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Lather, rinse, repeat. There’s an urban legend around these three words. The story goes that a few decades ago, leading consumer products companies started to add the word “repeat” to the simple instructions “lather and rinse” for use of their shampoo products. They did so not because they’d found it increased the product’s effectiveness, but because they wanted to increase sales. It’s a simple, seemingly savvy, and somewhat shady idea — if a customer follows the new instructions, they’ll use up that product twice as fast, run out sooner, and buy more. If only selling — a product or or idea — were that simple. Yet it turns out the word we’ve come to regard as a sneaky trick — repeat — is in fact the word that holds the key to making ideas, ventures, and yes, even sales more likely and long-lasting, and more capable of creating value for everyone.
Recently, I was asked to do something I’ve done hundreds of times in over 35 years of work with entrepreneurs: decipher why a really good and innovative idea was having trouble gaining traction in a market badly in need of just such a solution. The co-founder and I spent an hour talking about all aspects of the business, after which it was clear to me that he and his team had not only done their homework, they’d actually identified a critical gap in the market. Moreover, the market was one the founder knew intimately, having worked in it for many years. He and his startup team had successfully built a solution, one that not only addressed the problem, but was capable of giving would-be clients true competitive advantage. Better still, it was a working product, a tested one, and one that people liked to use. A lot.
It was clear this startup knew three critical things: 1) the pain point for their target clients; 2) the goals both the clients and the venture sought to achieve; and 3) the importance of the prospective clients making the decision to buy based on what the founder called a “conviction” — an undeterrable commitment to alleviate the pain and achieve their goals by using this specific solution. In each sales test to date, they had diligently pursued these things down a path and checked each one off along the way. It all seemed to point to what the startup wanted most: a close of the sale. There was just one problem: they forgot to repeat.
Take note: this start-up was already doing the things so many start-ups fail to do, and because they were, they established the necessary foundation without which ‘repeat’ has no meaning. They started a business and built a solution around an actual need. They honed a pitch to prove to their prospects that they not only understood the business and need, but had a solution both viable and with a huge upside potential. They even went so far as to let the prospects use the solution in their actual work to see for themselves the results. Closing the deal seemed the obvious next step. In reality, it was the exact moment at which it was time to repeat.
Every step in this process for any venture – seeing the gap, identifying the pain point, clarifying the goals, all of it, happens not just once, but in fact repeats many times over. As everyone becomes informed, they also get information overload. When they do, it’s far too easy to forget the basics – like what is the actual problem we are trying to solve, and why? Sadly, this dynamic is as true in a product development cycle or a sales process, as it is in the evolution of a venture. A linear path is a pipe dream. In truth, it’s a maturation ongoing. As it unfolds, not only do the facts and priorities need periodic updating, but core things, confidently assumed things, things that seem obvious like the problem, the pain, the goal, and the purpose each must be repeatedly brought back to center stage, reconfirmed, and relearned. Even though we tend to see it as such, the growth of anything, especially in a volatile business world, isn’t a linear path and checklist with certain victory at the end.
That’s why conviction matters so much. Conviction, that will and commitment to actually ease the pain, pursue the goals, and commit to the solution, only comes when we are reminded how all the pieces fit together and why it all matters. Rather than each step being simply a one-time step in a journey from point A to point B, each is a lens that must be continually applied and refocused.
Just like with mystery shopping and evaluating your customer’s experience, one shop does not tell the store. Typically several shops will give you a good insight but being consistent with a mystery shopping program keeps your associate on their toes if they feel as though any customer could be a mystery shopper.
With that, I’ll close. And if you follow this simple advice, so will you.
Give us a call and we’ll be happy to send you our guidelines on creating a successful mystery shopping program.
BY LARRY ROBERTSON AND CARL PHILLIPS