Like many college students, one of Trendlines' founding partners, Steve Rhodes, made extra money waiting on tables. His first introduction to the world of waiting tables was a harsh one — a "tips only" system. Steve quickly learned that you do a great job, or you go home empty handed.

But just what has waiting tables got to do with good marketing? Lots, according to Steve. Earning your livelihood from tips teaches you to market, sell and give good service. Here's what good waiters know and marketers should focus on:

Nice to See You Again, Mr. Jones

Do you know what your customers want? Have you established a one-to-one relationship with them which enables you to understand what your customers want and tailor your services accordingly? Could you identify them as being "burgers and chips" or "filet mignon" customers? Are they budget-conscious "just marrieds" who usually opt for the special because it's a better value? Or are they aging baby-boomers who can afford steak and all the trimmings. Determining your customers' likes, dislikes, preferences and needs is key in satisfying your customer. In the 1:1 future envisaged by Martha Rogers and Don Peppers, it's not what you know about all your customers that's important, but how much you know about each of your customers that will count.

And What Would You Like for Dessert?

Fast-food restaurateurs have one purpose in mind: to sell as many burgers, pizzas, fries as they can to as many people as possible. That's traditional mass marketing at its best. One-to-one marketers, however, are trying to sell a single customer as many products as possible, over a long period of time and across different product lines. Picture yourself as a fine French restaurant with a select target clientele. In order to cultivate a long-term relationship with your customer, you have to understand her needs, and offer her similar products or services that you believe she would enjoy, based on the information you've gathered during the course of the relationship. Cross-sell: offer her the other products and services on your "menu" that you believe she would enjoy. "More wine?"

Waiter, There's a Fly in My Soup!

Quite often, the only time you hear from your customer is when he is unhappy. This represents an ideal opportunity for you to turn a negative into a positive by actively listening to his complaint and resolving it as best you can. We've all heard the statistics about how unhappy customers on average tell nine other people about their bad experience. Fourteen percent of brand switchers leave their brand because of complaints that aren't handled satisfactorily. It pays for you to do everything you can to resolve your customers' complaints quickly, efficiently and to their full satisfaction. "Sorry for the long wait. Please enjoy this glass of champagne on the house."

Was that Two Burgers and Three Fries, or Three Burgers and Two Fries?

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