Your clothing brand and your customer relationships



‘The way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected. The state of being connected by blood or marriage. The way in which two or more people or groups regard and behave towards each other.’

It would not be too laughable to draw a parallel for your brand relationships with how a human relationship between 2 people might spark into life and then go through a familiar life cycle to its conclusion.

It is a peculiar concept to attach to the success of your brand but the management of the relationship that your brand has with your audience is the key to either a long lasting love affair or the quickie behind the bike shed that has no chance of going anywhere.

There are a number of steps that both must go through and if one party cares about the other remaining in their life, some understanding, some quiet nurturing and some growth together needs to be planned and managed. Otherwise, the object of your attraction will get that itch and start looking around for alternative stimulation and you will need to start again with someone else.

In ‘marketing’ this concept falls under the brand managers remit and it requires a plan.

This is no easy task and will have its failures and successes. The complexity of managing not just one interaction and relationship is magnified tenfold, twenty fold a thousand fold as you grow and attempt to sustain the momentum and your survivability.

In order to make sense of a slightly unknown journey ahead, it is useful to look at some concepts and frameworks to attach your plan to.

You will also need to quiet the cynic in you and consider this as not just a Machiavellian strategy to get rich in a greedy capitalist paradigm but an essential mind-set to ensure the success of your business idea to keep you and your staff fed and clothed.

  • 1      Knowing the difference between transactional marketing and relationship marketing.

The old skool way to sell products, which is still in practice today with many businesses, is characterised by the push to make the sale and then to quickly move on. It is as though the objective has been met with the sale.

This is short term, involves no follow-up with the customer, has very little customer support or consideration for customer satisfaction. It is the human relationship equivalent to the quickie behind the bike shed.

Any ‘marketing’ that was undertaken to achieve the sale is all front loaded flirtation and ceases at the point of satisfaction. There is definitely no post coitus cuddling. The objective was the ‘transaction’ only, which does not look to a future where growth can be nurtured.

The alternative to the ‘quickie’ is to consider that this fling might turn into a relationship with its own journey and where there are more benefits to be extracted later down the line.

  • 2      Understanding that a relationship is a journey with an evolving objective.

A useful framework for developing a plan is the ‘ladder of loyalty’.­

Each rung on the ladder is an evolution in the relationship and each evolution can be something for which a plan and some activity must be created to improve the likelihood of success.

Prospect– You have caught the eye of your suitor, they like the look of what you have to offer. You deploy your seduction techniques, creating some allure or the promise that there is some benefit to be enjoyed from taking up your offer, you have created a desire which must be satiated, a demand which must be satisfied. Your promotional strategy is drawing them closer to you and they are about to take the leap.

Customer– They have succumbed to your charms. The transaction is conducted and phase one of the conquest is complete…..but you definitely want more of them but did they enjoy it enough to want more of you?

Client– This stage is by no means guaranteed. Unless you reach out to them, maintain some sort of connection and listen to their feedback, they might not consider that you deserve another visit. Do they even think you care? Show them that you do and they may feel positive about the initial transaction enough to hit you up again and become a regular…….a client.

Supporter– They really dig what you do, they really want more. Maybe they liked it the way you did it last time but they also like the way you say you can do it next time and they want to try it that way. Can you offer something different or are you a one trick pony? Nothing wrong with having one trick if it is truly excellent and worth revisiting.

Advocate– You are really doing well and they can’t keep you a secret. Whether they are whispering your name to a close confidant or shouting it from the tree tops, this does a lot of good for your brand equity and you start getting admiring glances from other prospects. Your new advocate is super open minded and doesn’t mind sharing you and letting others enjoy the experience.

Each rung requires you to conduct some planned activity, some strategy to manage the outcome. Once you move past the transnational phase and you are attempting to move the customer to client, you need to think about reconnecting and that requires staying in touch.

The new digital world where everything is track-able makes this activity more possible than ever.

Most purchases are now made online where the purchaser is required to register an account and provide you with their contact info.

If you don’t have a strategy to reconnect with your customer after that first sale then you decrease the likely hood that they will make a repeat visit.

If you have just sold your first custom t shirt to your first customer, make sure they get an email a few days later asking for feedback. Plan a further follow-up email with a ‘did you know we also do hoodies’ message. If no repeat purchase has been made within a few months have your system program a discount email to be sent out or a newsletter or just any gentle little reminder that you still exist.

Don’t forget that you want your client to move up through the ladder to become an advocate.

This is where you can tap into their social media space and encourage them to post about you. Amazon tries to do this by providing you with the ‘I just bought this on Amazon’ click every time you make a purchase.

This is a difficult thing for them to pull off because there is little benefit to the purchaser if they have just bought a toilet plunger but consider what your brand can offer the purchaser with this same mechanism that Amazon is using.

Is there an opportunity for them to post in their social media about their purchase as a form of ‘virtue signalling’?

Does your brand offer a feel good factor as an added benefit that can be boastful? Does it make a contribution to the environment or to society.

If your brand has a social conscience and this is a part of your products intrinsic value then this becomes something worth showing off about. ” I just bought a T-shirt from XYZ and I am helping to remove plastic from the ocean” is a virtue worth signalling about

  • 3     Having a product portfolio that updates and refreshes.

Planned obsolescence is a terminology usually linked to tech products such as phones and laptops but you need to get on board and understand that it is a repackaged term that fashion designers have played with for decades, and that is the requirement to plan for the next season.

You should expect your sales to slow down also as your audience purchases your initial offering and you saturate your interested market and you need to plan for a product range that these initial purchasers can be subsequently interested in.

Your original products may still sell to the late comers and the laggards with sales that may hum along quietly while there is fresh uptake with your newer designs from existing customers. You will not be able to predict precisely how your sales will go for each of your products but eventually you will see slow-downs and then you decide whether these get deleted or they hang around until they cease to become worth the stock replenishment.

Why is it important to keep refreshing?

Because nothing stands still and every relationship requires some updates.

Because you don’t want to sell one product to one customer, you want to sell two or three or four.

Because standing still is the death of any clothing brand.

Because your girlfriend of 10 yrs fancies you again when you get that new haircut and come home with a tan and muscles.

If you need some relationship counselling, our expert staff at Shirtworks can provide you with a snugly shoulder and the wisest of words.

Author: Arron Harnden

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