a great example of knowing your customer and providing a unique value proposition


a great example of knowing your customer and providing a unique value proposition

Often you will hear a business owner say – ‘I want to provide a great customer experience’. And most times you just smile back and say ‘I am sure you do – well done’.

Other times you witness a business and it just stands out from the crowd.

Such was the case when I went exploring the shops on Horseferry Road in London. Usually, when you look at a shop you can easily spot the type of shop – a shoe shop, a butchers, and the like, but as we walked past I spotted a shop and thought ‘now this is a beautiful shop – what type of shop is it?’ The signage was simple and elegant; black letters Mayther – nothing more.

I had to walk in. A nod, from the shop owner acknowledged my presence. The shop was immaculate and the goods were arranged in an order that only the fussiest of people would have the motivation to initially undertake and then constantly maintain.

I also noticed a similarity with the men’s clothing section of Fortnum and Mason in that some of the display tables were round and had plenty of space. In this shop, other display tables were rectangular and the positioning of the round and rectangular display tables created a flow, subtly directing customer movement, not like the annoying enter-exit sheep pen formula of some shops. Nor was the cash register at the front of the shop - it was at the back; behind the cash register I noticed a large traditional clock, I thought that is clever; people naturally glance at clocks and this clock was positioned to catch their eye and help shoppers to locate the cash register and, I guess, allowed them to manage their time.

There were books, but this was not a book store, there were pens and moleskin notebooks but this was not a stationery store, there were greeting cards but it was a little more tasteful than most greeting card stores – for one thing the cards were at nice viewing height – nothing too low nothing too high, there were gifts but this was not a gift store. There were teddy bears and cloth dolls the kind you would give to a friend who just had a baby. There was a good selection of wrapping paper and gift bags and boxes.

As I lurked around I observed a lady, late thirties elegantly dressed with an Aspinal of London hand bag, select a card and present it at the cash register, she smiled, the owner smiled and she politely said it is ‘for a friend’s birthday, I hope she likes it’. The owner looked at the card for a second or two, and said ‘I am sure she will’ – ‘would you like a stamp?’ Now this is not a post-office either. ‘Oh yes’, said the lady, ‘that would save me a visit to the post-office’ – I sensed she mentally calculated the saving in time. The shop owner gave her a stamp, picked up on the fact that she wanted to complete this task ASAP, and offered a LAMY pen ‘Do you want to use this to complete the card?’ ‘What a good idea’, said the Lady, with a smile. She paid for her purchase and moved away to an area and filled in the card, when she returned the pen, she politely said that ‘this is nice pen it has a nice feel’. The owner smiled and took the pen – he said 'thank you'. She said 'thank you', she smiled and walked out of the shop ready to post the birthday card to her friend. I was impressed he did not attempt to sell the pen or prattle on about his range of pens ... this was sales influenced by the marketing philosophy.

The owner had focused on brand building rather than a short-term sale.

I then introduced myself to the shop owner, his name is Trevor, I complimented him on his shop and apologized for eavesdropping – he smiled, I told him about my project, and asked if it would be OK if I returned the next day when he wasn’t as busy and have a chat. He invited me to return.

I have always found that people who love business, understand the mechanics of a sale, and appreciate the theatre of business find it a great compliment when others notice the strategy that has gone into creating outstanding service quality and a great customer experience. He thought it interesting that I had recognized his process, and that through quality service he had enhanced the customer experience and most likely turned a first time customer into a repeat customer. This deliberate cultivating of a customer is referred to as ‘populating and managing the salespipeline’.

Just then a lady and a gentleman came to the counter and the gentleman said “we are buying a gift for a female colleague who is leaving us; a few years ago I bought a nice pen from this shop, it was really well appreciated, and we are looking for something similar”. Trevor, guides them to the display cabinets and after a few questions suggests a Caran D’Ache pen. The lady handles the pen, she now appears to have greater involvement in the decision, and she makes a selection – the gentleman agrees and says ‘I think she will like that pen’. Trevor, has said very little, he takes the pen polishes it with a cloth and places it in its box. He then asks ‘which gift wrapping paper do you prefer’, the lady, a little surprised, thanks him and selects the wrapping paper, Trevor proceeds to wrap the pen box with a grace that, has to be seen, as the pen is wrapped, the lady walks over and selects a greeting card. The gentleman hands over his credit card [I suspect a corporate credit card] - the exchange is completed, they walk from the shop. Trevor smiles at me; he knows that I appreciate a beautiful theatrical production and a win-win-win-win for all concerned.

