Thursday, December 22, 2016

Online for Less (Tradecraft)

Occasionally a customer will make a big purchase and mention they could have bought it online for cheaper, but they wanted to support us. I tend to be an analytical person, so a statement like that gets my wheels turning. What is my value proposition? Did they weigh the pros and cons of the purchase and consciously deicide to shop with us? 70% of their purchase stays in the community with a local store, while only 45% circulates otherwise.

Then there's how I'm supposed to feel about such a statement. The only response to something like this is a sincere "thank you," but imagine if you lived your life with such comments. Divorce is more expensive, so I'm spending my life with you. I could send your job to Mexico, but I guess I'll keep paying you. Everybody wants to be judged on their worth, to make their way in the world on their own steam. I mean thanks, really, but how can I do this without you doing me a favor? So this kind of statement tends to undermine your self worth. 

Then my friend Robert Pace brought up a good point. Robert is the kind of friend who likes to poke holes in my narratives. I'll see some data, weave a story, and tell myself the world is a certain way as every small business owner does. Sometimes Robert will walk by and pop my bullshit narrative bubble with a bit of pointed truth or data. This time Robert explained to me that such a statement about buying from me regardless of cheaper options means my value proposition is shaky. I may be satisfying the customer today, but they're letting me know, consciously or unconsciously, we're kind of borderline. Our relationship is not strong.

Instead of questioning what this means to me, with my massive ego involvement and occasional entitlement, the question is more about the customer feeling valued. It sounds like that feeling is waning. It occurred to me this is the perfect opportunity for engagement. You have someone who just handed you money, who accepts your premise, the best type of customer really, but they're wavering and letting you know. A good question might be: What can we do better to continue earning your business? 

We're doing some things right, but perhaps not all the things. In the future I'll be sure to ask. 

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