Competition Customer service Employees Management Marketing Montana Retail Starbucks

Business owners can’t get a hit unless they swing the bat.

A few weeks ago, I decided to celebrate winning a Glazer-Kennedy (GKIC) contest by having a contest of my own.

To enter, you needed to send me the best testimonial you have. It could be about you, about me, or anyone else.

The best testimonial would do what we talk about here when discussing what makes a great testimonial. It might address a sales objection, such as price, unfamiliarity with the vendor/product, common reasons not to buy, etc. It would mention a specific vendor, or product. It would be specific about results.

Joel’s testimonial did all those things.

Yeah, it was about me, but that really isn’t the point. The point is that he pressed the right buttons when he wrote it.

He addressed sales objections. He mentioned his results in reasonably specific terms. He brought up what the “other guys” do, noted their less than desirable actions / results, and then used a form of takeaway selling before launching into the meat of the testimonial.

Now, the prize.

First off, a copy of Dick Benson’s direct mail book. A classic text on direct mail, with strategies usable in many other media. I suspect Joel knows why I chose to give this particular book to him, but I can’t mention it here.

Second, since I happened to be in Billings (where Joel’s shop is), I secret shopped 2 of his competitors.

One of them is a Montana brand that any coffee joint in MT has to compare themselves to if they want to be successful. Sort of the “Montana Starbucks”, yet with usually better service and definitely better coffee, even if it isn’t as good as Rock Creek’s. It was a little bit of an off-day for this shop. I walked in with a large restaurant coke cup in one hand (trying to provoke a little attention) and my laptop in the other, sat down and parked myself at a table for 2 hours. Never greeted. Never approached to see if I needed anything. This is mid-afternoon (1p-3p) on a Thursday afternoon. Otherwise, nothing out of the ordinary for this shop.

The other is a shop around the corner and down a block from Joel’s. A markedly worse encounter.  Dirty floor, with leaves scattered about. The booth smelled faintly of urine, of all things. Flies, bees and spider webs were around the booth I chose, which was right next to the front door. 90 minutes was all I could stand. No one ever approached me, with the exception of one older guy who was on flyswatter duty. He walked up to me and said “flies must think this place is safe” and smacked a fly on my table. He then left the smudge on the table, brushed the carcass onto the bench and walked off. He never returned with sanitizer, bleach or whatever. Just went about his fly-killing duty.  I could mention several other smaller issues but this one was enough for me.

Ian sometimes talks about store owners who complain that people don’t shop at their religious stores and how the reasons are often obvious, describing dark, dank places right out of merchandising and retail purgatory.

If there’s a purgatory for coffee shops, this place around the corner from Joel’s is well on the way.

But that’s the end of the good news. When we talked, I could tell that Joel knew the other shoe would drop. It had to. While searching for competitors to secret shop,  it became obvious that some downtown people who wanted really good coffee were going to have to have trouble getting it.

So we talked for a good while about that. I suggested that they take a swing at solving it, because you can’t get a hit unless you swing the bat.