Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Don't Bring Me Down

At the trailer on the Manistee River where my family spent many a summer vacation there was a printed piece of fabric full of cliches. I loved reading those phrases and spent many a night asking my dad to explain what they meant.

One of my favorites was "Before you run in double harness, look well to the other horse."

There is a reason we haven't done a lot of collaboration marketing and promotions. Quite often the other horse wasn't up to our speed. We weren't willing to use (lose) our reputation because of an inferior partner.

We are All in Double Harness
The Shop Local movement has challenged all that. To get the benefits of a Shop Local campaign we have to allow ourselves to be defined under the umbrella of all local businesses. We have to allow ourselves to be defined by the local florist, the local shoe store, the local tailor, and many other businesses over which we have no influence or control.

That's scary.

Especially when I read stories about local retailers failing their customers like this one by Rick Segal, this one by Cinda Baxter or this one by Bob Phibbs.

I'm not sure I want to run in harness with all those other businesses.

At the same time, however, I really don't have a choice. The Shop Local movement is here to stay, whether it gains a lot of momentum in our area or not. We also face the issue of being defined as a downtown business, so I'm lumped in with all other downtown businesses and the perceptions they are giving customers (good or bad). And I'm a specialty toy retailer and specialty baby product retailer.

That's a lot of horses tied together. And if we all run well, we can travel far. But if we don't...

I'm Counting on You, You're Counting on Me
We are in double harness whether we like it or not. And it raises the stakes for all of us. Not only do we have to do right by the customer for our own sake, we have to do it for every other retail channel we represent.

Makes you realize that more customer service training isn't such a bad idea after all.

-Phil

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