Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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What's in your wallet?

Looking at discretionary income

If you watch television, you have likely heard this expression. It is the closing line in the Capital One advertisements for their credit card. Seeing the advertisement recently, I listened to it in a different light that I would like to share with you.

Think about all those that can do business with you. What is in their wallet? The answer is discretionary income; that is what we get from most of our customers. There are few exceptions to this situation. One is where a customer buys the minimum food to eat or the minimum clothing to wear. Another is where the customer spends to get the necessary medication to get them, or keep them healthy. All of their other expenditures with businesses falls into the category of discretionary income.

Selling to discretionary income is different from selling to the essentials. You have to remember what brought that customer to you initially; it was something they saw, read about, or heard about that gave the person a feeling they wanted to have that product or have that service provided. Because it is discretionary income, the competition is different. While many will see the competition as the shop down the street or the online business that seems to have everything at a lower price, the competition is different for discretionary income.

That’s the challenge with discretionary income spending. The customer’s interest can potentially waver or even disappear. That stereo they bought could be sitting in their home, unused for months because the individual is too busy to relax and enjoy it as they train for a triathlon, or they have golfing buddies that want to play every Saturday.

Granted, a big concern is getting the customer to part with their money as they shop. The bigger issue is getting the customer to decide this is where they want to spend their discretionary income. With challenges come opportunities for those who work to see a solution. The opportunity for an individual business is to be proactive in keeping a customer’s interest alive and well.

Envision a business that stays in constant contact with every customer to see that they are maintaining and growing that passion for the product or service they bought from you that first attracted them. The responsibility is also to see that the customer’s discretionary income does not move to some other passion. This same business has a wonderful opportunity to take customers from another business that does not properly care for their customers.

The ‘brick and mortar’ business would do well to listen to the message from the president of Amazon who said that their online store could never match the occasion where a customer can enjoy a cup of coffee, sit in a comfortable chair, and feel the pages of a book in their hands. Change the situation from a book to your product or service and the comparison still applies to an online business.

The responsibility for the manufacturers and wholesalers within any industry is to help all shops to develop their own unique ways of touching their customers and getting that discretionary income that is in their wallets.

The Capital One commercial can be seen several ways. We suggest giving a twist to that same line and asking, “What’s in your customer’s home that is sitting there and not being used?”

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179