I wrote this piece Father’s Day back in 2007. The feedback was enough to warrant a repost. It’s worth the read.
Originally posted June 18, 2007
Does this sound familiar? Does this come into your head or out of your mouth when you look to get into a market?Today is Father’s Day, and I was relaxing in the sun having a visit with my dad. The visit was a little one-sided since he past away in 2003. As it often does, inspiration comes at odd times. Let me share with you a story that I was just reminded of . . .
In the early 80s, when I was in high school, a man moved into the house across the street. We didn’t have many move-ins as our neighborhood was very stable. My father made me go with him to welcome our new neighbor to the area. Hey, I was a teenager, I didn’t want to go, but I was fortunate, as it was an introduction that I would long remember. In the conversation, my father asked our new neighbor what he did for a living.
“I sell pianos and I am opening a piano store in the area,” he replied.
This interested my father. Even though he was a school teacher, he loved discussing business. It was a passion of his.
“We just bought a piano,” my father followed. “There are three piano stores in the area already and I visited each one. Each store was empty when I went in and business seemed to be very poor. In fact, we got a great deal on our piano because of it.”
The picture my father was painting was why in the world would this man relocate from out of state to open a piano store in an area that was overly saturated with piano stores? This statement, of course, was according to the observations of my father. The next statement has stuck with me ever since. Our new neighbor replied:
“Just because someone is in the piano business doesn’t mean they KNOW the piano business.”
He went onto explain that he had visited each store my father spoke of, acted like a customer and was shocked by the poor treatment he received and the incorrect information he was given. He knew he could capitalize in the market. And capitalize he did.
One of the first things he did was each piano purchase included delivery, setup, an “in home” lesson and free lessons for life. The competition thought he was crazy. His prices were higher and his store wasn’t the easiest to get to, but he started gaining market share rapidly.
Taking time away from business to travel to a home to give a free piano lesson would seem like “business suicide” to most business owners. However, when the owner is invited into the home of the customer there is a level of trust that is instantly built. The owner is able to answer question directly, give a lesson and spend time with customers, as every owner of a business should. And best of all, it takes place in the customer’s home, where they feel safe.
Was it a waste of time? Hardly.
New customers to his store would often state they were there because of the “crazy story” they heard from their neighbor or friend. Each story was a little different, but usually was:
“My neighbor said that you actually came to their home and gave their daughter a free personal piano lesson? Is that true?”
The owner said to me just before I left for college that any business owner will tell you that a referral from a satisfied customer is the easiest to sell to. “But,” he said, “the customers that walk through my door already have their credit card in hand or check books out. I rarely have to try anymore to sell pianos.” People who bought a piano from him only went to his store, they rarely, if ever, shopped around.
And why did he offer free piano lessons for life? Simple. When you walked into his piano store, there was always a piano being played by a real person, not a salesperson. You could see a “lesson” was being given which set them apart even more. How did he do it? He hired local piano teachers and the amount he paid was a fraction of what he made from the customer trust that was gained.
Take this example to heart. Just because there is a lot of competition doesn’t mean that the competition is doing things right. Look for ways you can improve the market, look for “points of difference” that can set you apart in the mind of the customer.
Do this, and you will dominate as my neighbor did.
Thanks Dad, for taking me across the street when I didn’t want to go. You may have been an English teacher, but I learned one of the most valuable business lessons because of you, and for that, I will be ever so thankful. Happy Father’s Day.