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How to make it easy for customers to fall in love


Creative Commons License photo credit: MahPadilha

Back in March, I wrote about a lamp shopping experience I had in a local store.

Today, this story in VentureBeat (reminds me of TigerBeat…) and Forbes caught my eye.

It’s about the preferred angle of the MacBook screen on store displays in the Apple Store.

The lamp and the MacBook stories… are about the same topic. Love.

I’ll ask again… Are you paying attention to the things that make it easy for people to fall in love with what you sell?

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Automation Box stores Business model Buy Local Competition customer retention Marketing Productivity Retail Small Business strategic planning Strategy Technology The Slight Edge

Rid-X figured out subscriptions. When will you?

Finally.

A mainstream, old school consumer product company figured out how to make it easy for customers to use their product at the recommended interval and do so with as little labor/friction as possible.

Rather than rolling their own, they used Amazon’s infrastructure to deal with payments, shipping and subscription management.

From Amazon.com:

Amazon Subscribe & Save allows you to subscribe for RID-X to be delivered straight to your door every month. When you sign up for RID-X through the Amazon Subscribe & Save service, you receive 15 percent off and free shipping every month. While you can subscribe to any RID-X product, it is recommended you choose either RID-X 1-Dose Powder or RID-X 1-Dose Liquid so you stay on top of your septic system maintenance. You can cancel your subscription through Amazon.com at any time.

RID-X has *television ads* that send people to that Amazon page. Serious money is being spent, this isn’t just a whim.

I’ve ridden you hard about this sort of thing in the past. If a septic tank additive manufacturer can do it, surely you can too.

Of course, you can buy other items of this nature at Amazon.com, Wal-Mart.com etc. Even toothpaste can be purchased by subscription.

What it isn’t and what it is

This isn’t about selling people stuff they don’t need or more than they need.

It’s about making it as easy as possible for the customer (with a by-product of making it easy for you) while putting a fence around your customers.

If your RID-X or your Crest 3D automatically shows up at home at just the right interval and ships free, why would you spend time and fuel making a special trip to pick up those things?

Yes, I realize you might pick them up when you’re already at the store for other things, but that isn’t the point.

When you force your customer to buy the old-fashioned way, you take the chance *every single time* that they will be lured by a coupon or some other bright shiny object (BSO). They might be disappointed in the product or service that coupon or BSO delivers. It might even hurt that consumer or business – something you could have prevented.

I don’t have enough time

Think about the complaint that so many people have these days. “I don’t have enough time .”

Yes, it’s often an excuse. Yes, they need to prioritize what’s important. Are you helping them do that?

Part of that prioritization is doing the important things rather than going to Wally World. When someone can deliver the product you need for the same or lower price than you’d pay by getting in the car, driving there, using fuel (more money), picking up another $57 worth of Richard Simmons videos that you won’t use and so on, why go there at all?

Would your customers rather have your product magically appear at their door? Or would they prefer to drive to your store? Some portion of them would rather take their kid to the park instead of sitting in traffic.

B2B

Even if you don’t sell consumer-class goods to businesses, there are services or products they need all the time. They are as time-pressured as consumers. They’d rather be on the phone with customers, working ON their business rather than running errands, or creating their next big thing. But instead, you’re making them drive across town. Or you’re making them remember to initiate those services.

This isn’t just about commodities like RID-X, toothpaste and softener salt. Customers of CPAs, attorneys and other professionals have *predictable* recurring needs that can be sold on a subscription basis.

Yes, I realize no one else in your market sells professional services that way. So?

That infrastructure thing

If you make things that have to be shipped, it might not be workable for you (for whatever reason) to ship pallets of your stuff to Amazon’s warehouses. Maybe you don’t meet their minimums. Or maybe you make things that aren’t shipped at all.

Even so, you might have a subscription-capable thing to sell. If you do, there are automated subscription-driven solutions out there that don’t require you to build it yourself. The right one will allow you to serve those customers in a way that fits you both.

 

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Box stores Business culture Buy Local Competition Customer service Getting new customers Improvement Marketing Positioning Retail Small Business The Slight Edge

What’s the first thing you do when deciding which lamp to buy?

What’s wrong with this picture?

What’s the first thing you do when deciding which lamp to buy?

YOU TURN THEM ON.

None of the lamps are on in the photo above – because none of them have power. A quick glance at the shelf left the impression that no power was available at that location, though it’s possible that a breaker was blown or a power strip turned off.

The reason for the lack of power really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you can’t turn them on.

