Show Yourself! Business is Getting Personal Again
Recently, I was touched by a potential business partner who flew an extra 400 miles, incurred an additional $1,000 in expenses, and went through the hassle, which is priceless…all this, for a business deal that was was neither 100% guaranteed nor necessarily profitable. A bad move, some of you would say. I was enlightened by his simple explanation – “I don’t want to be just a number, among hundreds of other accounts. I wanted to meet the people who would represent and sell my product in this market. I wanted to see if they would have the same passion and attitude to promote my products here the same way that I would.” Wow! Such a simple statement and so unconventional nowadays in a business world where more and more communication is through email, where websites do entire audio/video presentations, where blogs serve to provide evidence that the company has a live person who communicates and cares for website visitors.
Did we forget the ‘human’ touch in doing business? Because business is business and it is not supposed to be a personal thing. We all wanted to separate those two things for such a long time and now it has finally happened. But! Interestingly, it seems that trends are repeating. When a market becomes oversaturated with one business model, it craves for a new one. In the past, business was often very personal, relying on honor, trust, and references. At one point, doing business shifted towards a new model of standardization and hiding behind a corporate wall that seemed so cold and afraid of the word ‘personal’. Now this impersonal business model is succumbing to a new/old trend and once again business is getting personal. Is the human touch becoming a powerful weapon in the hands of small businesses that are fighting back against ‘the big guys’? Could we simply revert back to our ‘mom & pop’ roots? Here are three easy ways to start making your business more personal:
- Believe in what you are selling by carefully choosing your product offering
- Educate yourself about what you are selling so that you can educate others
- Show yourself, both to your manufacturers and your customers
Believe. Let’s get something straight – you DO NOT have to offer a huge selection of products. You DO, however, need to execute initial research and discover the needs and buying preferences of your potential customers, while simultaneously researching products that are being offered to the market. Such research should help you limit your exposure to products that you believe in and those that will best represent your business and philosophy.
Barilla (Italian pasta manufacturer) is a perfect example of this philosophy. Barilla is a family owned business that primarily targets families, especially working families with small children. Barilla knows that the best promise it could make to this target segment is that their products are good for children. Because Barilla knows that every parent wants only the best for their children, it promotes products as being nutritious for children. The number one tenet of Barilla’s strategy is that Barilla believes in what it sells. Barilla communicates this philosophy through a compelling television commercial and conveys a promise… that they only sell products that they would serve to their own children.
Let that be your guide as well. Do not offer something to your customers that you do not believe in and that you might not ‘serve to your children’. You are the master of what you order and carry and you have to believe in every single product that stands on your shelves. Don’t just fill them.
Educate. After you decide on certain products, I would recommend that you educate yourself about them. How do you plan to sell any of your products if you do not know what you are selling?
Godiva is the gold standard for good Belgian chocolate. In many if not all Macy’s department stores, you can buy prepackaged Godiva chocolates, while in some stores you can also pick and choose individual chocolates at a counter. This season, Godiva is offering a new winter collection filled with fancy names that end up confusing consumers to the point that they can’t tell what’s in each chocolate truffle. On a recent occasion, I was curious and asked the ‘chocolate expert’ at the counter about what was inside one of those fancy named truffles. The ‘expert’ and his colleague, both of which couldn’t have been more than 20, were not educated about their selection. They grabbed a brochure and started searching both for the name and the filling. Too late! I was already headed out.
Next on my path for good Belgian chocolates was a small neighborhood store that exclusively carries chocolates by Leonidas, a Belgian chocolate manufacturer similar to Godiva. The ‘chocolate expert’, perhaps the owner, was already educated about every chocolate that he was selling. In contrast to the Macy’s ‘expert’, he was able to describe not only every product, but also the process of making those tiny Leonidas truffles, as well as all the spices and fillings they had inside. Bingo! I’m sure that every person who walks into that small chocolate store will buy even the chocolates that they were not planning on buying – just because they learned so much about Belgian chocolates and heard so much about the great taste and phenomenal ingredients.
Wouldn’t you rather be more like the Leonidas expert?
Show. Your name is MI09576. Really?
We want to simplify business, so reality nowadays is that we all have, and we all are, account numbers. But nobody said that you have to stop there. Are you afraid of getting personal with your manufacturers? Do you fear that your customers would think that you were weird if you asked them about their preferences? Is that getting too personal?
There are many ways to become more acquainted with manufacturers and to encourage them to partner with you, helping both your business (and at the same time theirs) in generating success. Show yourself to some of your most important manufacturers by participating in tours of their facilities, learning more about their production processes, and learning more about their key ingredients or raw materials. On the flipside, you could invite a key manufacturer into your business for a presentation on their products or for interaction with customers and offering of samples.
Show yourself to your customers and show that you care about them, product / service quality, and the fact that they are receiving the best possible value for their money. Building this bridge on both sides (manufacturers and customers) will give you more transparency and visibility, as well as place you one step in front of your competition, bringing more trust and loyalty to your business.
So, do you finally understand why a manufacturer would fly an extra 400 miles and spend an additional $1,000 to meet a potential partner? In his eyes, this extra effort went a long way in helping me believe in his business and become more educated about his products. In my eyes, our meeting helped me ensure him of my dedication and passion – that I do believe – and that I wish to become educated about his products. Along the way, a bridge is build between him (manufacturer) and me (small business). It is now easier for me to extend the bridge to my customers and help them believe in my business.
It’s time to say your name out loud. It’s time to get personal again.