• Bill Petrie

Solving the Willy Wonka Riddle

Clients don't care how, they just want it now.

Like most dog-loving, tax-paying, Whataburger-obsessed Americans, I do an inordinate amount of shopping online because it removes friction – especially as it relates to Amazon. So whether it’s batteries, citronella candles, Simple Green, or heat-resistant disposable barbecue gloves, I have been conditioned to go to Amazon first. And, yes, those are my last four orders from the website.


For years now, I’ve been thrilled to fork over $139 annually for Amazon Prime, which affords me free shipping – often delivered the same day – on thousands of products, access to Amazon Video, exclusive savings at Whole Foods Market, and a variety of other benefits. I’m so addicted to Amazon I have no idea when my $139 is taken from me, nor do I know what credit/debit card it’s taken from. However, there is a downside to all of this convenience.


As a consumer, if an organization doesn’t offer free two-day shipping and continually update me with the delivery status, I assume your shit is broken.


While it’s completely unfair, this is what your clients assume when buying promotional merchandise from your organization. Much like Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, your clients don’t care how they just want it now! Essentially, your business, my business, and everyone’s business must solve what I have dubbed “The Willy Wonka Riddle.”


To truly find a solution – and create value for clients – you first must accept that you’re not Amazon, and you’re never going to be Amazon. You don’t have the resources, infrastructure, or financial means to compete with their e-commerce efficiencies. What you can do, however, is leverage the best practices of Amazon, which will help you take a unique approach to how you run your business and foster client loyalty along the way.


Think Recurring Value and Revenue – As outlined above, Amazon has mastered the subscription model with Amazon Prime. In fact, as of May 2022, Amazon has 157.4 million Prime members in the United States. From a revenue perspective, that’s about $21.8B from subscriptions alone! It’s time to take this model to your clients. For example, you could partner with a few key suppliers to create a quarterly subscription box with the latest products for your top 20 clients and charge them to be part of an “exclusive group.” This will put marketing vehicles right into their hands – and they will thank you for it. If that feels like too much, you can leverage solutions that already exist in the industry like uniform, recognition, or badge programs. Doing so will show you not only care about your clients’ success but are deeply invested in them by constantly thinking about solving their marketing challenges.


Continually Experiment – Amazon is constantly experimenting, which allows them to innovate at a seemingly breakneck pace. In fact, Amazon has had so many failed product launches (I’m looking at you, Amazon Fire Phone) I would suggest the company is built on failure. However, those failures have led to some of their greatest successes. For Example, Amazon launched Amazon Auction in 1999 to compete with eBay. Amazon quickly realized they wouldn’t beat them at their own game. Still, it led to the launch of arguably one of their most successful offerings where they allow 3rd party vendors to market their products: Amazon Marketplace. When was the last time you – or your business – did something for the first time? When was the last time you tried different sales tactics, employed new marketing strategies, or even something as simple as using different suppliers? By experimenting with your business, you do more than just break free of routine that leads to stagnation; you also show your clients that you are continually evolving as an organization.


Make It About the Customer – If you’ve spent any time on the Promotional Products Professionals page on Facebook, you’ve undoubtedly seen people complain about what their competitors are doing. Whether they cry foul because 4imprint advertises during Grey’s Anatomy on television or lament how discriminatory it is that a local competitor gets “better pricing,” people relish in blaming everyone and everything else for their business failures. Amazon doesn’t moan about the competition; it only focuses on what the customer cares about and does those things better than anyone. In Amazon’s case, they learned early on that all their customers genuinely care about is fast shipping and incredible support. To that end, they have created the most user-friendly shopping experience in history. What does YOUR customer truly value above everything else? Whether it’s creativity, packaging, delivery, support, or something else, find out what it is and do it better than your competition.


As you try to create an Amazon-like experience in your business, it’s not essential to focus on the things Amazon does that you can’t do. Instead, concentrate on what they do well that can be leveraged in your organization. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, said it best: “The most important thing to do is focus obsessively on the customer. Our goal is to be the earth’s most customer-centric company.”


So, the way to solve the Willy Wonka Riddle isn’t to toss your clients down a trash chute like the rude little girl in the movie. Instead, the solution is to focus on your clients obsessively. With each of the examples above – recurring value and revenue, continual experimentation, and making it about the customer – the client is always at the forefront. When you do that, you will turn your competitors into mere followers, and your business life will be as sweet as a chocolate bar.


Good day.

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