As the world becomes more of a giant supermarket (propelled forward by the likes of Costco and the Internet), privileged treatment will become more and more rare. Most businesses, having for the first time access to the larger markets, will appeal to the least common denominator by lowering prices and reducing services. This is great for creating new customers — but for every 10 new customers, one will spend as much or more than the other nine put together.

Unless you are committed to finding that VIP customer and providing him with something that he wants (which, fundamentally, is some version of prestige and pampering), you will never enjoy the profits you should. If your core business fails, your best customers will keep you going for months or years.

Sometimes, you can transform your business to service only them and make a wonderful living doing so. Think of what a VIP customer is and what it takes to keep him. Think of his long-term value once you have figured out how to motivate him to spend five to 10 times what others will pay for essentially the same product or service. Think about the very small cost of reselling him as compared to the cost of acquiring a new customer. When you sell a VIP service, you are selling prestige. The moment you forget that — the moment you withhold the perks of prestige — you are lost.

Ask yourself these questions:

* “When was the last time I told my best customers that I appreciate their business?”

* “Do my best customers always get priority? Do they know that?”

* “Do I give them symbols of their status?”

* “Do I thank them?”

* “Do I know them well enough to understand their desires?”

* “When was the last time I gave them an opportunity to spend more money? And did that upgrade come with the requisite psychological rewards?”