Main Street Businesses Fear Phone Carrying Shoppers

Oma H. Barnett

You must take the rapid application of technology to the business world serious because if you, or your product, can be commoditized, you, or your product, will be commoditized!

As you will read below, it is a race to the bottom, with respect to prices.

You need to find a way to differentiate what you do by having a good marketing campaign that builds a brand that outlasts the campaign that launched it and you need to build a long-term relationship with prospects and customers by becoming their trusted advisor.

Before an explanation of the race at the bottom is provided, let’s start with a review of a brilliant marketing idea and a campaign that changed everything.

Do you remember the Coke geyser? Steve Spangler’s hokey demo, where he dropped Mentos mints into a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke and he then stepped back to watch the thing blow, was an Interenet phenomenon in 2005. It spawned an unbelievable number of page views and copycat videos. Sales of Mentos and Coke hit the roof.

Viral marketing, something that is unexpected and unsponsored, opened up everyone’s eyes to the potential effect of viral videos. It provides saturation media coverage at almost no cost.

Is it content or advertising? Come up with something cool (or crazy) enough and customers will look for you.

The campaign generates huge, instantaneous buzz, and moves plenty of product… but it also stands the test of time infiltrating the culture in subtle ways for decades to come with the potential to create a long-term relationship with prospects and customers.

The next aspect that you must take serious, to differentiate what you do and avoid the race to the bottom, is to create a long-term relationship with leads and customers by becoming a trusted advisor.

Being a trusted advisor manifests itself in ways like providing information to prospects and customers in terms of articles, blogs, ezines, books, and newsletters as just about every business is now a media business. This is the link to your prospects and customers… provide them information… be their trusted advisor… demonstrate you are providing value in order to keep them from searching for and finding the cheapest price.

And now, here is the rest of the story about the race to the bottom with respect to prices.

In a recent (circa December 2010) article in the Wall Street Journal, it was reported that a mid 20s marketing manager, while browsing in a Best Buy Co store in the Bay Area, spotted the perfect gift for his girlfriend.

Until recently, meaning prior to the wave of enthusiasm with smart mobile phones, he would have just placed the $184.85 Garmin global positioning system into his shopping cart and paid for it when he went through the checkout lanes.

This time, he took out his Android phone and typed the model number into an app that instantly compared the Best Buy price to prices available at other retailers.

He found that he could get the same item on Amazon.com Inc’s website for $80 less and did not have to pay tax on his purchase or shipping for deliver to his home or office.

As you would expect, the marketing manager bought the Garmin from Amazon right on the spot.

It is so useful, said the marketing manager of his new shopping companion which is a price comparison application called TheFind. He says he relies on it to make sure he is getting the best price.

The use of TheFind is part of the smartphone revolution in retailing that has been dubbed a new era of price transparency and its arrival is threatening to upend the business models of the biggest store chains in America… as well as the small businesses on Main Street.

The message is… if you or your business can be commoditized, you or your business will be commoditized.

The local merchant has incurred all the advertising, brick-and-mortar, and labor cost for the in-store sales force but Amazon has harvested the income. Yikes!!

The Interent is stripping entire product categories of the profit and essentially fixing prices at bare bone minimums.

If you are in business on Main Street, your leads and customers are not hesitant, in today’s economic environment, about taking advantage of an opportunity to physically examine a product, ask questions about it in a retail shop, or storefront, and then go buy it from an online discounter.

This past (circa 2010) holiday season even found local Christmas tree lots were affected as people price shopped standing in the lot and then had a full-sized tree delivered to the front door of their home from somewhere else.

This may be coming to the front door of your business if it is not already there.

If you are an independent retailer of non-proprietary goods then you are obviously on the most endangered list. Do not let your income depend on the sale of products that can be obtained from sources that sell through online retailers and discounters. Product categories such as independent bookstores, toy stores, hobby shops, and florists are already shrinking.

Be sure your New Year resolution includes a statement to learn how, and implement techniques, to combat commoditization.

This includes delivering products or services that can not be replicated or delivered from a distance OR you must provide truly proprietary products.

Alternatively, disguise individual item pricing by bundling, adding programs, or value added services, such that your prospects or customers find simple price comparisons impractical or irrelevant.

You must take this serious as it is a race to the bottom… with respect to prices. You need to find a way to differentiate what you do by having a good marketing campaign… a brand that outlasts the campaign and a way to create a long-term relationship with customers or clients… becoming a trusted advisor.

The follow is repeated from above as you must take this message seriously! Being a trusted advisor manifests itself in ways like providing information to prospects and customers in terms of articles, blogs, ezines, books, and newsletters as just about every business is now a media business. This is the link to your prospects and customers… provide them information… be their trusted advisor… demonstrate you are providing value in order to keep them from searching for and finding the cheapest price.

Be sure your New Year resolution includes a statement to modernize your online presence including your lead generation system. Be sure your online presence takes you to places so you can engage your prospects and customers on their online turf and this includes such social sites as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and their mobile phones. Provide an incentive for them to join your list and use Monster Followup to stay connected with them.

I Hope You Enjoyed the Article and Let me Know What You Think.

Finally, I would like to provide Best Wishes for a Prosperous New Year!

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