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Are You a "My"?

Getting the personal ownership in a business

Think about the conversation between two or more individuals. If we talk about health, you will likely hear someone mention, "My doctor", or "My dentist". A person is also likely to use, "My mechanic", or "My butcher". Of course what you first see as a common point between our four examples is the use of the word "my".

Examine the statements a bit further, and what you will find is that the person making the statement is actually making a much stronger statement than what first appears. For you see, what the statements indicate is the existence of a relationship between a customer and where they are doing business.

Something has happened to cause the customer to take a piece of "personal ownership" in the person or company selling the goods and services. As this story was first told to this writer by Paul Aleskovsky of the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, he went on to ask his audience about their experience. "Does anyone call you mine?", Paul asks.

"Too often", Aleskovsky continues, "the customer does not take ownership in where they do business. And that is a problem too many businesses face".

In the book, "The Experience Economy", the authors, Pine and Gilmore talk about the various levels a customer can experience when they do business. Looking at our industry for examples, the business transaction can occur on a very low level. The authors refer to this as a 'commodity purchase'.

The purchase could be for any number of products; a battery for an RC car, a tube of cement, or any number of items you sell. The transaction is referred to as a commodity purchase because the customer is often heard to ask, "What is the price of ...?" And the salesperson recites the price of the item. In this transaction, the customer sees no additional value in doing business with this store; no service, information, or special help. The store is just a place to go and exchange money for a product or service.

Slowly but surely, everything the store sells is reduced to a commodity. When this happens, there is little need to have quality sales help, advertising, or any number of other assets you traditionally find with a great, or even good store.

The authors of "The Experience Economy" go on to talk about businesses that work to move the transaction to a higher level. They mention how businesses work to sell a product or service. Examples of these two levels is the customer who again asks for a certain product. Instead of the scenario we first described, the sales person asks the customer what they are doing with the product. And upon hearing the answer, we find that the requested product is incorrect. The salesperson has the opportunity of directing the customer to the correct product.

And with a service, the sales person asks the customer if they have all of the necessary accessories for their hobby. Perhaps for the model builder, the sales person is asking about brushes, Exacto blades, sandpaper, and any other possible item they could need. You see, this salesperson is providing their customer with a service.

How many times have you made a sale, only to have a customer return an hour or two later looking for something they forgot or ran out of? And then, a third visit for another forgotten item? While the customer may be unhappy with themselves for what they forgot, they may also say, "I sure wish you had reminded me about getting some ...." In providing the service, this scenario is reduced if not eliminated.

The next level of shopping, according to the authors, is the experience. Think of a parent coming into your business to buy a birthday gift for a child. And as you interact with them, they stop at a display and mention how they remember their interest in models as a youth.

With the store that provides an experience, within minutes the interaction between customer and sales person becomes a lively exchange of conversation. At the conclusion, the customer is thanking the sales person for the great time they had, and for the help in renewing their interest in a past hobby.

With the experience transaction, the authors give another example of a business that sells a t-shirt, coffee mug, or other product on which their name or logo is imprinted. "Why would a customer pay good money for something that has the name of the business on it?", they ask.

Their answer is that they want something to remember their experience by. They had a good time, a pleasant visit, and as a way to remember it, they use a shirt, magnet, coffee mug or other imprinted item.

Of course the first type of this situation that comes to mind is a trip to an amusement park, or even a theme restaurant.

There is perhaps a bold question that can be asked from this situation. "If a customer does not want to own something that reminds them of their experience with your business, is it because there is nothing they want to remember about your business?"

This does not mean that each and every store needs to go out and order some t-shirts. But it should cause many businesses to think about what happens when they talk with a customer.

Before we end, there is another level of the transaction that can occur. The authors call it a transformation. Our example of a transformation is the customer we just discussed; the one who had an experience. After their purchase however, we call them to find that all of their purchase is still sitting in the bag on a shelf in their garage. You see, the experience may have been great, but they have not moved any further.

Is it the fault of the business that the customer has failed to do anything with their purchase? Directly, it is not. But there is little chance the customer would ever return to make another purchase.

However, there is an opportunity to do something about it. For what if that customer did something with their purchase? What if they had a great time and then decided they wanted to assemble another model? Perhaps within a year they would see a dozen assembled models on a shelf in their home or office.

Now we have the kind of customer everyone wants to have! And how can we create that customer?

It can begin with a phone call a week after the purchase to see how far along they are with the assembly. The shop could also have an evening class addressing the finer skills of assembly. There could be a monthly newsletter, print or electronic, sent to the hobbyist from the shop.

Instead of thinking we have done a great job with a sale, we now look at the job as being complete when we have created an enthusiastic hobbyist. Can you do this with every customer?

Absolutely not! But then again, do you want the customer talking about the hobby shop? Or, MY hobby shop?

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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