Amidst the many fancy and impressive business theories, advice and strategies for retail success, there is actually only one word that really matters.
Take a moment and go on a trip to the beach with me to illustrate why.
Imagine you are on beautiful Anna Maria Island off the gulf coast of Florida. You take a break from the sun and make your way up Bridge Street, the island's retail main street. You stroll past several stores that feature the expected beach tees and souvenirs and then, you come across this hand painted sign.....
Hard to resist? Curious? Put a smile on your face?
Perhaps you learned something about who is inside before your hand even touched the doorknob?
The basics of "Retail 101" insist that we "just get em in the door" and there are many methods to accomplish that goal. (Insert massive banner with a "75% off" sign here!)
But one small step and a light year beyond "get em in" is what I call the "Principle of Connection." The Principle of Connection is about much more than moving someone from point A to point B. It's about moving them to come in, to know you, to remember you, to care about you and ultimately, it's about creating a Connection between people.
Enter the folks with the “Open today just for you” sign on the front door -an art Co-op called the Back Alley that bills itself as "wild treasures for funky souls." I like art. I like to think I am a funky soul. Even more, I like to think that I am special enough that someone is open "JUST for me." And to top it off - I can't resist a clever and sweet moment that is directed right towards me and that makes me smile - can you?
Let's go back to the 75% off banner. Yes people will likely rush into that store, they may buy and they may even tell others about the great bargain that they discovered. But will they be connected to the store? The Principle of Connection means going beyond product and price. It reminds us to include all the classic "P's" of the marketing formula: Product, Price, Place, Promotion and People, and to that - add one more, Personality. Personality, which you might call Brand, is the emotional component of your business. It's about a retail experience that creates a Connection.
My consulting brain tells me that a much larger percentage of people will walk in the door of the Back Alley shop because of their fun, hand-painted "just for you" sign, but more importantly, the people who do walk in will feel CONNECTED to the Back Alley artists. In fact they probably feel somewhat connected before they even see the first product on the shelf.
The Principle of Connection is based on long-term thinking and ultimately, it moves a business from short-term wins to sustainable success. The goal is not just a sale, but instead the real goal is that moment when your customer "sells" you to someone else. Ahhhh the smart part of marketing that makes business so much easier. It's surprising - no I will say it's positively shocking how many businesses still put most of their energy into rattling the bushes for new business while ignoring the opportunities to connect with the customer and reap the rewards. We have to ask ourselves - why settle for a just sale when you can create an entire customer marketing team?
Creating Connection does require extra thought and strategic, focused effort, but most importantly, it requires three three key ingredients. You must be willing to:
1. share something about yourself
2. stand in the other person's shoes to experience and understand their vantage point.
3. be authentic.
Connecting to the customer requires the ability to know and be yourself, as well as, being willing to get to know them.
Simple - yes, but profound. Still, Connection often loses out to fancier, higher tech solutions to sales challenges that don't reap a long-term reward. I often wonder why so many businesses refuse to focus on building a connection. If I had a dollar for each time I have heard the idea described as the "fluffy" part of business, I could buy a castle in France.
In fact, I chuckle inside each time I hear a hard-driving business leader who doesn't have time to invest in a few strategic ways to connect with their customer. Is it too simple to be taken seriously? Perhaps it's just too personal, as one is required to know thy self and take a moment to know and care about someone else.
So at the end of the day, "Connection" is really the word that matters. And an authentic Connection begins at your front door.
So now, let's return from the beach and consider this to be the perfect moment to stand in your customer's shoes, step outside and look at your front door from a different vantage point. Do you sense the beginning of a Connection?
If not, there's a great opportunity waiting ... just for you!
Susie Pecuch is a Customer Experience Architect. She designs customer experiences that create word-of-mouth marketing momentum and bottom line results. She has worked with some of the top companies in the world including Disney, NIKE and Singapore Airlines.