I was at Costco this weekend. To anyone who knows me, this comes as no surprise. Despite having a modest family of only three, I still feel an almost overwhelming need to have a 6-month supply of toilet paper, trash bags, and apple sauce for no readily apparent reason. Being at Costco isn’t the story though, what happened while I was there was, and it got me thinking.
As I was walking down the aisle with my (cranky, missed her nap, tired of Costco, when is it dinner) toddler, I walked by a couple obviously inspecting a vacuum. You could tell by their body language that they weren’t sure about a few things and were trying to determine if this vacuum was worth the investment. I happened to have purchased that vacuum about 14 months ago. (More on that later).
I LOVE my vacuum!!! Like, if I had to take five things with me in a mad dash from the house, I might try and make it number four or five. I LOVE my vacuum!
So I said as I was walking by, “We have that vacuum at home, and I love it.” Yes, I was one of those people. They looked up delighted to have someone adding some input and said, “Really?! We were really thinking about it, but we can’t figure out what this is (pointing) or how to convert it like the model in the picture.”
So there I was for about 10 minutes, basically putting on a demo of the vacuum for them in Costco. We joked about whether or not I would get a commission, and yes, they ended up buying the vacuum. I know because they walked out of the store with it about the same time I did 45 minutes later. (There is a method to Costco shopping so if you follow the track, you tend to shop within an aisle or two of the same people throughout the store.)
As I walked away, I started trying to analyze the situation. Why did I do that? Why did I approach a complete stranger to not only endorse a brand that I’m not getting any kickback from, but then stop and spend my free time, which is in very short supply, to make them more comfortable with their purchase? More importantly, how do we, as business owners, actively instead of accidentally apply that knowledge?
I believe the answer has several factors:
- People like to tell other people when we get a good deal. A good deal isn’t about getting something on sale, but it’s about value. If we feel like we got an exceptional product for a great value, we are proud of our decision-making and want to tell others. There are certain things like cars and houses that everyone is going to be able to see, but things like vacuums we need to actually tell people for them to know how much we value it and how good it makes us feel.
- The majority of people like to help other people. If we have something that we feel will enhance their lives, we are going to share.
- We tend to be loyal to brands that we love.
So,how do you, as business owners, apply these principles to your businesses and create brand ambassadors? These are the people who are so thrilled with you that when they overhear a complete stranger in a doctor’s office discussing their need for a wedding photographer, they stop that stranger and say, “Hey, I LOVED my wedding photographer,” answer a few questions, and pass their photographer’s information along.
1. Under-Promise Over-Deliver
This is an easy one. Build extra delivery time into all of your quotes. I’m a photographer and I know that I need four weeks to get my clients’ photos to them, so I quote them six weeks and have them delivered two weeks early. They are delighted to see them early, and this also allows me some extra time just in case I need an extra week or two during the busiest months. You can do the same with your packages.
2. Give the Wow Factor with Extras
Pick a fabulous extra and build it into your quote so you aren’t losing money but do give the wow factor. For example, I build my quotes to allow me to include a small gift up to $100 without cutting heavily into my profit. This allows me the freedom to surprise and delight with a small canvas, parent album, or in one case, custom stamps for a client’s custom made post-wedding thank you cards they had ordered from me.
Whatever you do, creating that personal touch that is personal to THEM (not about you or your marketing) is going to delight them.
3. Packaging, Packaging, Packaging
Would you feel great about buying a high end item at Neiman Marcus only to have to carry it out in a generic plastic bag with handles that look like they might break? If you want high end clients, invest in the high end experience. Think of it this way. If you’re a photographer, why would you invest in all that camera equipment and carry it in your child’s backpack? You wouldn’t, you value it too much. If you want people to value your work, wow them with packaging that is as delightful as the product.
Be sure to make your package appropriate for the part of the journey you’re on. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, don’t send clients the most fabulous, wow-you packaging set up for their engagement prints and their wedding prints, too. The engagement shoot should be nice, but a little simpler in design so you can wow them with the big delivery.
4. Personalize It!
Don’t be a one stop fits all seller. Using wedding photography as an example again – just because your client has the money and their three best friends got X,Y and Z with their wedding photography, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great fit for your client. Get to know your clients. Are they in the military, planning a big move, in a small home? If so, a large wall canvas probably isn’t right for them right now, but a more portable album might be a great fit. Perhaps when they are more stationary in a year or two, they can come back and get that wall art.
5. Never Make Them Feel Like They’re Only Valuable to You Right Now.
It’s hard to be patient when we need to pay the rent, book clients, do our taxes, etc. Going back to the vacuum story, I said I’d tell you more about that purchase later. When we bought that vacuum, it was well over twice what I’ve ever even considered paying for a vacuum before. I thought people were out of their minds to spend that much. I was not the ideal client for that business…or was I?
When I was struggling along on a daily basis to vacuum up the constant layer of yellow lab hair in my house while 8-months pregnant, I started stressing out about having an infant crawling around in there. My well-loved vacuum was suddenly deficient. It didn’t have enough suction. It was cumbersome and didn’t have the attachments I needed. Suddenly, I desperately wanted a new vacuum!
I wanted one that swiveled and I could use an attachment on my couch. I wanted one that would last so I wouldn’t have to go running to the store with my kiddo in tow to buy a new one. I had no doubt that I would get the one from the friendly demo guy that I had interacted with several times at Costco during the holidays, and that is exactly where I headed as quickly as you can at 8-months pregnant.
The same thing happens in my own business. I had a client inquire because she thought her boyfriend might propose. I treated her exactly the same as a client whose wedding date was already set and approaching quickly. I sent the information she requested, answered questions, etc. When he finally did propose almost two years later, one of the first things she did was call me to book her engagement photo session.
I have other clients who get so excited about being engaged that they start calling around to get all of their questions answered in the first week, only to figure out they aren’t ready to make those decisions. Sometimes it’s months before I hear from them again, but then, they eventually call me out of the blue and we pick up where we left off.
Don’t assume that someone isn’t your ideal client and never will be. Use strategic marketing that helps them make their purchase decision and then let them decide.
Let your clients be your brand ambassadors and they’ll be the ones stopping to demo your business for strangers.
I hope you’ve been able to brainstorm a few ways you can create an ambassador program. What ideas have you utilized to get your clients excited about your business?
About the Author
Kimberli Lowe is a Fort Worth-based wedding photographer specializing in dynamic wedding shoots, charming flower girls, and organizing wandering bridal party members. She loves rustic venues, bright colors, and weddings with character. In her free time, you can find her learning colors with her toddler, drinking coffee at all hours of the day, and reminiscing about kayaking in hometown Seattle lakes where there are no swimming snakes.