Would you buy a lamp that you could not turn on? Maybe.

But would you be more likely to buy a lamp that you COULD turn on? Probably so, and you’d also be more likely to get the lamp you really wanted or needed.

Build a picture in their mind

Look at the photo again. Lamps are scattered in every direction and they are sitting on a narrow metal shelf.

When you look at lamps on a metal shelf like this, it isn’t in the normal environment for a lamp. Result: It’s hard to visualize them on your desk. As a result, it’s more difficult to choose just the right lamp. You might just leave and buy nothing. Probably not what the store wants you to do.

What if the unboxed lamps were on a desk (maybe even two per desk if the number of desks is limited), with a computer and other items you’d normally find there.

Ideally, that desk would have a chair and you could sit down, get comfortable like you do at your desk. You could move the adjustable lamps up, down and around to decide whether a particular model would work for you.

In other words, provide a buying environment that mimics the natural habitat for a desk lamp.

Imagine how easy it would be to create this setup in a store with office furniture and different sized computer monitors…just like this one has.

The difference between your store and theirs

It’s unlikely that you’d find this “lamp on a desk” scenario in a national box store getting plan-o-grams from the corporate office, but it’s exactly what a local store could (and should) do.

Even a box store could do this if the management is trained to think like a customer and allowed to do whatever it took to make it easy to buy.

Give your customers the opportunity to see your products in a place that makes it easy for them to buy. In the case of a lamp, seeing that item in their home or office is easier with a desk.

Make it easy for your customers to make the right choice and take home the thing they really want and need.

Make it easy to buy.

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Box stores Business Ethics Corporate America Customer relationships Retail Small Business Strategy

Being Noble

As you probably know, Borders is now gone. For those like me who live in rural areas, Borders took a chance on our community and many appreciated it.

Earlier this week, Barnes and Noble bought some of their assets. I assumed that Barnes and Noble would do something like this, and I’m pleasantly surprised at how they are handling the assets they purchased.

Classy *and* smart. Think about that when the opportunity to acquire a business crosses your path. I’ve been through this process first hand. How you handle it from day one had better be square. You just picked up a pile of customers who in most cases are total strangers to you and vice versa.

Here’s the email I received.

Dear Borders Customer,

My name is William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble, and I’m writing to you today on behalf of the entire B&N team to make you aware of important information regarding your Borders account.

First of all let me say Barnes & Noble uniquely appreciates the importance bookstores play within local communities, and we’re very sorry your Borders store closed.

As part of Borders ceasing operations, we acquired some of its assets including Borders brand trademarks and their customer list. The subject matter of your DVD and other video purchases will be part of the transferred information. The federal bankruptcy court approved this sale on September 26, 2011.

Our intent in buying the Borders customer list is simply to try and earn your business. The majority of our stores are within close proximity to former Borders store locations, and for those that aren’t, we offer our award- winning NOOKâ?¢ digital reading devices that provide a bookstore in your pocket. We are readers like you, and hope that through our stores, NOOK devices, and our bn.com online bookstore we can win your trust and provide you with a place to read and shop.

It’s important for you to understand however you have the absolute right to opt-out of having your customer data transferred to Barnes & Noble. If you would like to opt-out, we will ensure all your data we receive from Borders is disposed of in a secure and confidential manner. Please visit www.bn.com/borders before October 15, 2011 to do so.

Should you choose not to opt-out by October 15, 2011, be assured your information will be covered under the Barnes & Noble privacy policy, which can be accessed at www.bn.com/privacy. B&N will maintain any of your data according to this policy and our strict privacy standards.

At Barnes & Noble we share your love of books â?? whatever shape they take. We also take our responsibility to service communities by providing a local bookstore very seriously. In the coming weeks, assuming you don’t opt-out, you’ll be hearing from us with some offers to encourage you to shop our stores and try our NOOK products. We hope you’ll give us a chance to be your bookstore.

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Box stores Business model Buy Local Competition Corporate America customer retention Economic Development Employees Retail Small Business Wal-Mart

Is the lack of Wal-Mart actually a tax?

K_Day-09.09.2005_163136
Creative Commons License photo credit: Lordcolus

A lot of thoughts come to mind both ways about Wal-Mart‘s effect on local businesses and consumers.

No shortage of them are provoked by this Forbes op/ed saying that the lack of access to Wal-Mart in NYC is actually a tax, and continues by stating that building a WalMart in NYC is economic stimulus.

