Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Are you a "My"?

Getting the personal ownership in a business

Think about the conversation between two 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 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. Does anyone call you mine? Too often 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 of products or services 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 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 go on to talk about businesses that work to move the transaction to a higher level. An example of this second level 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, the salesperson determines that the requested product is incorrect and takes the opportunity of directing the customer to the correct product.

Perhaps the sales person asks the customer if they have all of the necessary accessories for their purchase.  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? While the customer may be unhappy with themselves for what they forgot, they may also be saying, "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 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 interests 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 something from their past.

Before we end, there is another level of the transaction that can occur. It is a transformation. After their purchase, we call the customer to find that their purchase is still sitting in the bag on a shelf in their home. The experience with your business may have been great, but the customer has 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 another? Perhaps within a year they would see the customer making additional purchases. Yes, it is an opportunity and the responsibility of the business, if the business wants to have great customers, to help them enjoy their purchase.

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 they are enjoying their purchase. There could be a monthly newsletter, print or electronic, sent to the customer 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 engaged customer. Can you do this with every customer?

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

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