Hub and Spoke Marketing: A Customer Marketing Strategy for the Rest of You

My bias, and therefor my approach to marketing, is that customers, and especially best customers, are more important than prospects. Delight your customers and they will stay with you longer, buy more from you, buy without being bribed, cost you less to service, and bring in prospects just like them.

iStock_000007486064XSmallDon’t delight them and you have no choice but to focus on prospects to keep refilling the leaky bucket.

The implication for businesses of all sizes, is that marketing effort should be focused on sustaining and building the business you already have with current customers.

Prospects are important, but customers rule.

So what is Hub and Spoke Marketing and is it a way to do this?

The Hub

With Hub and Spoke Marketing your website becomes the hub around which all the other marketing activities, the spokes, rotate.

If you own a retail store you might think that the store is the hub. This was true in earlier times, but now that consumers are doing so much research online, from a marketer’s point of view, the store is a spoke. And as nice as it is, obviously sales are very important, your store delivers functional benefits to your customers, which creates mutual value, but your store doesn’t add value. What your store is selling, and your customers are buying, is probably not that different from what they can find elsewhere.

The website is where even the smallest business can create incremental value, value that goes beyond functional benefits, for the customers who care and who matter most, your best customers.

Why is this important?

Your best customers are only a small percentage of all your customers, but they are a large percentage of your sales, and they’re especially important to your profit. Creating value beyond function benefits is how even the smallest business can generate loyalty and competitive insulation among its best customers.

The Spokes

With an apology to George, when it comes to the Hub and Spoke strategy,

All spokes are created equal, but some spokes are more equal than others.

Spokes are the activities, the channels, the tactics you use to connect with your customers and prospects, and that they use to connect with your business.

Advertising is a spoke. So is Social Media. Email.

Each spoke works, with varying degrees of efficiency and accuracy, to connect with customers and prospects, and to generate sales. This is great, after all the best way to build your brand is to have customers try your product, but the Hub and Spoke strategy goes further. Where it makes sense, you want to draw your best customers into the website, where they can gain even more value from your business, value that goes beyond functional benefits. The spokes should provide a conduit through which you can both generate sales, and attract your best customers to the hub, where you can deliver additional value.

Take your enewsletter for example. The best email newsletters are not sales flyers in electronic form. If you are true to the Hub and Spoke Strategy, they describe, inform, entertain, reveal, and uncover new information and insights about your products and services, they provide value that interest your best customers, and attracts them back to the hub, your website, where you can create even more value, further insulating these high value customers from the competition.

The essence of strategy is sacrifice — David Ogilvy

When thought about this way you will quickly see that not all spokes are equal when it comes to the Hub and Spoke strategy. Some are better than others at connecting with your customers, at generating the two-way interaction that the Hub and Spoke strategy depends on. And some are better at connecting with prospects, which is a good thing, “There’s no business, like new business,” and prospects will also go to the website, they go for confirmation, for additional information, perhaps to buy something, after which they.

Advertising is an efficient way to get a simple message to lots of people, it’s an efficient prospecting spoke. Why prospecting? Because advertising is a unidirectional medium, and it’s not very accurate, which is why it’s better suited to prospect marketing, suggesting that while the website is important to prospects, it’s most effective when used as the center of customer marketing.

Use the home page to appeal to customers, use advertising to send prospects to campaign specific landing pages.

iStock_000007447917XSmallWhat spoke should I be using for effective Hub and Spoke marketing?

Channels like Social media and email aren’t very efficient at delivering a simple message to lots of people, they aren’t great for prospect marketing, but they are very efficient at establishing and sustaining complex, value-rich connections with your best customers. Not everyone. Everyone doesn’t want to have a relationship with your store, brand, product, service, etc., but your best customers do, or at least they are willing to give it a shot.

Design your website to make this happen, to make it easy for your best customers to connect with your business. They are heavy category users because they have a strong need for what your category provides, what you sell is important to them, show them that they are important to you. Use mass marketing to attract prospects, use micro marketing spokes like Social Media to draw best customers into the hub, into your website, where you can create additional value for them. It will matter to them, and what matters to them, matters to you.