Thursday, February 10, 2011

Preaching to the Pen Choir

Yesterday, I talked about going to a fashionable diamond retailer to find some decorative pens, and I mentioned that I went to the pretentiapen store after that. I was hoping to find a little salvation after the phone encounter.

There were glass jewelry cases protecting the pens from the public, with the Cartier display being the first shrine that customers encounter. I immediately got the feeling that I wasn't welcome there because I didn't fit the 'fine writing instrument' type. I was putting out the vibe that I was just shopping, and, well, there are many business models which strive for the immediate sale. I was greeted by the only sales representative on the floor.

I asked the gentleman whether his store offered any apprenticeship programs. I immediately found out that this store only sold fine writing instruments, no service department for nibs. I nodded and asked him the same question that I'd asked before, about the difference between a Pilot Precise and a fountain pen. He explained to me that he was merely a salesman and could not provide me any real 'why' for the product that he sold. I then asked him about the difference between a Pilot Varsity and a Lamy Safari.

Pilot VarsityI was taken over to the demonstration model of the Safari, and picked it up. A lot lighter than I had expected it, but the pen itself was out of ink. There was no true way that I was going to test it. I've been wanting to give the Varsity another chance, so I bought one for $3.21. I also apologized to the sales representative for such a small purchase. When I walked out, I vowed never to return.

This particular place has been in business for a number of years, though I believe that there is a reliance on web sales rather than on walk-ins. Their sales are down, and people who look at things merely aggravate the situation. The business model fails to accept any types of customers who would fall outside of the realm of 'people who want expensive products.' By removing the accessibility, they are also removing a possible client base. This is troubling, because more clients mean more money, right?

Think about this like going to church. Many churches focus on gaining members from a very small pool of individuals. This group of individuals is made up of people who are more likely to be going to church. The church's competition is made of the other churches within the surrounding area, all of them searching for people who are within the target niche. They will also advertise to those who are newly arrived in the city. While there are exceptions, churches generally do not try to advertise for those who are not within their niche. They do not tend to seek out individuals who are not likely to go to church, nor are they likely to seek out individuals who are of different faiths. In other words, they want to preach to the choir.

Preaching to the choir is exactly what this pen business is doing. They are not making the effort to get 'outsiders' interested in their products, to create a larger client base. They are not taking the initiative to educate their salespeople (or hiring ones who can talk about pens) about the products which they sell. They are staying within the narrow parameters which have been set for the client base.

Why does this trouble me?

Companies can do better

The price of advertising in print publications is not cheap. The price of advertising in radio or on television is high. The price of training employees, getting web sites together, tossing marketing 'noodles' against the wall, and other marketing activities is paid for mostly in sweat equity. There are outlets like Twitter and Facebook, where a company can forge their own niche. If this company made itself more accessible and spent time with the larger category of 'everybody who writes,' they would definitely have more business. By focusing on the small niche, they can lose sight of the larger picture.

If you're a business owner, don't you want to make everyone feel comfortable?

1 comment:

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