When these customers entered his store - did he spot the quality of their clothing, their shoes, her hand bag, their overcoats, his IWC watch that he glanced at, that she was a few years younger but not his daughter or a younger wife, that they had maintained a respectful distance, therefore they were colleagues, that, initially, he led and then allowed her to take over the purchase but he gently directed the price – perhaps to ensure that an appropriate amount was spent. That, perhaps, he was keen to maintain ‘face’ when buying this gift. Of course Trevor would have seen all of this – this would have been as natural as breathing. He did something else - he had the experience to know what brand of pen would be appropriate and then allowed them to buy the pen. What I mean is that someone else would have tried to sell them a pen.

The next day I returned to Mayther and he asks me where else I have been and I mention that I have been from The Regency to The Ritz, an odd combination and he laughed, he knew both. He tells me he is a regular customer at The Regency and about his observations of the café.  We return to the topic of his shop and Trevor mentions that he has an apartment in the area so he was familiar with the area before he opened the shop; he thought it would complement his other shops, when he first saw the shop he looked at the empty shop for five minutes and could then see in his mind’s eye the completed shop, the type of goods it would stock, the layout, and the atmosphere he felt it would need.

I don’t know the Westminster area like Trevor; nor do I have his experience in this type of business, after all he has a chain of 10 stores in selected locations in England, nevertheless, it is natural for a marketing person to undertake an environmental scan. Prior to my second visit I walked around the area I took photographs and recognised that his shop was surrounded by office buildings and many of the offices appeared to be the head offices for multi-national organisations. I noticed a young lady and man in a small park sharing lunch I asked them if they worked in the area, they did, we had a little chat as they left I asked if it was OK to take their photograph as they walked back to their work, they laughed and said that would be fine and held hands.

Trevor and I discussed that offices suggest office workers, in the Westminster area of London there are tens of thousands of office workers;, and that means all the life events that happen in any office, [birthdays, romances, engagements, weddings, divorces, farewells, get wells, thank you, well done, all happen around this shop. There are also a number of special days; such as Valentine’s day, Easter Sunday, Mother’s Day, Father’s day, Christmas, New Years etc] that are celebrated each year. I concluded, that this was a shop that did not fit within an existing category; instead it belonged in its own category. The shop was as a consequence of analyzing the needs of the people who worked in the surrounding offices and their need to belong and to celebrate the events that happen in their colleague’s lives - to be part of a community.

Some people need categories and if I had to give one it would be as a boutique gift and card shop but categories can set parameters, can create limitations not just in the thinking of the management and staff but also in the customer’s mind. This highlights the very basis of marketing – that marketing starts with understanding the needs and wants of the customer – what are the needs and wants of the people you will serve. NOT - how do I create a shop that will fit in a category. Mayther, Westminster is great example of creating its own category – marketing practitioners refer to this as ‘blue ocean’.

I want to revisit something Trevor mentioned and I have reflected on this comment a number of times. He may have seen his shop unfold in front of him in five minutes and it could be misinterpreted that it was a quick decision; however, there was forty years of retail experience in those five minutes.

My experience with successful business people like Trevor, is that their involvement with their business is such that they are often conducting an ongoing and evolving marketing audit and working a dynamic marketing plan.  It is like they are constantly auditing the situational factors in which they operate – constantly collecting information about the customer, his organisation, the market, and the products  ---- and then continually up-dating the marketing action plans.

In the e-book we talk about research as being as needed marketing research and everyday marketing research. In larger organisations, naturally, this is a more formal and documented process. Of course, there are the day to day conversations between management about how changes in the marketplace may require tactics to be adjusted. However, in my observations business people like Trevor have a philosophy that guides a unique product value proposition and this guides a perpetual marketing plan that adjusts to the seasonal factors and changing situational factors. I would therefore suggest that while some businesses are smaller and agile like a jazz band others are larger and more disciplined and like a 120 piece orchestra.


Do you believe that by understanding the events that happen in any office, that a Trevor has created a unique value proposition?  Explain your position.

How important are the augmented services that Trevor delivers to his 'time-poor' customers? Explain your thoughts.


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