Hamilton and Walmart – Back on the rails

Sorry folks, been inundated with business this month and unfortunately, the blog has suffered as a result. I’m back in the saddle, so lets get back at helping Hamilton get it together before opening day.

Not long ago, I added a step or 2 to the Hamilton retailers vs Walmart preparation effort. Lets get this down to a cookbook so anyone can follow it – including me:)

Ingredients:

  • Your roughed-out USP
  • 1 large pile of index cards
  • Something to write with.

So far, we’ve talked about your USP, then we covered a few ways to get started figuring out what your USP is. Don’t feel bad if you havent gotten this nailed down yet. The next couple of steps will help you fine tune it.

As I noted in the original list, lets walk around your store. Think hard about everything you carry and why. Write em down. Dont pretend you can memorize everything, WRITE IT DOWN. We used this trick in the USP workshop, so lets use it again here. 1 product or service per index card (no, I don’t have stock in the index card industry). If you’re really stubborn, you can use a yellow pad, but I think you’ll regret it eventually.
We’re doing this for a number of reasons. We need a list and we need it on a media that allows for brainstorming (the cards). Each card can become your little niche market analysis, ready to study after you get back from the Missoula WalMart SuperCenter research trip.

Drive to Missoula and visit the SuperCenter there. It might even be worth visiting both stores. DONT take the yellow pad or index cards into the store. Find the products in the SuperCenter that Bentonville is going to give you a pounding on. Hint: TheyĆ¢??re the ones with the retail price tags less than your wholesale cost, for starters. Make a mental note (mental notes keep you from getting booted out of the store for taking product notes). If you have to go back and forth to the car 20 times to update your notes, do it and get over it. Youll never remember all the details.

Drive back to Hamilton. Use the time to think about the products that you offer that compete directly with them. And be proud of yourself for not letting Walmart happen to you, but instead taking control of the situation. Im not kidding.

Sit down and go over each card. Toss your emotion out the door. I’m sorry, I don’t think too many people are going to care if your family has sold light bulbs for the last 100 years. WMT is going to toast you in that department. As you do this, keep your notes from the Miles City meetings close by. Learn from their mistakes, their successes and what is actually going on there.

That emotion thing is huge. You have got to get the mental blocks out of your head and stomp them. Your thought process has to be all business. Remember, WMT is coming in all business. They don’t care that you’ve sold light bulbs, inexpensive bikes, camping gear, beef jerky, Kudo bars, and toilet paper for 100 years. They have as much right to the market as you – this exercise is what allows you to create an apples to oranges comparison that they CANT win. Dont get me wrong. You aren’t going to put them out of business, and if you work smart – you aren’t going to let them do the same to you.

At the same time, the emotion of the customers in your line of business is critical. Price shoppers arent typically loyal customers. They shop price and little else. You want higher end, rabid customers who could easily sell the products in your store – because they are really into them.

How does this apply to Hamilton v. WalMart? Remember, just because your business has sold inexpensive bikes for 100 years doesnt mean you have to get out of the bike business. WalMart doesn’t carry $900 bikes. You can – and still do what you love doing – just a little differently (and better).

Next time, we start hammering away at the products and services cards you put together on your trip to the Missoula SuperCenter. We’re going to find your $900 bike.