What I learned At the Grocery Store

by Julian Franklin

    My wife and I took a trip the other day to our favorite grocery store. When we go, we make sort of a field trip out of it since the store is so far away. We have to travel past 12 other grocery stores (no kidding) to get to this one, but it is worth the effort.

    Not only is the selection amazing, but every trip is like a lesson in marketing. Here are just a few of the insights I was reminded of on this most recent trip...

    Price vs. Other Factors
    As we filled our cart with all sorts of foods that the corner grocery store carries, my wife commented that some of the prices were higher (sometimes significantly higher) than the store right around the corner from our house. She asked if I wanted her to wait on those items to get them from the cheaper store.

    No way! We love the variety here, and if they have to charge a little bit more to pay for it, then so be it. I WANT this store to make a profit! I want them to stay in business. I'd hate to lose this store just because I wanted to try to save 75 cents on a can of something here and there.

    And I thought if someone wants the cheapest product, they can buy it anywhere. But if you establish uniqueness, and quality ABOVE price, then people will drive past your competitors and pay a higher price to have what they want.

    Free Samples
    Throughout the store they were giving away lots of free samples. This is not a new strategy for grocery stores, but it reminded me that when you are selling based on quality and uniqueness some times (I think MOST times) the only way to get that unique difference across is to give away some of what you offer.

    When people can taste the difference in a food product, they are willing to pay more. When people can experience the difference in entertainment, they are realize that what you offer is MORE than "7 magic tricks and a chance to pet a live rabbit". When people can read your business thoughts for free in on-line articles then they might be convinced that you know what you're talking about.

    Of course, if your food product is of average quality, or your show is not much more than 7 tricks and a live rabbit, or your articles are not very insightful, then offering samples only hurts.

    By the way, you give out "free samples" every single time you show up or open your mouth. Every time you arrive at your job, every time you deliver a product, every time you engage in rendering a service you are providing a sample (though not always "free"). Every thing you do should be a testament to what you offer. Remember that in addition to the people who are paying for what you offer, there are others (friends, neighbors, vendors, suppliers, superiors, subordinates, etc.) who are all watching and "sampling for free" what you offer and how you deliver it.

    The Power of "New"
    In the peanut butter aisle of this store there were literally scores of varieties and brands. In addition to the usual brands (Jif, Peter Pan, Skippy, etc.) they also had several all natural brands, a few brands of peanut butter and jelly mixed, peanut butter and honey mixed, and so on.

    But then I saw "Cashew Butter". I had heard about this product years before in a Toastmaster's meeting and couldn't pass up the opportunity to try something new, so I put it in the cart.

    Every year our production company writes at least one new show. In my speaking business I write at least one new speech each year. I write at least one new book every year. This constant innovation is the hardest work I do all year. It is truly difficult to research, develop and refine this much new content every year, but the results are worth it, because it is easy to get repeat bookings when they know they are getting something totally new.

    What other ways can you use "new" in your business?

    Social Proof
    Social proof is the phenomenon that occurs when people feel more likely to engage in an activity if they know that others are doing it as well. The old question your mother used to ask "If all your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you jump, too?" is actually not a very good question, because the truth is, that we really wouldn't even think of jumping off a cliff UNLESS all of our friends were doing it. And if they were doing it, and surviving and talking about how fun it was, then the odds are frighteningly good that we would jump as well.

    That's human behavior. You can deny it or think that you are somehow above it, but if you do, you are only fooling yourself.

    So as I pushed the cart to the end of the peanut butter aisle I saw a store employee grinding what looked like peanut butter, so I mentioned my cashew butter.

    "Yeah, it's really good. I'm making almond butter right now." When he said it, I though to myself that I might try that also on my next trip, but then the clerk added "Whenever I make this stuff it sells out within just a few hours. People love this stuff".

    As a behavior specialist and marketing consultant I thought "I can't believe this minimum wage store clerk is trying to apply Social Proof to get ME to buy his almond butter!", but it didn't matter. $4.55 was just too small of a hurdle for me to wait. The thought that when I came back next time the almond butter might be sold out was just too great.

    I bought into the story and purchased the almond butter as well. So there is a lesson about Social Proof (like using testimonials of people as similar to your prospects as possible) and also a lesson about low barriers of entry, also known as "risk reversal". If the over-all risk is low, it is easier to get people to participate in the purchase decision. A penetration pricing strategy is one way to accomplish this. A 100% money-back guarantee is another way to do this, but these are definitely not the only ways.

    Before leaving the store we went by the produce section and picked up a "soup kit". This is a plastic tub with various pre-measured and pre-cut ingredients that you toss into a pot of water to make soup. It has diced vegetables, seasoning, even cooked, diced chicken, all in pre-measured amounts.

    So you might ask "C'mon, it's SOUP! How hard can it be to chop a few vegetables and throw it in a pot that you have to pay someone else to chop them for you first? Can anyone really be THAT lazy?"

    But it isn't about being lazy, it's about being efficient. If I bought the vegetables, I would end up using only half of the onion and the other half would stink up my refrigerator for a month before it molded and I finally throw it out. The chicken would have to be grilled, the cutting board cleaned, and a "simple" pot of soup suddenly takes an hour to prep instead of 5 minutes. The clean up adds another 10 minutes.

    So I pay an extra $2 to save an hour of my time and avoid waste. That's convenient. It's efficient. It's also very profitable for the store, since we know they are using the rotisserie chicken that didn't sell the day before, but it still adds real value to my life.

    In what ways can you provide a little bit more to your customers and in the process save them LOTS of hassle, fear, anxiety, or time? Your expertise in your field ensures that you can do certain things quickly, and almost effortlessly that would be a major effort for your customers. Find out what these things are and people will gladly pay a premium for them.

    One More Example
    People who get hung up on chopping their own vegetables to save $2, or of driving 5 miles out of their way to save 3 cents a gallon on gasoline are living false economy. Your time is valuable and even more important is the value that other people can add when you allow them to do what they do best.

    The spices and vegetable combinations the gourmet chef uses to prepare the soup kit are not only more efficient, they result in a better product than I would have created if left to my own devices.

    In the same way, I have people who travel from all over the world (Australia, England, Canada, and all over the United States) to attend workshops I hold on how to build a highly successful business. It isn't the only way to be successful at all, but it is a very simple way to get a huge head start, and the people who have attended have an amazing success record.

    A very good friend of mine who I first met when he attended one of these workshops in 2004 recently told me that he had mowed his lawn for the last time. I asked him what his landscaping looked like now and he laughed. He said he had hired someone to cut the grass for him. This "simple" job was actually a half-day ordeal that involved driving to the gas station, mixing oil and gasoline, filling the lawn mower and then cleaning up the spilled gasoline. The lawn mower never wanted to start without lots of cajoling, and hours later, after mowing, edging, and sweeping up all the clippings, he had to shower and then rest for an hour before being able to take on other jobs.

    For $35 he was able to turn that entire job over to someone else, sell his mower and edger (which paid for the first two months of service) and then he spent that half-day each week working on his business.

About the Author: Julian Franklin is one of America's leading marketing consultants, a top behavior modification specialist, and author who develops creative ways to stimulate growth in your business. He has authored more than 20 books on human behavior, marketing, professional development, and personal accomplishment. He is frequently invited to speak on these topics as well. For more information, including the opportunity to subscribe to his free monthly e-newsletter, you can visit www.JulianSpeaks.com

© 2009 Julian Franklin Productions, Inc.