Designer and retail entrepreneur Vera Wang is energized by her ability and dedication to setting the stage. “I want people to see the dress,” she once said, “but focus on the woman.”

Recently, I stopped in at a Vera Wang store. It was having a sale, and I was having a down day. On the spur of the moment, I wanted to pick up a gift. The salesperson was obviously competent. She could have seized the moment and maneuvered me from the off-price items to a full-ticket selection and enriched her commission handsomely.

Instead, she sensed and aligned with my mood. In the end, she recommended a dress on sale. That decision wasn’t to her benefit. This sort of empathetic relationship is what makes local one-on-one contact powerful. It’s the foundation for authentic personalization and customization. And, it’s the true test of entrepreneurs if they can empower their staffs to radiate the same enthusiasm for customers that most business founders have.

Successful entrepreneurs, I firmly believe, have a calling. In recent decades, most business advice to company pioneers has been aimed at making entrepreneurship more efficient. Following that counsel can be costly:

Machine-shop efficiency saps the life out of entrepreneurship . . . which is fundamentally motivated toward delivering excellent experiences to the customer.

Customers want satisfying experiences above all, and they are wise to “efficiencies” that compromise what they get. So often, they are just rationalizations to streamline what a business offers at the customer’s expense.

Don’t focus on being smart of impressive. The history of modern marketing is a single-minded dedication to overwhelming the consumer one way or another.

Seduction has been the watchword, whether through incredible features or gigantic displays of product or exotic promises. . . . Recognizing these gimmicks have lost sway, so many marketers – fundamentally old-style thinkers – are scrambling for new seduction gambits. In my opinion, the seduction racket is finished. The hunger for transparency is too strong.

Survival marketers – those thinking just a step ahead – shoulder the responsibility of trying to help customers get through the challenges of the moment. This new marketing generation listens empathetically – without guarantee of gain. But, if you still need the encouragement of hard-dollar motivation: Our hands-on client contact validates this proposition time and again: Customer service relationships are the #1 brand builders . . . bar none.