Give me a reason to do business with you.  And don’t make me guess what it is - tell me before I commit.  And don’t give me a reason that benefits you.

Don’t tell me I should buy from you because you are local, or because we already have a relationship, or because you have been in business the longest.  None of that does anything for me.

This may be obvious to you, but it evidently isn’t obvious to everyone. I was listening to a talk radio show and heard a “local” business owner call in and berate Walmart. I’m sure you can imagine the reasons she gave, but it basically came down to the fact that she couldn’t compete with what they offer.  She was encouraging other listeners to boycott Walmart and buy from local merchants, for the primary reason that they are local. When you think about it, she was basically asking for entrepreneurial welfare.
Isn’t a free market – the very market that allows an entrepreneur to go into business in the first place – supposed to reward a competitive advantage? If you are a small business owner and the reason you are giving your customers to buy from you is price, I strongly encourage you to start looking for another reason. In this world of big box stores and Internet shopping, small businesses just can’t compete on price.
However, there are plenty of other reasons I will buy from you:

  • Convenience
  • Better service
  • A product/service I can’t get anywhere else
  • Someone who takes the time to know me
  • A customized product/service

Those are reasons that benefit me.  And guess what? When it benefits me, it also benefits you.
However, be prepared to adjust your value proposition over time.  Borders and Blockbuster are just two examples of companies who took over an industry (shut down the mom-and-pop stores in many cases) only to watch that advantage ultimately fail due to their failure to keep up with changing technology.
Give me a reason and I’ll buy from you today, but also be prepared to adjust so that I still have a valid reason tomorrow.

Trokey is president and chief executive of St. Louis-based Benefits Growth Network, a consulting firm for benefits agencies. He can be reached at kevin@benefitsgrowthnetwork.com.

 

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