What Makes You So Special?

Ron
Continuing yesterday’s discussion about wineries, there’s a valuable lesson that every retailer can learn from them.  While wine may not be exactly a commodity, it’s close enough for this discussion.  What makes customer choose one winery over the other?  For that matter, what makes him choose a winery at all?

The answer is that each one is different.  They’ve all been either smart enough or lucky enough to come up with their own unique selling points.  One has the best view.  One has the best food.  One has the best music.  Another advertises itself as being the most like Napa Valley.  While all of them have good wine, almost all of them excel in one particular variety.  Instead of being a string of cookie-cutter operations, they’re each different enough to draw their own particular loyal fans.  They each sell an experience.

You could go to the local grocery store and buy a bottle of wine.  You could take it home and drink it on your deck with some great music on the CD player and have a nice, relaxing afternoon.  But you wouldn’t have the experience.  That’s what would be missing.

Face it, things are very uncertain right now.  Shoppers are going to be more cautious about their money for a while.  To get them into your store, and to get them to buy something after they get there means offering them something they can’t get anywhere else.  And it has to be something that they want.  Black lights and Led Zeppelin blasting out of a high-powered stereo system might bring them into certain types of stores, but chances are that wouldn’t work for you. 

What would work?  I don’t know.  That’s something you’re going to have to work out for yourself.  Starbucks created a revolution in the coffee business by giving their customers a place to gather.  They created snob appeal about their coffee.  They gave it goofy namesThey created a unique experience, at least until other merchants copied them.

One of the secrets of McDonald’s success is that early on they realized that it’s often the kids who decide where the family goes to eat.  Simple things like putting condiments, straws, and napkins out where the kids could reach them really endeared them to their smallest customers.  Having a clown for a spokesman didn’t hurt either.

One way you can find out what makes you unique is to ask.  You could ask the
customers who do come into your store on a regular basis what it is
about your store that they like.  More important, you can ask them what
they don’t like.  They probably know something you don’t know.  You may be surprised at their answers.

Remember that your competition comes in a lot of different forms.  You know your direct competitors.  You know who the big boxes are.  But any time your customer has to make a decision between buying what you sell and buying anything else, that "anything else" is your competition.  Think about those other places where your customer can spend her money and decide what it is that that customer is looking for.  Then position yourself to fill that need. 

For example, maybe she’s deciding between a new couch and a new sewing machine.  What’s attractive about a couch?  Obviously it’s a comfortable place to sit.  But it’s also an expression of her good taste.  (See where I’m going with this?)  Obviously a sewing machine is a tool she can use to express her good taste, and her creativity.  That should trump a sofa any day, but are you appealing to her creativity and good taste in your store?  Is it part of your displays?  Do your people address it in their demos? 

That could be the basis for your uniqueness.  Obviously there are a lot of others.  But, I digress.  The point is this.  If you’re going to exchange your merchandise for the customer’s money, you’re going to have to be more creative, more helpful, and entirely different from any of your competitors, no matter what they sell.

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