Experiential marketing for small businesses, part 1

Part one of an article I published earlier this year. It’s relevant to all small and midsize businesses who a) mistakenly think they should compete on price or b) have begun to differentiate themselves as a premium, worthwhile experience.

Crafting Profitable Client Experiences

“There is no way I can compete with [name of big company edging into small business computer equipment sales] on price, but I’ll do what I can and hope my clients don’t leave.” – A frustrated computer reseller on our first interview.

The client came to me looking for a way to promote his new pricing strategy. The idea was to stop the bleeding caused by an influx of better-financed, much-cheaper competition with a combination of being “not quite so cheap” mixed with a hint of desperation. It was a very bad idea.

Sure, I could have given him a promotion. It might have worked “ok” … for a little while. But he, and all small and mid-sized businesses, will eventually have to come to a fundamental understanding: You will never be able to compete and win on price in the long run.

It just won’t happen.

Let’s say you carve out a wonderful little niche. Your business is growing by leaps and bounds, maybe doubling in revenue each year. Do you think a billion-dollar business will miss an inch of ultra-premium leather on their executive’s chairs if they decide to come into your area and undercut your prices? Heck, they won’t even notice. But you will.

Price is the strength of big business. They have volume and infrastructure that small or mid-sized businesses simply can’t match.

To effectively compete, you need to do it in an area where a) you have the advantage and b) the big businesses won’t engage you in head-to-head battle.

What is that area?

Experience.

Not your experience in the business, but the client’s experience of your business. What does it feel like to do business with you? Why is the experience so extraordinary they come back for more of it instead of the “stuff” that comes along with it? How is it so good they can’t help but tell their friends and colleagues about it?

These are the questions you must ask and answer in this New Year.

I’m going to give you an armful of “experience best-practices” for computer resellers … but not in this article. Today, I want to suggest that you already have a plethora of great resources to mine. Resources you have probably never paid attention to before. It’s simple…

First, I want you to be sure you have a notebook, journal or voice recorder with you at all times.

Second, whenever you interact with a business (I don’t care whether it’s the corner coffee shop or the bank) ask yourself: a) What was most memorable about that experience? b) What impact did the experience have on my desire to come back, refer business or engage the business with questions? c) What can I take from it to improve how I deal with clients in my own business?

Pay attention! There is gold in this exercise if you are willing to stick it out for a few weeks.

One word of warning: The mistake most people make with this exercise is playing the “but it won’t work for my business” game. Look, a big part of why most resellers get poor results from their marketing is the source of their ideas: Other resellers doing average to poor with their marketing! It’s marketing inbreeding … and the results are ugly.

Just to make the point that great ideas come from all sorts of places, in my next article, I’ll tell you about one of the biggest experiential breakthroughs we’ve made in computer reseller businesses … and how it came from an observation at a beauty salon.

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