All Customers Are Polygamists and How Direct Marketers Can Understand Them
TM: What makes me laugh is it's the first time in a long time that I've heard 'inertia' used in a positive way.
PF: Yeah, and that's a great point. And we should be celebrating inertia. Most of what keeps our customers around isn't necessarily loyalty. It's not that they love us. It's just that they're too lazy to raise their hand and leave. And you think about how many people despise their cable company or their mobile phone provider. Yet even when contracts end … they stick around.
… Inertia is a wonderful thing and I believe, in fact, that it's a stronger force than true loyalty. Yet marketers don't like to acknowledge that. They like to think that they're doing things to make the customers loyal; to enhance the bonds and create more engagement and using all of these nonsense words, when, for the most part, it's just plain and simple inertia.
TM: Well, then how do you enforce inertia?
PF: You can't. And this is another heretical thing. And I'm overstating things a little bit to try to make a point—but not by much. So when we go out there and we go fishing for new customers, we throw our nets out there. We catch a variety of different fish. And, again, some are flighty, some are inertial. And the best we can do is hope that we get a pretty good mix of inertial ones. And, yeah, we could try to do things to try to make them more loyal. We could try to do a little bit of cross-selling, a little bit of upselling. We could try to get them to use our products a little bit more frequently; a lot of the standard kinds of customer-development tactics that companies like to use.
You've got to try those things. But the impact of those things is pretty marginal. And, in the end, what drives our success is just how good we were at throwing out those nets in the first place. The quality of the mix of fish that we caught in the first place. And, again, the quality is described as, 'How many inertial ones did we happen to catch?' And so we're better off thinking more about where to throw the nets next time we want to catch a bunch of new customers, as opposed to what we should do with them once we have them. So I believe that acquisition strategies will move the needle more than so-called retention strategies.