lowes, Ace Hardware, Home Depot, and the like? Are you attracted by loyalty, sales, marketing? Let’s are more specific … are you attracted by the Lowes’ creative marketing solutions? Do you agree with Peter Drucker in thinking that Lowes doesn’t know what its difference maker is?
More importantly, did you decide to stay with this business chain because of its difference maker? Not sure? Maybe you will be more certain after you read this article.
Check out our thoughts on creative marketing.
Marketing strategy and Lowes?
When choosing to learn from other companies’ marketing strategies, it is always helpful to choose one of the unique approaches to marketing.
Related post: Innovative Marketing Ideas … Secrets to the NASA Success
Meet Loews. They have been successfully executing their marketing plan since the early days of their existence, and their strategies have played a significant role in their growth.
An introduction to Loews is perhaps unnecessary. But we’ll give a little refresher just in case. Lowe’s Companies, Inc. is a FORTUNE® 50 home improvement company serving more than 17 million customers a week in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. With the fiscal year 2015 sales of $59.1 billion, Lowe’s and its related businesses operate or service more than 2,355 home improvement and hardware stores and employ over 285,000 employees. Founded in 1946 and based in Mooresville, N.C., Lowe’s supports the communities it serves through programs that focus on K-12 public education and community improvement projects.
What are the secrets to Lowes marketing strategy success? It’s pretty simple … exceptional customer service and its customer experiences. Their goal is to create customers for life. Here’s how they strive to achieve this lofty goal, with some great examples:
Brand identity at marketing core
The heart of the Lowes marketing strategy is their brand. The brand is built into and reflected by its tag line … never stop improving. The brand image is the number one factor that drives business. Since the brand image is so important, it’s crucial for you to cut through the clutter and differentiate your brand as an organization that is truly relevant to consumer needs.
If you want to improve the public image of your brand, then what better way is there to do so than by defining it yourself? Lowes does this by giving examples of customer successes and telling stories about customer projects through its online content strategy.
Their stories elaborate on ways in which their employees have gone out of their way to ensure customer project successes guests. Lowes is excellent at not only framing their stories but in behaving in such a way – providing great customer service at every level – that great stories happen.
Understand the value of every employee
If you’ve ever held a job where you didn’t feel appreciated, you understand how frustrating it can be. Well, Lowes tries to avoid this pitfall by valuing every employee. By empowering the employee, the company creates a staff that is passionate about the store, its services, and its success. Furthermore, happier employees mean happier customers.
Lowes marketing … build on reciprocity
In Robert Cialdini’s famous book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he notes that:
The impressive aspect of reciprocation with its accompanying sense of obligation is its pervasiveness in human culture.
It is so widespread that, after intensive study, Alvin Gouldner (1960), along with other sociologists, reported that all human societies subscribe to the rule.
The point is straight forward: Reciprocity is likely something that has evolved in the human brain to keep a majority of transactions “fair.”
We often feel obligated to return favors, even if they are unasked for.
This is the ultimate reason why great customer service has such a fantastic value to the marketing objectives.
The research points to this being a universal truth in social interaction and reciprocity: small surprises that feel like they were “just for you” can spawn some incredibly strong goodwill from the receiver.
Creative marketing ideas … lots of help and directions
Lowe’s encourages all customer facing employees ‘assertively friendly’. They are encouraged to seek out those who look like they need help before they come looking for help. How could you ask for more as a customer?
Lowes’ stores are very large, and directions can be confusing. The last thing customers need is not to be able to find what they are looking for. As a result, signs have to be super easy to navigate and offer simple ways to get from one place to another. Wouldn’t it be easy to create store maps to give to customers in need? Apparently not so easy.
Lowes marketing plan … take nothing for granted
Lowe’s employees are asked to never take a customer’s loyalty for granted, especially when dealing with first-time shoppers. The key to customer loyalty is not just by providing a quality service or product, but how your service and support it.
Meeting customer expectations in a first sale may not be enough. First-time buyers want to know you care. For loyalty to endure, it must be noticed and acknowledged. That means some top notch unique actions on behalf of customers. Have you ever received any of these? Again, Lowe’s wants to signal that they are not happy with an average customer experience.
Fulfill unexpressed customer needs
Lowe’s employees are trained to anticipate the unexpressed wishes of their guests. Frequently they give tips that the customers may not have known to ask. Have you ever had this happened to you? I have on several occasions.
This sort of planning helps employees remember key touch-points with customers, which will in turn aid in their ability to provide exceptional service more consistently, a surefire plan to increase a company’s overall customer satisfaction rate.
Creative marketing concepts … saving you time
One of the most important needs of most customers is time … no one ever has enough, and if you are a customer like me, you hate waiting for service in anything. There two big time wasters Low’s tries to avoid.
The first is trying to find what you are looking for. This is almost always an issue for me. Usually, when we ask directions, we get a prompt answer to an aisle, but often the employee leads me to the product I am looking for. Often, they point out a competing product where they have a personal experience.
The second is trying to find someone to help you. That also includes someone who can handle 90% of the answers. In competing stores that rarely happens on the first try.
Creative marketing solutions … be prepared
One lesson that you might not expect to find, however, is how proactive Lowes employees are in planning for mistakes and accidents. Since complaining customers are unavoidable in totality, Lowes always focuses on being prepared and ‘planning.’ One of my favorite examples is their practice of “resetting a customer’s internal clock” when the service is taking too long in delivering orders.
Perform the unexpected
Here is a great example of doing the unexpected. In this case well beyond what was anticipated.
My wife and I have several large windows in our master bedroom that have bedrooms that have nice blinds for wIndow treatments. The blind on the largest window had an adapter that broke, thereby not allowing the blind to be opened or shut.
Mind you, the blind sells for probably $100-200, but the repair part would cost less than a dollar. The only problem was not being able to purchase the repair part from either Home Depot or their supplier. In other words, to keep my other blinds in the room, I would have to pay for a new blind for the largest window.
Once the sales clerk told us this, she also mentioned she had saved one of those parts we needed to repair the blind, and promptly gave it to us. Very nice gesture on her part, as she didn’t have to tell us, she had it.
The bottom line
Wow, talk about unexpected service. Have you ever received an unexpected service from a business that you would share? Do you have any comments or questions to add below?
So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is there is no conclusion. There is only the next step. And that next step is completely up to you. But believe in the effectiveness of word of mouth marketing created by remarkable customer service. And put it to good use.
It’s up to you to keep improving your creative marketing strategies. Lessons are all around you. In this case, your competitor may be providing the ideas and or inspiration. But the key is in knowing that it is within you already.
All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new lessons.
When things go wrong, what’s most important is your next step.
Try. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Are you devoting enough energy improving your marketing, branding, and advertising?
Do you have a lesson about making your marketing strategy better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?
Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change. We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.
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