I have a friend who happens to own and run the largest privately owned hardware store back where I’m from. Granted it’s a family business that was started by his father. But by most accounts he’s managed to not only maintain the business but grow it as well. He’s done all this in the face of the Home Depot, Loews and a world of competition that his dad never had to deal with.
He also happens to be the first person in his family to ever graduate from university. He’ll tell you that all the book smarts he picked up about business and management strategies combined with all the hard work put in by the family is the secret to the success. No doubt those are huge factors, but I think there’s something else at play.
For some bizarre reason his favourite artist has always been Madonna. Always has been always will be. In our younger years, when out on the town. When Madonna came over the sound system. Watch out! My buddy would spread his arms as though he had wings and would spin around like a helicopter on the dance floor. If only more camera phones existed back then...
This gregariousness and larger than life personality carries over to all aspects of life. He’s the guy that nobody has anything bad to say about. In fact, he’s the face of the hardware store which markets itself as a place where the staff will remember you and where you’ll get a level of customer service that you simply can’t put a price on.
Contrast that with who he competes against, big boxes. Faceless corporations, the type of businesses that Michael Moore makes documentaries about.
That disparity between the culture of small business and the culture of big business is something that as marketers I think we can all help to improve.
Social media and a renewed focus on the experience provided to customers across all channels at its core are humanizing the world of business. Consumers don’t want to be looked at as sources of revenue on a pie chart. Consumers want to be a part of a community, and they want to know the people behind the businesses and be a part of an active dialog on how to improve them. This is grounded in not only psychology but biology. We’re a tribal species, and I think that business is really on the cusp of an era of understanding this again.
That’s why as long as Madonna still sells albums; my friend will be ok…