Recognizing your “famous” customers
If you have ever had the pleasure of having your name or picture appear in the newspaper, in addition to keeping that day's issue, you have probably purchased a couple of extra copies. You may have had additional copies sent to you by friends and relatives, along with their words of congratulations. There is something about the recognition that everyone enjoys. The same is true for recognition of your employees.
Try something as simple as going to a trophy store and having nametags made with the employees’ first names. Compare this to taking the nametag of a former employee and just putting on it a handwritten sticker with the new employee’s name. Why would this be important?
The Maslow theory teaches that every human has five needs: 1) food, clothing and shelter; 2) to be a part of something; 3) his or her self-esteem; 4) the esteem of others; and 5) to give of him- or herself to others. See where the recognition fits in? You won't necessarily get better employees by just giving raises, as compared to showing concern for all five basic needs. The same is true for customers. Many businesses think that price is the most important consideration in attracting customers. When they look at the chain stores, they see that price is what they advertise, and make the assumption that price is the key. In reality, price is the only thing that the chain stores can talk about because they are unable to do the important things that only the independent retailer can do.
Two of the best promotions we have ever seen were created by a couple of retailers. The first retailer was a camera buff and owned several quality 35mm cameras. This was a small store in which the owner spent most of her day on the sales floor, so she kept one of the cameras under the checkout stand. When customers would come into her store, and time would allow, she asked if she could take a picture of that person. She did not have a professional-looking backdrop, but instead took pictures of customers throughout the store. She kept a list of the date and the person's name so that she could write this information on the front of pictures when they were developed.
She then took the pictures and hung them around her store. There were groups of photos hung high on the walls above the merchandise displays, behind the checkout stand, and just about any location where she could not put merchandise; there you would find a dozen or more photos.
Over the years, the collection has become quite a conversation piece. There have been articles in her local newspaper as well as national publications. Customers come into the store with their friends and family just to show them the unique collection. Of course, they would always search out the pictures of themselves and remark about some of the photos that were now several years old.
The second retailer was fortunate to have an older building that had very high ceilings, thus affording him a lot of wall space above the traditional 8-foot height of the counters. His wall of fame began with several certificates—the type that every business gets with helping a community group or project.
He thought that if an organization that had been helped felt it was important enough to award the certificate, he should show his respect and appreciation by hanging it in his store. He then added a couple of baseball jerseys from the youth teams he had sponsored. Next to the jersey hung a photo of the team.
There were the heart-touching items, a small poster showing two brightly colored handprints, the crudely written words, "Thank you. I love you," and the signature of a very young mentally challenged girl from the special-needs class of a school. There were items and photos from the local celebrities: two professional baseball players' photos, a jersey from a customer who played in the NFL, a member of the USA volleyball team, and an Olympic swimmer.
From there it became a community wall. Any newspaper or magazine article written about one of his customers was framed and added to the wall. Paragraphs in the stories that mentioned the customers were enlarged so that you could read them while standing in the aisle.
Most of the articles featured folks in the neighborhood who had done something special for the community—everything from volunteers to customers and the businesses that they worked in or owned.
This retailer also had a customer who was a cartoonist for the local newspaper. The cartoonist mentioned that on several occasions, the inspiration for the cartoon came from this particular store. When this occurred, the cartoonist gave the autographed original artwork to the store, and it also became a part of the wall.
Both of these displays were conversation pieces within the community, and being a conversation piece is the best advertising you can ask for. It is also the type that the chain store cannot begin to duplicate. Most importantly, it is a form of recognition; like the name tag for an employee or simply letting the customers that are a part of your business know that they are very important.