What a Harvard Business Review White Paper Means to Antique Sellers.

In 1 on March 14, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Harvard Business Review’s white paper “Rethinking Marketing,” which I received a day or two ago, makes it very clear that cultivating relationships is more important than building brands.

Interestingly, successful antique selling has always been about cultivating relationships.  The difference is that today, the in-store pipeline, with its index card or XLS database and follow-up phone calls, has moved out of the store and onto the social networks.

Now before you groan, take a look at the number one benefit of breaking through the four walls and going beyond your website to cultivate customers: DATA.

When you properly use Web 2.0 tools to engage prospects and build a community, you can continually add data.  With enough data – which is one of the things the Internet delivers better than any other media – you could predict what your customers will buy next.

If you think I’m over-the-top on  this issue, take a look at the credit card companies and that have  built empires on anticipating customers needs and honing their offerings at the individual level.

American Express, for instance, monitors customers behavior and offers products tailored to spending habits, desires, vacation profile and so much more.

Tesco, the UK retailer, tailors merchandise to local tastes. (Not unlike the intuitive approach of regional dealers but done on a national scale.)

Insurance and financial services companies are adept at tailoring products to customers’ life events.

These companies couldn’t achieve these goals without data.

Granted, they have had product managers modeling and re-modeling data for years now. And, clearly, you are not a statistician, so won’t be doing any modeling –  but now you do have the resources to collect data you can read. And this will lead to a new level of client cultivation.

Your website traffic reports are specialized, only tracking the effectiveness of your site .  You  know from your own sales what people in different regions are buying. But you can only go back to your own customers so many times, right?

You’ll  cultivate a new group of buyers, and repeat buyers, when you reach out with the tools available on Web 2.0.  Yes, part of this is a strataegic marketing  plan. As I’ve said in the past and reiterate here:  You Sell Antiques. We Sell You.

But there’s more.

Beyond this, I advise looking into one of the new sites for antique dealers that go beyond the traditional static sales sites.  The static sites are siimply not going to give you enough data because they are not set up to. Plus, they’re now so overcrowded with competing dealers that you’re lucky to be seen at all.

Try out the new concept in social sales sites. I’m talking about a place that gives you space to post your goods, label them descriptively, and receive and reply to comments from browsers.  The site I have in mind is

If the folks are spot-on, they’ll drive enough traffic so that you can get the ball rolling on a new group of interested buyers. With this data, you can then expand your customer cultivation efforts.

Web 2.0 cultivation works much as in-store customer cultivation did before the Internet. Difference now is that you need to spend about an hour a day working the web. (With walk-in traffic as down as I’ve heard it to be, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find the time.)

Get in there and post some comments. You have the opportunity on every of your antque’s postngs to add info as it comes to you, without changing your descriptions.

Comments from you make you more accessible. They encourage the community to talk back to you. Just like you’ve been in your shop and at shows.

Eventually, as the site grows organically and you post more goods and comments, you’ll find that you’re collecting data.  Maybe someday soon, you’ll have enough to rethink the way you purchase inventory to better  meet consumer demands.

Embrace the new way of doing something you’ve been doing all along – cultivating customer relationships – and you will uncover one of the Internet’s most profound benefits: Data. Make that, DATA YOU CAN USE.


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