In February of this year, NBC’s Today show aired an episode of its “Main Street Makeover” series featuring two small businesses in imminent danger of closure.
The first was a family-owned toy store, Veach’s Toy Station in Richmond, Indiana, and Biscuit Love, a food truck in Nashville. Both companies were evaluated and coached by marketing expert Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology: Truth and Lies About What We Buy. Lindstrom made suggestions for major changes at both shops, and last weekend Today returned to see how things are going. Happily, things are going pretty well, although the owners acknowledge that some of the changes have been difficult.
At Veach’s, Lindstrom disliked the “don’t touch” displays of toys that didn’t invite interaction and didn’t help customers understand how to play with the toys. He advised the owners to use their space to feature inviting play stations that encouraged customers to interact with the merchandise. He stressed that each display should “tell a story.” He also offered strategies to encourage customers to linger, noting that longer stays result in more purchases. The owners admit that change has been stressful. They reluctantly discontinued their electric train merchandise, a long-standing family tradition, because it occupied a lot of space without generating much revenue.
At the Biscuit Love truck, Lindstrom reminded the owners that they were selling a unique experience, not just biscuits. He urged them to transport “that experience that they were having in their minds into the product and into the service.” That strategy has paid off so well that the owners are planning to open a restaurant in Nashville later this year.
I know what you’re thinking. What does selling toys or biscuits have to do with teaching at a community college? More than you might think. We should understand that we teachers enter our “shops” every day and literally hawk knowledge. Our businesses, er, classrooms can either be inviting places where our student-customers linger and enjoy the experience of handling and buying knowledge, or they can decide to go elsewhere, either literally or by checking out mentally.
Here are a few tips that Lindstrom offers. How many of these marketing ideas could be used in your classroom knowledge shop?
- Create engaging surroundings where customers can touch, taste, see, and feel their surroundings.
- “The best ideas are free…even crazy. Don’t be afraid to think big.”
- “Would you want to shop in your store?…No one wants to come back if they wanted to leave in the first place.”
- “Ask for help. Every community has untapped resources.”
Buyology is a great read. If you’re a bit tired of educational jargon, dip into this little gem of a book to learn how you can spiff up your knowledge shop. Maybe your student customers will want to buy more of what you’re selling.