American business is dysfunctional. Companies of all sizes follow the mistaken belief that their products and services are best sold through mega-customers with pervasive market reach, such as Amazon and Walmart. Far too many business leaders fail to realize-until it is too late-that the relentless pursuit of volume at all cost is not the key to long-term profits and success.
The Customer Trap: How to Avoid the Biggest Mistake in Business is Thomas and Wilkinson's sequel to The Distribution Trap: Keeping Your Innovations from Becoming Commodities, which won the Berry-American Marketing Association Prize for the best marketing book of 2010. The Distribution Trap contended that cracking the big-box channel is not necessarily the Holy Grail that many marketers assume it is. The Customer Trap takes this thesis to the next level by arguing that all companies, regardless of the industry there are in, should maintain control over their sales and distribution channels. Volume forgone by avoiding the mass market is more than offset by higher margins and stronger brand equity.
The Customer Trap shows that giving power to a customer who violates "the ten percent rule" sets a company up for ruin. Yet, when presented with the opportunity to push more sales through large customers, most decision-makers jump at the chance. As a result, marketing has come to resemble a relentless quest for efficiency and scale. Demands from mega-customers in the form of discounts, deals, and incentives erode the integrity of the brand and what it originally stood for. Lower margins become the norm and cost-saving compromises on quality take over. In time, the brand suffers and, in some cases, fails outright. Stark examples from Oreck Vacuum Cleaners, Rubbermaid, Goodyear, Levi's, and others illustrate the perils of falling into the "customer trap."
This book demonstrates in vivid detail how to thrive by controlling your sales and distribution. The authors show how many firms, such as STIHL Inc., etailz, Apple, Red Ant Pants, and Columbia Paints & Coatings, have prospered by avoiding the "customer trap"-and how your company can have similar success.
Andrew R. Thomas, Ph.D. is a bestselling business author, whose books include Aviation Insecurity: The New Challenges of Air Travel, Air Rage: Crisis in the Skies, Aviation Security Management (three volumes), and The Final Journey of the Saturn V. His book The Distribution Trap was awarded the Berry-American Marketing Association Prize for the Best Book of 2010. He is founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Transportation Security, contributing editor at Industry Week, and associate professor of international business at the University of Akron, Ohio. He has been interviewed by more than 1,000 media outlets and is a regularly featured analyst for CNBC, FOX News, and BBC. A million-mile flier, he has traveled to and conducted business in more than 120 countries on all seven continents.
Chapter 1. The Biggest Business Mistake Chapter 2. The Customer Trap and Brand Destruction Chapter 3. Turning Your Innovations into Commodities Chapter 4. When Sales Channels Get Hijacked Chapter 5. Living the Outsourcing CompulsionChapter 6. The STIHL Story Chapter 7. Innovation's Second Step Chapter 8. Getting the Data and Doing Marketing Right Chapter 9. Going Global and Keeping the Faith Chapter 10. Staying Local and Independent