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Lessons learned before, during and after the sale

Portrait of a couple getting a romantic massage

I learned my lesson in more ways than one from a recent holiday gift buying experience…

BEFORE: One of the Christmas gifts my wife asked for was a “couples massage.” That sounded like a simple enough request, so I set out on what I thought would be a quick mission to make her wish come true.

First, I thumbed through a local, upscale “advertiser”-type publication, certain that I’d come across a few “Holiday Special” offers, from which I’d make my choice. I was surprised when I didn’t find anything special there, so I picked up another similar ad-filled circular – but again I came up empty.

3 1/2 years’ experience working for a major yellow pages publisher taught me that there was practically no chance of me finding even a half-decent offer in any of the ads there, so I didn’t even bother getting up from the living room couch to walk the whole 20 feet to get my local directory out of the back cupboard.

Finally, I fired up my computer and typed “couples massage Barrington” into my favorite search engine, hoping I’d be bombarded with irresistible offers to choose from.

No such luck.

I found a few local business websites with some mention of a “Holiday Special” for a couples massage – but they were the weak, run-of-the-mill, plain vanilla, anything-but-compelling offers typical of most small businesses.

The most compelling offer I found, along with the easiest-to-navigate website (hours, driving directions, menu of services, etc.) was a local location of a national chain of massage centers. So I hopped into my car and drove to the nearest clinic to check it out and make my purchase.

Lesson learned: Undoubtedly there were at least a dozen better massage therapists closer to our home, but none of them did a decent enough job of making that fact known (“marketing”) to get me to spend my money with them.

DURING: About a week after Christmas, we went to the clinic for our “couples massage” experience. We were running a few minutes late en route from another appointment, and called on our way to let them know.

Apparently, that didn’t matter, because when we got there we were told that our massages would still end at our originally-scheduled time. A pair of young, inexperienced and impersonal massage therapists then rather mechanically performed our services, finishing 5 minutes before the end of our originally-scheduled hour and telling us to take our time getting dressed (as long as we were out of the room by the top of the hour!).

My wife complained that it was the shortest massage she’d ever had (it was for me, too – but that’s because it was my first). She also told me about her first-class treatment at some of the luxury resorts we’ve stayed at, explaining that every other time she’d been told to take her time getting up off the massage table, the masseuse really meant it. She also questioned why I chose the clinic I had, letting me know that her regular masseuse would have provided a much, much better all-around experience (who knew she had a “regular masseuse”?).

Lesson learned: Small business owners can’t assume that shoppers will magically know that they provide superior service to that of their competitors. They must do as excellent a job of marketing – conveying a powerful message to a hungry audience interested in their product or service – as they do of delivering the goods.

Sadly, local business owners almost always hide out working in their businesses and fail to sufficiently work on their businesses – which, while less comfortable for the vast majority, also happens to be where all the money is in any business.

AFTER: It has now been a little over two weeks since we had our massages. Have we gotten a single phone call, thank-you card, postcard, newsletter or even one lousy email? Nope. Not one bit of after-the-sale follow-up whatsoever.

Do they just expect that everyone who comes to one of their clinics will automatically be eager to return? (Or do they somehow know that people will have such a thoroughly disappointing experience that it’s not worth any attempt at all to invite them back?)

Lesson learned: Business owners spend a lot of money to acquire new customers, clients or patients. One sure way to increase revenue and profits is to maximize every single lead and customer with excellent marketing and overall business practices – including, but in no way limited to, first-class service – before, during and after the sale.

Learn how to do that well, and you’ll find growing your business much easier than otherwise – regardless of the overall state of the economy.

Oh, and here’s one bonus piece of advice for this week: Make sure not to rely on me to select a massage services provider for you!

4 Responses to Lessons learned before, during and after the sale

  1. Felicia Slattery Reply

    January 18, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Hi Steve-
    Great illustration of what local business owners do wrong and how they can quickly improve if only they figure out how to tell people what they are up to.

    In the “my business is different” (but not really) category, this makes me think of what I can do to be in front of the people who are looking to hire me. Not just online, which is well-optimized for me, but also all of the other possible ways of reaching out and marketing to my various audiences.

    I have to admit, sometimes I’m a little jealous of the brick & mortar local businesses who can do so many things to bring people into their businesses, but then I twist those ideas around and realize I can do a lot of the same things, just tweaked to work for me.

    Sorry your first ever massage experience was so horrible. Next time you’re at a spa resort, go with Michele and see the difference. It’s fabulous when it’s done right!

  2. Rob Carsello Reply

    January 18, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Good stuff! Thanks for pointing my attention to the important places I can make some improvements in my business – the customer experience before, during and after.

  3. Shelley Amdur Reply

    January 18, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Individual massage therapists generally make very little money and are one person operations. Having a few creative INEXPENSIVE marketing tools, some of which you suggest above, would be helpful to them.
    Might be interesting to get your wife’s masseuse’s opinion of how the ideas above would work for his/her business.

  4. Steve Sipress Reply

    January 18, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Thanks for your empathy, Felicia! Just so happens we’ll be staying at two different 5-star resorts over the next six weeks, so I have a feeling I’ll go for another “couples massage” with my beautiful wife Michele to experience the real thing.

    Shelley: I love your positive attitude, but in my experience working with thousands of sole proprietors over the past 25+ years, not only would it not be interesting to talk marketing with 99% of masseuses, but undoubtedly Michele’s current masseuse’s opinion on marketing ideas would be of zero interest to me. Remember the story: that masseuse is one of the vast majority of those who don’t even implement the most basic strategies as to be found when someone is looking in their precise area for their precise service.

    Furthermore, that masseuse’s “opinion” is useless, because the inarguable fact is that my ideas would undoubtedly work stupendously for her business.

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