While traveling earlier this year, I came across an article in an in-flight magazine, MyMidwest, about the 100th anniversary of Hallmark Cards, Inc. The article was a brief interview with Hallmark's CEO, Donald J. Hall, Jr., sharing a few sentiments about how his company has remained an industry leader all these years. He talked about the crucial keys to their success, the most important business lessons he has learned since becoming CEO in 2002, and about some of the social trends impacting his business.
What really resonated with me though, having just attended an advisory council meeting, was his closing comment, that "for Hallmark, it's less about trends, and more about listening to our customers, being open to what they say and able to look beyond their words to understand the needs underlying their comments. There's no better way to stay ahead of what people expect than to talk to them." So true, so true!
We hear all the time about the benefits of talking with customers, but all too often it goes in one ear and out the other. Listen up though... right here is living proof!
For 100 years, despite war, economic hardship, and massive changes in technology, Hallmark remains an industry leader and shows no sign of slowing down. They survived an industry that, not long ago, was nearly pronounced dead. E-cards were to become the new norm. We were all going to be printing cards from our home computers, and running to the store for a birthday or anniversary card was going to become a thing of the past. These previously identified trends have not happened. In fact, according to Hall, 6 billion cards per year are still being sent in the U.S. alone! And more than half of them have the Hallmark crown on the back.
Hallmark has lifelong customers. They are emotionally loyal. They are the kind of customers we all strive for. My mother-in-law, Jane, is one of them. She is as loyal as they come. She is a member of Hallmark's Gold Crown Club. She sends only Hallmark Christmas cards. One of her Christmas trees has nothing but Hallmark ornaments, and for every special occasion, her loved ones, me included, receive Hallmark cards because she "cares enough to send the very best!"
Don't we all want customers as loyal as Jane? Of course we do. So start listening to your customers! Be open to what they have to say. Look beyond their words to understand their needs. Respond to their needs and do it better than anyone else! Like Hallmark, your customers will become emotionally loyal. They will be customers for life and you will soon be celebrating another anniversary!