For the Love of Cheese

cheese“Watson, do you like cheese?” The Effective Detective asked me.

“Cheese, sir? Yes, sir,” I replied, puzzled.

“So do I. I enjoy exploring the different kinds of cheese, which is why I was originally so happy that our local supermarket began carrying a wider variety of gourmet cheeses, and then so disappointed when they began to cut back,” The Detective responded looking out the window.

“Sir, what does our mutual taste in cheese have to do with marketing?” I asked, completely befuddled.

“Ah Watson, you need to open your eyes and see how everyday purchases and how they are handled by vendors can reveal lessons that are applicable to virtually any business,” The Detective paused, but only for an instant, allowing me no time to jump in.

“You see Watson, when our local store originally expanded their cheese department, they not only made an investment in the cheeses and the displays, they also made an investment in the people within that department. The people staffing the cheese department were friendly, knowledgeable, and outgoing. The staff made a visit to the cheese department an experience. You could find out more about the history of a cheese, what different foods and drinks it would go with. It made something as simple as cheese a reason to stop and visit, and often buy.

“Of course, I am not privy to the sales numbers of this store, or the management meetings, but within a relatively short period of time, staff was transferred, and the cheese selection was reduced. The staff that remained was far more cautious in speaking with the customers, typically merely answering questions, rather than volunteering information and stories,” The Detective trailed off, and I feared that he might not finish, and we would move on to another topic if I did not prod.

“Sir, I believe there was a point,” I encouraged.

“Quite right Watson,” The Detective perked up, and immediately picked up where he had left off.

“This is a cycle I have seen before. An effort is not immediately amazingly successful so the typical reaction of management is to cut. First staff, then when expensive product stops moving – mostly because there is no longer sufficient knowledgeable staff to create the appropriate experience – cut the product. The next step is to eliminate the experience entirely; staff should not be talking to customers unless absolutely necessary. They should be doing mindless busy work instead to prove they are actually working.

“The process continues down this death spiral. The management cannot understand why people are no longer buying 25 dollar a pound cheese anymore. What they never understood is that no one needs to buy 25 dollar a pound cheese. They buy it because the person behind the counter touched their emotions, painted a picture of the taste, and the reactions of party guests. In short, the staff, without considering it, were doing what all great marketers do – they went to the emotional reasons to buy, not the logical.

“That is the lesson to be learned here Watson. To never forget that we all buy based on emotion, we justify our decision with logic. When you remove the emotion from the sale, in this case the experience that the staff was able to create, you reduce the chances to actually close the sale.

“A pity too. I liked a lot of those cheeses,” The Detective concluded, and we moved on to other discussions.

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