Thursday, February 25, 2010

...he has great prices.

That phrase has been resonating in my head since last week.

I've been making a concerted effort since Fall 2009 to get back into riding form. I'm not really sure what the form will look like once I've achieved it but what I know now is that my back doesn't ache when I bend over to tie my shoes, I've pinned my internal tachometer for 30 on and 30 off WAY more times in the past 5 months than I've done in the last 3 years, I'm down to 181 lbs. and plyometrics is the way to go for an aging bike fiend like myself.

Part of this off season regime has been RPM classes at the local mega-opolis health club and no thanks to my lovely wife after 3 years of coaxing to participate in them. During said class last week while I warmed up the legs on the bike, I noticed the older (60 yr old-ish)guy next to me wearing a pair of white cycling socks embossed with the name of a local bike shop. A shop with whom I have never visited but have heard of. None the less, I started small talk with the guy like, 'Hey, you have socks from XYZ! Where are they located?'. The gentleman proceeds to describe where to find them on one of our great roads. Honestly, I have heard of the shop and sort of knew where they were but for some odd reason I find it necessary to talk to strangers and generate small talk any way possible.

After much nodding on my part as I maintained my cadence, he concludes with, '...he has great prices in there!'. That's was all I got from him; a location and confirmation on great prices. I'm not saying that shop XYZ is a bad shop nor this guy, for his attempt to sell me on shopping there for the sole reason of 'great prices' but in this case it brings me to the topics-- How do you brand your business/how does the customer identify with your shop?

Do you as a business owner, retailer, store manager, want your customers going away from an experience they've recently had with you in your store with only that crumb of a comment on their shirt? 'Great Prices?' Why did this consumer only identify shop XYZ as having great prices to offer up and nothing else worth mentioning? Is XYZ undercutting the next shop down the road in hopes of gaining market share; in this case loosing his margins that every shop needs to be holding more closely because of harsh economic times? When I last checked, undercutting/slashing prices are not how you stay relevant in the retail market or at least it's a very short sided move on any retailers part and in the end does nothing to help build the cycling community. For all I know this may be all the retailer has to offer the customer, low prices and little to no positive retail experience.

Bicycle sales and consumer participation is growing in some amount every year. Some years are larger than others but 'growth' is there since flat is the new up lately. In 2010 let's focus on that personal attention the customer needs. If you have the '3 Cs' to offer your customers, you shouldn't have to become Bob's Bike Outlet (not really a shop, I think). The 3 Cs are pretty simple.

1- Customer Service/ This is a given with any business and falls in line with the Golden Rule. And taking the extra 3 minutes with a bottle of Windex and a shop towel goes a long way when the customer picks up their repair bike and it's clean! Especially if there's a shop across town with a 4 week backlog on repairs; potentially no wiping down going on there!

2- Credibility/
"A specialty retailer can't establish individuality by carrying the same product everybody else carries."-Jeff Harbaugh. Let the brands you stock be the ones that you rock; not sell because they walk to the counter the easiest and require little to no selling. Give the brand(s) you and your staff sell your seal of approval without sounding arrogant and cocky to the consumer. Arrogance and cockiness are fueled by fear and come out when you're scared of loosing a sale to the shop across town and certainly don't bad mouth the other shop(s). Let the customer know what makes your bikes special that you are selling, not why the other bike the customer is looking at elsewhere, a lesser bike. If they ask to compare components between your bike and a competitors, be fair, compare both products online with the customer. Then pray that your swagger and ability to listen to the customer instead of boring them on how just received your Di2 certification, has won their confidence over and they pull the trigger on the bike that day.

3- Community Involvement/ Build up a cycling culture in your area if it needs to be. If a guy or gal buys a $1200 road bike, invite them to be on your group ride email contact list. Make him or her feel wanted with a friendly social ride and teach them good road riding habits. Here is an entry from the beginning of the year. Offer to do neutral support on a local disease ride that is passing through the area. Hold maintenance clinics on a Tuesday night and offer finger food for those who attend.

Pretty simple stuff, yet so simple the old dogs are forgetting to learn new tricks to keep up with the young pups. To close the door on all this for me, I'm heading over to shop XYZ next Monday and see if this guy was right.

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wrm.

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