July 14, 2022
My hometown once had dozens of corner grocery stores. Two years ago, a long-shuttered one was reopened by the family of its founder. Some observers thought they were crazy; we were down to two supermarkets because of the large super-duper retail complex that exterminated most of the old shopping district. That “anachronism” is thriving today. So is the ice cream stand that re-opened in January to offer carry-out meals long before the world knew they needed them. What can we learn from this? Firstly, conventional wisdom is not always correct. Circumstances may change but not everyone wants to structure their lives around the lowest cost solution. The second lesson is that people want a sense of community, even in the face of trying times. The people operating the grocery and the food stand do an excellent job of reaching out to potential customers. They support local youth sports; they contribute to the food pantry and other charities. This is on top of delivering outstanding products and listening to customers. A line from M.L. Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft has stuck with me: You can’t drive a nail from the internet. You may be able to watch a video about driving a nail or adding on to your house, but if you do not have the skills to do it yourself you will have to find someone to come to your house, quote the job, get the permits, order the materials, and finally, build the addition. The folks on cable TV will give you ideas, but they won’t provide the service. I have blogged before of the sales representatives I worked with over the years who built and maintained relationships with their customers’ plants for twenty, even thirty years. Retirements and changing marketing “visions” made those relationships much more rare today. Seeing the revival of “personal” marketing in my community makes me wonder if it is not time to make a new effort with industrial customers. Gear Technology is devoted to advancing the technical side of our trade, but it was started by a man who mastered the personal side of selling. Yes, you can buy used machinery or gearboxes over the internet, but having a “friend” who knows your needs help you will give better results.