Does this mean that only people who
graduated with honors will be your best customers? Hardly! Today's
successful business educates customers to expect that whatever we offer
is the best. We offer the best in selection, service and integrated
Yet, how is it that customers know what to look for? Do they truly
know how to shop for real value in an item, not just price? How do they
know what to expect in a value versus price merchant? Education is the
key! If the only way you are educating your customers is with a sign
stating your best price, they can get the same introduction to math at
the discounter down the street. The smart independent kitchen design
dealer teaches his customer how to recognize a quality cabinet. Price
becomes less of the focus when a client is on the lookout for dovetailed
drawers and hand-rubbed finishes. Price becomes less of the focus when a
customer finds someone who can truly design a special cabinet for her
kitchen nook; not just a standard plan forced to fit.
TEACHING THE DIFFERENCE - VALUE SHOPPING
One of the most important things any business can do is to teach
customers how to value shop. It can be as simple as providing a chart to
point out value versus price differentiation. Very early in our
education experience we were taught the difference between apples and
oranges. The basic lesson is still very applicable to business today. If
you went to the grocery store in search of a nice tart, juicy apple,
would you buy a tangy orange? Not if you knew the difference! Why is it
then, that we allow our customers to buy the discount model when they
truly want the very best their pocketbook can buy? Why give them an
orange when they really want a shiny red apple? It is our job to teach
them the difference! Teaching differentiation to your customers is not
as difficult as it may sound. At its core, it teaches how to recognize
quality and what to expect in the product and its dealer or supplier.
|A well-known overhead garage door dealer has used an
instruction chart that shows residential homeowners how to shop for an
overhead garage door. Instructions include specific points that help
customers understand how a quality door operates and what its specific
features are. It points out safety requirements and what a customer
should be able to expect in a reliable and safe door. A leading HVAC
manufacturer, Carrier, actually provides written specifications for
mechanical contractors who are shopping for their product.
MERCHANDISING - DOES IT EDUCATE?
If you are limiting your merchandising to price stickers, banners and
signs, then you will fall far short of educating your customer into
bigger profits. Do you provide comparison charting in your dealership
that customers can study to learn what is required of a furnace? Are
your floor displays set up with special signage pointing out the
features that make up a quality dishwasher? Do your customers know what
is not negotiable in the safety and reliability of a riding lawn mower?
I find it hard to forget the displayed image of a ragged, broken down
piece of luggage that has been through the bowels of dozens of airports
and only has splitting seams and broken latches to show for it. Sitting
next to it is the quality model supplied by a fine leather goods dealer.
Although it may be scuffed up a bit, the seams are holding and the latch
is secure. As a very frequent traveler, you can bet I want to know how
to differentiate between a quality piece of luggage and a bargain bag.
Have you made it easy for your cust omers to know how to recognize
quality and value? Is your sales team knowledgeable themselves in all
aspects of differentiation?
How does this translate to bigger profits? I know of a retail grocery
store that prints a detailed meal-planning guide for customers to
purchase. They know just what to buy for a daily meal. This means as an
end result, increased sales from spices and seasonings to side dishes
and desserts. The customer leaves the store with a sense of satisfaction
that she has everything she needs for a complete and healthy meal and
consequently, more items in her cart! Are your customers being educated
in what to look for in a safe, reliable and quality item? Do they know
what horsepower they should be looking for in a boat for family
water-skiing and leisure? Although the items you sell or the services
you offer cannot fit in a shopping cart, a business with educational,
merchandising, a knowledgeable staff and a program to teach value
shopping, translates to bigger profits for you as well when your
customers leave knowing they got the apple they wanted and not an
orange. In addition, it means they will be back to purchase with you
again, because they have been educated to know that they can expect you
to offer the best and . . . deliver!