Care About Customers, But Don’t Give Away the Store

In the business world, often you hear tired mantras like "the customer is always right" or that you need to "love" your customers with attention and free stuff. When you dazzle your customers with all this fabulousness, they’ll stand in line to buy from you.

It sounds good. And I’m the first to say that I’m a big fan of love. In a perfect world, the Beatles would be right when they say, "Love is all you need." It sounds beautiful, spiritual, and enlightened.


Love doesn’t pay the rent. Or the mortgage.

Love doesn’t help when your dog is looking at you mournfully, expecting some more of that expensive prescription dog food. (The unconditional love of a canine has limits.)

Love doesn’t pay the veterinarian either.

Love doesn’t pay the company hosting that blog you have that isn’t you making any money.

Love doesn’t get your car fixed when it falls apart.

Loving your customers doesn’t mean giving away the store.

If you’re focused on loving your customers to the point that you forget they are customers, you have a problem. Love isn’t all you need. You need money too.

Real Customers Pay You

Let’s step back for a minute and look at the definition of the word "customer." The Princeton WordNet site defines a customer as "someone who pays for goods or services."

The key word there is pays.

No matter how much love you bestow, if no one pays you, you have no customers. And if you aren’t making money, you don’t have a business, you have a (possibly expensive) hobby.

For years, in online marketing, the accepted wisdom has been to give away free stuff to get new customers. Do a newsletter! Connect with your customers! When they’re ready to buy, they’ll remember you.

Except when they don’t.

It’s all too easy to create a large list of people who just want free information. Let’s face it, most people are happy to take free stuff as long as you’re willing to give it away.

I did weekly newsletters for years, slaving away to market consistently, just like you’re supposed to do. When I had the temerity to offer the people on my list a product, they were non-responsive (to put it nicely).

I offer book layout and design services and you’d think that my long-time newsletter subscribers would remember that fact when it’s time to publish a book. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

A person who was a subscriber to my newsletter for years, and by his own admission even "knew, liked, and trusted" me, did an online search to find someone else to lay out his book.

Experiences like this one made me realize that the people on my newsletter list were never going to become customers (i.e. PAY me actual cold hard cash).

I stopped sending newsletters to the list.

Freeloaders Are Not Customers

Since I stopped sending newsletters, list, my online sales, inquiries, and Web site traffic have increased.

What? "How can that be?" you may ask.

Freebie seekers are not buyers. When someone signs up to get free stuff like a newsletter or special report, they want the free stuff.

They don’t want to be pitched on other stuff because they aren’t in a buying mindset.

In contrast, when someone does a search online, they are looking to solve a problem. That’s why for years, people have purchased products after reading articles on this Web site. Each article answers a question; the product gives an easier/faster/more complete solution.

We all have only so much time to market. Doing a weekly newsletter took a lot of my time and led to almost no return. Yes, I still provide free content, but now customers come to me.

Solve Customer Problems

When people have a problem, they are willing to spend money to make that problem go away. So when they find you, they are more likely to say "yes" to spending money.

Instead of focusing a lot of energy in providing a free newsletter full of fantastic information, focus on solving your customer’s problems. Your customers are not freeloaders. They are people who have opened up their wallets and purchased something from you. 

If you look, you also may notice that yes, this site offers a freebie. But it’s not something that requires weekly maintenance like a newsletter. Every email that goes out links to an article that includes ads for products that can help solve their problems.

Caring about your customers is important, but don’t lose sight of the fact that not all of the people who connect with you or act like "fans" are actually customers. When it comes to business, the Beatles were wrong, love is not all you need.

About Susan Daffron

Susan Daffron is the author the Alpine Grove Romantic Comedies and multiple award-winning nonfiction books, including several about pets and animal rescue. Check out all her books on her Amazon Author page.