For example, the author ignores the local sourcing that WalMart used to do during its “Buy American” phase. He also fails to discuss that when left enough time in a competitive market devoid of Wal-Mart, poorly run local businesses tend to fail anyway.

What do you think?

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Box stores Buy Local Competition Customer service Marketing marketing to the affluent Marketing to women Positioning Retail Sales Small Business Strategy The Slight Edge

Remember The Simple Things

Jeffrey Gitomer* sums up a lot of understanding of people, sales, psychology and more when he says “People don’t like to be sold but they love to buy.

Do you make it easy for them to buy?

Really? Let’s talk about it.

Beyond impulse

Are the things you sell displayed in a manner that will make it easy for your customers to select exactly what’s best for them?

Or…are they displayed in a manner that maximizes how many things you can get on the shelf?

The question is prompted by the recent untimely and tragic death of our old TV**. I recently had the (ahem) “luxury” of shopping for a replacement HDTV after our old one finally gave up the ghost.

I had a budget in mind, so after a little browsing on the net to see what was new, what features and standards were must have (and which ones were not), my youngest son and I caroused around town to the usual suspects (minus one that was closed) to find a new box.

The brands and models were pretty much the same from store to store, for the most part.

But something was different

What differed – radically so – was the presentation.

Two examples of the several we visited:

Store A

  • Had units scattered about in no particular order. It’s possible they were grouped very roughly by price.
  • Their display was moderately helpful for a standing customer (no seats) because half of the sets were more or less just below eye level. The rest were barely off the floor, which didn’t show off those models well.
  • Their pricey 3D sets were presented well, in a manufacturer-provided display with goggles.
  • Their sets displayed the same picture on most sets so you could compare. It was a mix of sports and scenic shots and “regular” stuff.

Store B

  • Had sets jammed so close together and displayed at differing angles above, at and well below eye level (again, no seats). The first thing I thought of was the clothing stores with racks and aisles packed so tightly that you can’t walk between the racks. They didn’t have their sets displayed in a manner that was designed to encourage you to take the time to browse, evaluate and buy. If you knew what you wanted and they had that item in stock, no problem.
  • Had models scattered all over the store with no rhyme or reason. Not grouped by size, price, features, manufacturer or any other sensible criteria. They were clearly just shoved where they’d fit, making it almost impossible to compare two closely priced or sized models.
  • 3D sets were just…where they were. It would’ve been impossible to evaluate them properly as displayed.
  • The most expensive (and amazing) set was a Sony non-3D set whose picture and specs were way over the top the best we saw all day. Yet this set was presented in the middle of a row of stacked up stuff with cardboard boxes across from it in a narrow aisle where your face was less than two feet from the massive screen. If I was the Sony rep for this store, Id be taking the manager out for a long chat. And their manager. And their manager.
  • Their sets displayed a buffet of content, with so much variety from screen to screen that was almost impossible to compare models.

Where’s the recliner?

Some audio stores figured this out before the box stores killed all but the high-end audio places: Build a room that presents your gear in its best light (or sound, as it were).

If I’m selling TVs, I want a small number of my very best selling TVs a normally lit room (like people’s homes) with a recliner, coffee table, couch, etc sitting around. I want them paired in good, better, best pairs with the 6 best selling, best quality units I have in those three price ranges. I want them to sit down and take a look. Toss em the remote and let them visualize that sucker in their own home.

All the other models, if I have to have all them, can be presented grouped by size within price range and paired so I can compare like models. Remember, you want to create an environment that makes it easy for the customer to make the best choice for their needs and budget. You don’t want them walking out frustrated because they learned nothing from shopping in your store.

The reason to make a sale is to get a customer, not the other way around. Your business is about customers, not TVs or Kitchen Aid mixers or snowblowers.

Wally

Yes, I know the mass merchandiser in you is going crazy. You may think want your store to look like Wal-Mart so that you sell them SOMETHING no matter what.

Well guess what? The best TV display for the buyer’s needs was…Wal-Mart’s. They were grouped by size within price range. No, there wasn’t a couch or a recliner. Yes, there was crazy-bright fluorescent lighting. Yes there were strollers 2 aisles over and video games beeping 20 feet away and a blue light special (whatever) announcement over the loudspeaker every 13 seconds.

Still, the layout was optimized on that wall to make it easy to choose a TV, not to make it easy to get all of them out of the box and on a shelf so we could say we did so.

Interesting that Wal-Mart would win in that department and not have the best price. Go figure.

*If you haven’t read Jeffrey, I suggest you do so. Good stuff. Start with “Customer Satisfaction is Useless“.

