A common question I'm asked is: How can you compete with Amazon, which provides excellent customer service and offers the same products at the same prices you do?
This is a tough question, and it's one that more and more businesses are going to have to answer if it is going to survive in the digital age, as Amazon starts to expand into more markets.
Just recently Amazon moved into the Office Stationary Department, and it grossed $1 billion in its first year.
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Now, while this might feel daunting, it's not an impossible situation to be in, but you do need to think outside of the box and look at things differently.
You need to ask yourself: What do people really want? What is that they are really looking for?
People are not always just looking for products, they are moreso looking for outcomes, and if you can understand what those outcomes are, then you can look to help them achieve those outcomes, rather than just sell people a product.
A great example of this is a local sports store, the Delray Beach Running Company, which I'm a customer of.
Many of the products that it offers can be found online, and because the prices are set by the manufacturer, it can't compete on price, even if it wanted to.
So how does it tackle this problem?
Well, it understands the outcomes that its customers are looking for.
It knows that people don't just want to buy running gear. It knows that its customers are actually looking to improve their running or that they want to complete their first 10k run, half-marathon or full-marathon and that the running shoes are just an aid to achieving those goals.
Once it understands the desired outcome, now it can move from being a company that sells running shoes to being a company that helps people achieve their running goals.
It does this by offering running coaches; organizing training sessions; providing people with running plans; and also getting running experts, such as Jim Galloway to come out, and give talks on running.
Delray Beach Running Company even runs with many of the first-timers, ensuring that they achieve their desired outcomes.
Its approach is not about trying to improve customer service to compete with bigger players and online retailers. It's about building a loyal community by helping people achieve their goals and desired outcomes.
The company regularly has 30 to 40 people running at its training sessions on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and on Saturday mornings. This means that it has 30 to 40 people, visiting its store two to three timer per week. It has become a trusted advisor on everything running related, and it just so happens to sell many of the products that you're going to need on your running journey, such as shoes, running gear and also the food supplements that you need to complete many of the longer races.
There is no hard sell because people are happy to buy. Remember the adage, people buy from those they know like and trust, well this has now become people willingly buy from those they know, like, trust and who help them achieve their goals.
At the Delray Beach Running Company, people are not just customers, they are full blown advocates, referring friends, who want to run their first half- or full-marathon, knowing that they will get help to achieve that goal. They even wear branded sporting goods, showing their allegiance to the community, cheering each other on as they complete their goals.
Here’s a picture of me running the Fort Lauderdale Marathon - not in the Nike top -- but in a Delray Beach Running Club top. Why? Beacuse of customer loyalty.
I now buy all of my running equipment there - even the commodities, like energy drinks, power bars and supplements, which I could buy cheaper online. Delray Beach Running Company is now my go-to expert on anything that is running related.
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At the Delray Beach Running Company, it doesn't spend money on marketing its products; it spends money on marketing its training programs, and the outcomes that people can achieve. It knows and understands that people don't just want products; they want results. And they also know that this is an area in which it can compete with the likes of Amazon and larger retailers, which just sell products.