I Recommend

“You're not recruiting people just to do tasks.  You're recruiting people to engage and maintain relationships.”

– Tom Wilzius, Management Consultant

As a traditional retail store, your competitive advantage is your ability to establish and nurture strong relationships with your best customers.  In order to be successful in building these relationships, you and your staff need to change your perspective from being “product-focused” to becoming “customer-focused.”  Here is a great tactic to get you moving in that direction:

1) On a regular basis, have each staff member in your department pick out a particular product (or small list of products) that they like – and would recommend to others.

2) In you store, set aside a display area where you stack the products (for sale) and prominently feature the staff member- a short bio – and their written recommendation – why I like this book or gadget, and why I think that you will too.  Make it attractive – but be sure that it is “personal.”  This is the key.  You are not promoting a “product of the month” – that is a “product-focused” attitude.  Rather, you are starting to view your store from a “customer-focused” viewpoint.  The point being, that a personal recommendation is a powerful sales influcencer.

I have been reminded of this marketing tip twice in the past few days.  Yesterday, I received my monthly e-newsletter from Rhonda Adams of The Planning Shop.  She mentioned that her best selling book, “Business Plan in a Day,” is featured on a special “staff selection” table at all Borders Bookstores from now until April 12.

This tactic works – trust me.  Last month, I went into a Borders Bookstore and purchased 4 of the 8 “staff selections” in the business book department.  Who has the time to search through hundred or thousands of titles?  We welcome a recommendation from a trusted adviser.  I admit, I did not develop a personal relationship with any of the staff at this particular Borders store – they are simply too large an enterprise for this to happen.  But … for you, The Independent Retailer who has a local customer base, this is a “golden opportunity” to try out!

The other reminder of how effective this “staff selection” tactic is came from Bob & Sue Negen's terrific new book, “Marketing Your Retail Store in the Internet Age.”  They recommend that you put these “staff selections” on a prominent page on your website.  This is especially appealing to a small retail business – don't try to list every possible product available (in your store or in the catalog) on your website.  Just list – and sell! – a few featured items.  And be sure that your say “Our staff recommends.”  Possibly an even more effective headline would be, “Our customers recommend.”  In either case, be sure to write out the reasons why they like – and recommend – the products.

To illustrate the difference in positioning, compare these two headlines:

“On Sale This Month!”

“Our Customers Recommend!”

The first headline implies that YOU want to move these products.  Perhaps you got a great deal on them or maybe they have been sitting on your shelf for too long.  But the message that you convey is “I, I, I” or “We, We, We.”  In the second headline the message implied is “people – just like you – have purchased these products and they think that you will like them also, because…”

Which is the more effective approach?  Which one is “customer-focused?”  Which will generate more sales and excitement?

Try it! Write me and let me know if this works in your store – danny@thecompanyrocks.com



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