How do I effectively win in a market where my neighboring competitors offer almost the same types of products that I sell? I have tried the pricing game but almost bled to death. Our customers seem to just go where there is lower price or better promotions. - Jonathan
 
I recently fell in love with mountain biking. The off-road rides over rough terrain allow me to both smell the grass and enjoy a rigorous exercise at the same time. Mountain biking also helps improve my endurance, balance, and risk-taking ability. The risk of injury is inherent in the sport but it's all worth it. I do get occasional bruises as I try different trails. Yes, I now sound like a quintessential fan of the sport.
 
A year ago, some friends encouraged me to try the sport but I was ambivalent, that is, until I entered Austin's bike shop. His small shop looked nothing fanciful like the other mountain bike shops I visited but he surely knew how to convert a prospect into a loyal customer. In fact, barely two months into mountain biking, I have already purchased three bikes as I kept upgrading into more expensive ones. I have done word-of- mouth marketing for him to some of my friends who are now converts. What is his secret? I feel that if all marketers can duplicate this strategy, they can easily grow their sales and profit and improve their customer lifetime value. Here are some of the lessons I got from Austin's approach.
 
Be passionate with what you sell. Your customer can easily sense if you're just pushing for quick sales and profit. Your aura communicates what your countenance tries to hide. This is why marketing and sales practitioners must first immerse themselves into the products or services they sell before they market them. You cannot effectively sell meat if you're a vegetarian!
 
I immediately sensed Austin was a true devotee of the sport as he told me his biking story. His passion for the sport moved him to open a bike shop to serve his growing disciples of the sport. When you are passionate about what you sell, you become a natural expert in the product. Then customers believe in what you say and follow your expert advice.
Obtain insights from your customers and non-customers. Know them so you can gather facts and get into their psyche, which are important to obtaining shopper and consumer insights. Those valuable information and insights are potent tools in developing strategies or simple in-store execution. Start by developing a simple data base of your customers and prospects. Listen to them and understand their needs and concerns. Understand why some target customer segments also do not buy.
 
Sell experience, not product. After getting my bike and being briefed about the technical aspects of the product and the sport of mountain biking, I was invited to join a pack of mountain bikers for a road test. Austin actually closed his shop just for this trip. I was introduced to about 20 bikers who were enthusiastic to welcome a novice in their band. They each checked my bike and shared tips about biking and how to take care of myself and my bike.
 
When we were on the mountain trail, that's when I realized why I needed to have those gadgets and accessories they asked me to have. And so I bought some more accessories. Someone named Edwin was assigned to guide and constantly check on me during the trail rides. After over an hour of biking in a beginner's trail (though it didn't seem like one to me then) I felt like I accomplished a daring feat in the wild akin to a Nat Geo Adventure episode. It was an experience I wanted to do over and over again.
 
Austin could have just sold me a bike like other bike shop owners would naturally do. But because of his passion for the sport, and his knowledge and insights of what I needed as a customer, he managed to offer me something I will not forget. He sold me an experience, and I didn't mind the price. Now I'm riding.
 
(Emilio Bong Macasaet III is the chief distribution strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. (www.mansmith.net), the leading marketing and sales training company in the Philippines. Bong will conduct seminar- workshops entitled 26th Trade Marketing on March 9-10 and the 9th How to Set-up a Distribution Network on April 15-16. For inquiries, please e- mail info@mansmith.net, call (+63-2) 584-5858 /412-0034 or text (63) 918- 81-168-88.
Please send your strategy, marketing and sales questions to mentors@mansmith.net)


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