The economists are still telling us how bad the U.S. economy is, but don't say anything about the bad economy to your local Wal-Mart greeter.

His or her employer just witnessed revenues grow by 12 percent in 2002, to $246.5 billion. He or she will probably proudly let you know that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was just ranked number one—again—by Fortune magazine, leading the top 500 corporations for a second year in a row.

How do they do it?

Sam Walton's 1992 book Made In America has all the details, but let me sum up: Wal-Mart knows relationship marketing. Rule No. 8 of "Sam's Rules for Building A Business" holds the secret to this winning formula of success. He says, "Let them (your customer) know you appreciate them."

So what has Wal-Mart done to show that they appreciate their customers? They use one-to-one relationship marketing tactics, executed by the famous Wal-Mart greeter.

The Wal-Mart greeting was the original method used by the giant retailer to show customers that they are appreciated. A greeter at the door thanks customers for coming in, assists with a shopping cart, and provides a "goodbye thank you" upon departing the store. The friendly senior citizen dressed in the blue vest conveys warmth and personality to every guest entering or exiting a Wal-Mart store.

So why don't others adopt this simple marketing tactic?

Some do. Meijer retail stores also use greeters; many restaurants, hotels and other businesses do the same. But most don't—because relationship marketing is not as simple as it seems. It takes a type of commitment different than traditional marketing.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Edge serves as Vice President of Rumba Direct Inc. (www.rumbadirect.com) a top 100 direct marketing agency. Doug has served as a member of the adjunct faculty at Ball State University.