The final stop of the MarketingProfs Smart Marketers Tour was Boston, MA (well, technically, Lincoln, MA) on July 10. We held the event at the beautiful deCordova Museum, and it was our best-attended (though the show we did in Minneapolis ran a close second). The entire tour was sponsored by Dun & Bradstreet, and the Boston show was also sponsored by Demandbase.
Jeff Mayersohn vs. Amazon.com
How do you succeed when you are a local, independent business and your main competitor is one of the biggest companies in the world?
That's the challenge that Jeff has faced since he and his wife bought the bookstore back in 2008. An engineer by training, and possessing a strong, analytical bent, Jeff sat down when embarking on this new venture and thought through both Amazon's formidable strengths and his store's potential advantages over the e-commerce behemoth.
He had to admit that on the dimensions of inventory, fulfillment, and price Amazon had the upper hand. At the same time, he thought that given the personal touch he and his staff can provide, he could beat Amazon on the customer service front.
Then he did something radical to confront Amazon on the inventory and fulfillment fronts: He bought a machine that could print books in five minutes and had access to 6 million volumes online. He also arranged for quick, same-day home delivery by partnering with a company called Metro Pedal Power.
Changing the Game
By adding local manufacturing and distribution to his business, Jeff changed the game. He also made it possible for people to rethink their relationship with this store. Rather than thinking of it as a place to "go and discover books"—realizing that when people finally know they want, they go to Amazon—Jeff wanted them to think of it as "the place where you can get any book ever written."
And not only that. Jeff wanted people to know, "We can get that book to you faster…because we are part of your neighborhood. We are local."
Disintermediating the Disintermediators
Under Jeff's innovative leadership, the bookstore is thriving. He's printing 1,000-1,500 books a month, and he holds 300 or so events a year to keep people connected to the store and the many authors—new and established—that it supports.
He still faces challenges, of course. The rise of the e-book has further complicated the lives of booksellers. But even there, Jeff believes, there things that could be done to change the game, such as publishers allowing him to print their books on location, and publishers giving away the e-book free with purchase of the physical book.
Though e-books pose an interesting problem, Jeff still has faith in the physical book; and his ability to print and deliver many on demand gives him a powerful, local advantage over Amazon. That advantage in mind, Jeff says, tongue ever-so-slightly in cheek, "I have a theory. My theory is that the reason Amazon is pushing the e-book is because they are afraid of me."
A Ring in a Box
Lou Imbriano showed up to the event, as he often does, wearing one of the three Super Bowl rings he received while working for the Patriots. I asked him about it because it was the inspiration for the greatest promotional idea he ever had... that didn't come to fruition.
The idea was this: Hide one Super Bowl ring (or a replica) in a box of Cracker Jacks and sit back while fans bought millions of boxes in search of the ring. But the Krafts, owners of the Patriots, didn't want to play ball.
"They didn't want to cheapen it," Lou told me when I asked him why. it should be hard to get a Super Bowl ring and, frankly, making it something you could pull out of a box of caramel-covered popcorn makes it less than what it is.
But the concept behind the promotion—creating memorable moments for fans and customers—has guided Lou throughout his career.
Making Moments Memorable
The key to making memorable moments, Lou explained, was turning the Golden Rule on its head: "It's not 'treat others the way you want to be treated.' It's 'treat others the way THEY want to be treated,' because, if you treat others the way they want to be treated, it's hard for them to say no."
Lou's business philosophy revolves around the concept of "relationship architecture." If you want to succeed in business, it's all about the number and quality of the relationships you actively and consciously create. "You have to create memorable moments," Lou says, "when you're building relationships."
As an example, Lou described what his father, a pharmaceutical salesman, used to do. If he called an office and the receptionist said everyone was too busy to see him that day, he'd head off to Boston's North End, buy a big order of pasta and antipasto, then waltz into the office with lunch for everyone. Seeing Lou senior in the conference room serving food, in the middle of a hectic day with no time to otherwise grab a bite, made for a very memorable moment.
Always Be Creating
Though Lou had access to Tom Brady and Gillette Stadium to create memorable moments for his customers, he insisted that "it's not about the magnitude of how you create memorable moments, it's about your attitude."
The hallmark of that attitude, in Lou's mind, is not thinking about what and how much you can sell to people, but, instead, how you can help them succeed in their business. When you think about things this way, you move out of the classic "Always Be Closing" mindset into the "Always Be Creating" mindset.
"If you can create mechanisms to help people do business," Lou says, "they're going to spend as much money as you can possible give them, as long as the money comes [back] in."
In the end, Lou advised, "The revenue piece is not about asking for money, it's about finding what people want, and giving it to them."
If you'd like to hear my conversations with Jeff and Lou, you may listen above or download the mp3 and listen at your leisure. Of course, you can always subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via the RSS feed. Thanks for listening!