A text-only version of this post appeared in my GoodReads blog on March 21, 2011. I think the lessons still hold true today. By the bye, the hobby shop to which I referred, along with the entire Borders bookstore chain, is now closed. Enjoy!
“Don’t focus on counting the number of fans you have; focus on the number of fans who count on you.” — From the Facebook fan page of Puerto Rican a cappella group NOTA
In the past 24 hours, I’ve had cause to think about this quote from a couple of different perspectives.
I am occasionally guilt of trying very hard to “grow” my fan page over on Facebook. I had a contest for the person who brought in the most new members: the prize was having a character named after the winner in my novel, In The Eye of The Storm (it was a three-way tie, so there are three new characters). I share the page on my personal profile now and then, inviting new people to join.
None of this is bad, really.
I also spend relatively little time on “billboarding” — promoting my work. Instead, I have regular, weekly features to engage my readers — specifically because I want to focus on the fans who count on me.
Unfortunately, there are a number of examples out there where businesses don’t “get it.”
For instance, my husband moonlights a couple of evenings a week at a hobby store where he once worked full time. It’s a mom-and-pop place which, like many small businesses, is struggling in today’s economy.
For many years, the shop has had arrangements with local school districts; the students get a discount on materials they need for certain projects.
The original owner’s son is now running the shop and his roommate buddy is now the manager. The manager decided it would be a great idea to tear out many shelves to install an indoor remote control car track (he and the owner’s son are big into this hobby).
And where did the shelves come from?
You guessed it: the part of the store where the project supplies were housed. All of those supplies were literally thrown into a storage area, with no organization whatsoever — unless, of course, the manager threw them into the Dumpster, from which my husband rescued several perfectly good, unblemished items.
So, now the students come, looking for the things they need for their projects. They are counting on this store. When my husband proceeded to root through the storage area to find things for the kids, he was chastised. He was told to lie and say that Item X was no longer available, and to say that (more costly) Item Y could be obtained in the model trains department. The manager doesn’t care about the people who are counting on that store, in other words; he just cares about forcing them to spend more money.
My husband refuses to lie to people.
Another example is much bigger: the Borders bankruptcy.
I remember when Borders was a bookstore. Now they sell movies, music, t-shirts, stationery: you name it. They lost track of the fans who were counting on them in their rush to get more fans.
The Borders near my office was added the list of stores to be closed under the company’s bankruptcy proceedings. I wasn’t even surprised, given how far they’ve gone from their bookselling mission. For crying out loud, when I asked an employee there whether they carried bookplates, he responded that they didn’t sell dishes!
In the mean while, the tiny Books, Inc., store across from another Borders location (also slated to close) is thriving. Why? Because their business is selling books. The shop owner said in a recent television news interview that his focus was on his customers, knowing what they like, being able to make recommendations for other titles accordingly and so on.
In other words, Books, Inc., is focused on the fans who count on them.
Focus like that is way different from figuring out ways to part your customers from their discretionary income — and earns customer satisfaction that no amount of money can buy.