I would buy my cat's vet-recommended food and medicines from my vet. I do like supporting small businesses. But as many of us have done in the past couple of years, I've revisited my expenses and discovered that it's a lot cheaper to order online. As an aside, it rankles to pay for a prescription from the vet. The whole thing makes me feel bad. I want a great relationship with my vet, but here's me asking for a prescription, effectively saying to his face either "I'm too poor to buy my stuff from you" or "I think you charge too much for food and meds and I want to buy it elsewhere". He's saying back "well screw you, that's £20 for me to write you a prescription, don't expect a Christmas card". It's seriously not good.
My advice to them would be not to charge for the time handling food & medication orders, but to charge similar prices to online (even if that's loss making when considering the time you take to handle orders) and look forward to the marketing benefits as people realise you are giving a little and you're on our side. "What? Your vet charges how much? I'd move to .. they're very fair on that".
Accountants are important, but possibly equally important is the advice from your marketing consultant. Without customers, your accountant will be out of work too. (You do have a marketing consultant .. right?)
Anyway, so I've been using PetMeds but the last three orders have been late or wrong so I'm looking around for a new supplier. I started to follow VetUK on Facebook. I 'like'd their Facebook Page.
In the buying cycle, I've reached the point where I know I need to change. I'm on the lookout for what to change to. I'm open to moving back to my vet, depending on the prices, changing to another supplier, or maybe there's another way .. what are these group buying syndicates?
Spin around to look at that from VetUK's point of view, their Facebook Page has 3,247 followers who 'like' them. Great job. Some of those are customers, and some will be people like me, people who came past the site and wanted to give permission for VetUK to stick around in my consciousness while I wonder what I'm going to do.
So, back to me, this arrives in my inbox and it rankles me for hours, really upsets my day:
So that's kinda that, I was pretty much within a couple of weeks of needing to make this decision and now, I only know one thing for sure .. I won't be buying from VetUK.
Why? Why am I basically overreacting to such a small thing?
Well first of all, that's my prerogative, I get to spend my money where I like, get to feel what I want to feel, get to decide what I want out of life .. that's all mine, and that's worse than ever as we seem increasingly impotent to have our voices heard in politics or culture, where we spend our money stands in for all that's wrong or right with the world, powered by the too-many-rats-in-the-cage effect.
I admit, too, that I know in my heart I Facebook too much. I defend it because it is my work. It's also my circle of friends. I work mostly alone, and my partner has ME/CFS, so those frenetic parties, gigs, festivals people let off steam at? Not so easy for me. So I do get ribbed for my Facebook use already, but I know that it buoys me along and perhaps I also know .. a little too much. So I'm sensitive to being called on my Facebooking. It's OK when a friend does it. But when a shop does it? On Facebook? Fuck you, basically. Fuck you. So that's not good marketing.
So, let's just strip me out of it and take a look at what they said and look at it from a marketing, social media consultancy point of view and see how they could have not made that mistake, not have lost me as a potential (lifelong) customer.
Here's what they said: "It never ceases to amaze me how many people are on facebook when clearly some of you must be at work!! ha ha".
Some small things first. Big F for Facebook, surely? Inappropriate exclamation marks. The writer isn't my kinda person. What can I say? Probably younger than me. Inattention to detail? Tom Peters' coffee stain (if there's a coffee stain on my tray when I sit down on the plane, I have to assume they haven't maintained their engines .. there's something wrong with this company's management .. I won't fly with them (Coffee stain = I'm going to die)). OK, I can hear you saying "get over yourself", "it's a minor thing". See how many places I get to choose from? I'll find one I like, OK? Then I'll pass the word around. And I may yet live another forty years and spend £50 a month, every month. And you bet I'm using this as an example when I'm talking to people about how not to do social media. People like to buy from people who are like themselves.
At the root of what's wrong with this Facebook update is the assumption that we are all sneakily stealing time from our employers, using Facebook when we shouldn't, just like the author would. "You and me both, mate, together forever."
It's a collosal branding error.
Here's what's supposed to be happening.
You start a business to meet a need in a market. So, you understand your market. You know what sort of person wants what you want to sell.
What are pet owners like? A moments thought says you have everyone from kids with gerbils to lone pensioners whose dog is their best friend and forever companion. Actually the least likely pet owner is probably someone working full time. Pets need care.
What unites pet owners is their love of animals, and their especial love of their pets. Irresponsibly ripping off their employers is not what unites pet owners. Actually, most pet owners have taken on their pet in a very responsible manner. Actually, pet owners and irresponsibility and ripping off are probably at opposite ends of some psychological character trait line.
What you are supposed to do, then, once you understand your market, is craft a brand that will appeal to them. You dig into the psychological drivers of your market and you come up with ways to enact those drivers so the people in your market will think you're a hero.
Stuck? Can't do it. Too hard? Buy a magazine. Stuffed to the gunnels every month with things their readers (market) love enough to pay for. It's do-able. It's not easy, but let me give you one idea.
If I could find a place where I could buy pet medicine, where every order comes with a little card inside saying "lovingly packed for you by Shirley, owned by her two cats Marmeduke and Fluffyarse (pictured)" .. I would run naked through the streets shouting Eureka. It's not hard. It is do-able.
Stop looking at me like that .. I know that look. You run a serious business. I know. I'm talking serious business. Watch any ad. What's it trying to do? Ads try to connect emotionally with you. Why? Because it works, that's why. Connect emotionally with your customers. Change the world one Drontal at a time.
What'll it take? Well, it would be nice if it's always Shirley that packs my stuff. It would be nice if the card changes every now and then, particularly when she gets a new kitten or if she loses one of her cats .. so it's a relationship. It's nice that I'm a guy, and she's a gal .. do I want cute notes from guys .. maybe not. Oh, and of course, I own kitties, she owns kitties so we are matched that way. Otherwise .. what's so hard about that? And I'd be prepared to accept Derek putting Shirley's card in a pack once in a while if she's on hols. Not wholesale, riding roughshod over it, but occasionally. So then you just need at least one lady and one gentleman packer.
Of course, accept that as an idea and you're surely away on a journey that will change your business. Differentiate you. Make you the obvious choice.
Anyway, if you see a tall chap streaking through Scarborough, it might be me. I might have found somewhere to spend my money that doesn't accuse me of deceit.