Would Prada be Prada if everyone owned some Prada? Well, not only would everyone be wearing funny clothes, but the brand would not have the same panache. Prada avoids brand devaluation by erecting a red velvet rope around their brand. They only sell expensive clothing to people who want to look like characters from Sex and the City.
In Book Yourself Solid, Michael Port advises using a red velvet rope policy that “allows in only the most ideal clients, the ones who energize and inspire you.” There is another reason to be selective about your customer base: brand value.
Over time, businesses tend to work with an ever-expanding universe of customers. The theory being the larger your customer base, the more money you can make. The casualty of this practice is a devalued brand. The red velvet rope policy says that you will treat your business with selectivity. You only unhook the rope for those customers whom you deem to be “more attractive.” A tighter, more restrictive customer base produces greater brand value.
How Your Brand is Defined
In the early stages of your business you define your brand through your mission, your vision and your brand promise. You then articulate your brand through a signature, or tagline. However, after being in business for a while, other dynamics are put into play: how you promote, what you sell, and to whom you sell. Yes, your customer base is part of your brand definition. Customers can enhance or jeopardize your brand value.
Picture in your minds eye, all of your customers. Pretend they are a big group of people gathered together in your parking lot. What do they look like? Are they just a big mass of seemingly unrelated personalities and lifestyles? If so, chances are your brand is undefined and nebulous.
Choose Your Customers
Most businesses could use some customer pruning. Don’t let so many people behind the rope. But you don’t have to tell customers to “stay away.” To begin with you need to map out an ideal customer persona. Keep in mind I’m not suggesting you work with fewer customers. I’m suggesting working with fewer customer types.
Who is it you best work with? You know, your dream customers. Write a list of people, qualities and characteristics. This is easy if you are professional services company and only work with 20 or so people. If you serve hundreds, or thousands of customers, sketch a composite description of your ideal customer. Once you complete this task, you can begin pruning customers by pruning products and services that don’t fit your ideal customer persona. Life will get easier.
Choosing to serve a select customer base strengthens the value of your brand. Such a policy will also focus your marketing efforts. The increased focus will allow you to narrow your promotional efforts with increased effectiveness. Who knows, you may find you can actually reduce your marketing budget simply by erecting a red velvet rope around your business.
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