Build Walls To Keep Customers Out

At the recent DEMA 2009 Show in Orlando I spent a fair amount of time walking the floor of the tradeshow looking at the various exhibitors. Apart from looking at the products and toys on display, and meeting great people, I paid attention to the marketing and branding exercises taken by many dive industry players. Over on the New Scuba Marketing blog, Nick Bostic has provided an excellent appraisal of the excellent marketing efforts by PADI and the DEMA organisation itself. There were other good examples, but I also saw too many examples of the way our industry can be a bit cliquey, and push customers away.

As an underwater photographer, I found myself back at the Imaging Resource area of the show floor most days. I wandered by the various stands and booths, looked at products and talked to the people manning them. There was one elaborate stand that I never went into, and after walking past it a number of times, I wondered why?

The company at question is a leading supplier of entry level and midrange underwater cameras that has been around for a long time, and apparently has a good product range. I didn’t find out, because I kept walking past the stand (see picture at right).

In the last few hours of the show, I realised why — the construction of the stand had placed a series of walls around the stand that had the effect of keeping me (and others) out. In the middle were a number of tables where you could sit and meet with an attendant.

The very closed setup of the stand built a wall between the company and its customers and potential customers. I, and others I talked to remarked on the same thing, felt like you had to be invited in. So many of us kept walking past.

Now sometimes having an elitist feel can be part of your marketing strategy, but for a producer of midrange and entry level products, I hardly think thats the approach they were aiming for.

Compare this with the PADI stand (left) which was open and inviting and drew people into the stand. Notably DAN and Oceanic also had similarly open, inviting stands.

These are obvious examples of designing exhibition stands to be open and inviting. The photographic company above is an example of building walls to push your customer away from you.

Take a look at various businesses in all industries. Do they build walls to keep customers out or do they attract and welcome people to come in and be customers!

Lessons for the Customer Experience

  1. Look at your business and see what walls you’ve put up between you and your customer. Does your counter or display setup push people away, or draw them in?
  2. Look also at virtual barriers. Do your opening hours, website or advertisements attract people in, or push people away. In the dive industry, too often advertising is designed to attract divers, but pushes away snorkelers. The snorkelling market is substantially larger than the diving one.
  3. Consider carefully how you might change your setup to openly invite people in. Think of various ways you can make people feel welcome, actually and perceptually.

Customer Experience

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