** Jim Rohn said “Poor people have big TVs. Rich people have big libraries.“  Meaning – educate yourself. And keep at it. Watch a little less TV, read a little more. Do better for yourself in the next year by spending time to better yourself.

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attitude Box stores Buy Local Community Competition Customer relationships Entrepreneurs Small Business Word of mouth marketing

Losing Supermarkets

Two years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about the closure of San Francisco’s neighborhood supermarkets, a trend that continues today.

The stores weren’t closing because of a lack of profits.

They’re closing because developers were offering a ton of cash for the big, wide-open spaces they held (parking lots, box store sized buildings, central locations). Certainly it’s within the rights of the developers and the owners to make a deal, but the neighborhood is often the one that feels the long term impact of deals like that.

Fortunately, an original owner of the chains started buying the stores back because he didn’t want them to disappear.

Think about what happens when your small town (or your big city neighborhood) loses a locally owned grocery store or other locally owned vendor of stuff you could get at Big-Box-O-Rama.

What about the money?

I know, money is tight in a lot of households. And I know that those box stores are usually cheaper.

Ray Negron at Cimarron Cafe & Catering said something about this a couple weeks ago: “My clients work hard for their money. I work hard to make sure they get good value and a nice meal when they spend it at my place.”

Think about taking $50 a month that you’re already spending… and spend it locally in hometown-owned businesses.

Make it clear to them *WHY* you’re doing it.

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attitude Box stores Business culture Competition Corporate America customer retention Ethics Marketing Small Business

Bad Haircuts and Big Box Ethics

Today’s guest post from Scott McKain shows us a how Office Depot stole copyrighted material from a friend of his and used it in a national ad campaign.

One more reason to do your own marketing and shop locally owned businesses.

All that aside, take a good long look at the pricing lesson in Mr. Slutsky’s video.

Worth every second and a lot more.

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attitude Box stores Business culture Competition Creativity Customer service Employees Improvement Leadership planning Positioning Retail Small Business strategic planning The Slight Edge

Why you should sell air

Ninja portrait

As I noted yesterday, my current survey here at Business is Personal asks “What’s your biggest marketing challenge?”

Yesterday, we discussed why 25% of respondents have said “Making time to do the marketing” and how they should go about fixing that.

Today, the next largest group (a very close second) is those who said “Differentiating my business from competitors” or offered a response that effectively means the same thing.

Consider “adding air” to the product or service you sell.

What I mean by air is something that:

  • Adds substantial value – from the customer’s viewpoint – to what you sell.
  • Doesn’t add substantial (or any) cost to what you sell (this is why people call it “air”)
  • Competitors haven’t bothered to add to their offering, so your product/service looks better/more complete, has a higher perceived/actual value.

The net result is that you can ask a higher price. You’ll stand out from the other guy.

Hopefully by now, I don’t have to say “Air is not lame, low value puffery”.

Example Air

Let’s say you sell premium brand house paint. Every hardware store and home improvement box store sells premium paint.

How in the world would you stand out? You can’t likely compete on price (thankfully) because they buy more in a month than you buy in a year.

Rather than try to meet the local box store’s price, talk about the time your customer will waste driving into town, dealing with traffic and talking to paint people who maybe don’t know paint. Sure, this means YOUR paint people will actually need to know paint, but they should anyhow.

Still need to add some air? You could negotiate with a local painting company to include drop cloths and stir sticks with the paint crew’s business name and 24-hour emergency number. Oh and print “Tired of this? We’ll finish the job.” on those items. Who hasn’t gotten 20 feet up on a ladder (or bit off more than they could chew) and wondered why in the world they didn’t get a pro to do the job?

Oops, I forgot a stir stick

Think about the last time you bought something that required additional pieces/parts. Doesn’t it annoy you to get home and find out you forgot something? Shouldn’t the sales / register staff where you bought that something take low-key steps to make sure you’ve got all the stuff you need?

Almost everyone complains about not having enough time to do (whatever), so go out of your way to save your customers’ time – and make note of it. How long would it take to drive from your premium paint aisle to the paint aisle at Home Depot? Put up a sign in your paint aisle noting that and thanking them for supporting a locally owned business.

Sell some air. Stand out. Be the best paint store in your county. Be the ONLY choice for someone who needs a can of premium paint, not because no one else sells it, but because no one else sells it and takes care of paint customers like you do.

After doing all that… your biggest marketing challenge WON’T be “Differentiating my business from competitors”.