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Channel Matters Blog > April 2015 > You Can't "Channel" Customers

You Can't "Channel" Customers

by Rich Blakeman
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fairness.jpgThere's a well-known story about a lady that called into a Fargo radio show to suggest the city move its deer-crossing signs because it was too dangerous for the deer to cross in such high-traffic areas. My friends in Fargo tell me the caller was just a hoax. (And they also claim they aren't like the movie, either!)
 
There's a well-known story about a lady that called into a Fargo radio show to suggest the city move its deer-crossing signs because it was too dangerous for the deer to cross in such high-traffic areas. My friends in Fargo tell me the caller was just a hoax. (And they also claim they aren't like the movie, either!) As funny as the story is, it illustrates a mindset that isn't uncommon in today's channel organizations. In their "customer management strategy," many business leaders set revenue goals for various channels — as though they can decide how the customer is going to buy. In reality, they can't dictate customer behavior any more than the city of Fargo, ND can decide where the deer are going to cross the road.

Customers (and wildlife) do things for their own reasons. Deer crossing signs are erected at one spot on the highway instead of another because the wildlife service has studied the deer, and they know their habits. They also know how changes to their habitat, such as a field being planted in soybeans instead of corn, a new housing development, or a windbreak being cut down, will change their patterns. Different deer populations even exhibit different patterns.

Quick aside: A windbreak for those of you who have never been to farming country is a row of trees planted at the edge of a field to break the wind and lower soil erosion. There's a lot of wind in Fargo. It's one of the things I remember the most from my days covering that area as a sales rep for IBM. I also remember driving very carefully at dawn or dusk because deer, like customers, don't always take the path you expect them to. The best you can do is try to develop a holistic understanding of your customer to determine why they do what they do so you can adapt your strategies to better meet their needs. You need to study why they made the decisions they did and where the market trends are headed.

At the end of the day, customers will do what they do. It's up to you to fathom their reasons and adapt. In the long run, you'll have more success if, instead of trying to force your customers through a specific channel, you figure out where they're headed and make sure you're ready.
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