Yesterday I had an experience that illustrates what all boutique small business owners should be doing to justify their higher prices. It was too good not to share with you.
My husband, Chris, I and just celebrated 10 years of marriage. We love to travel so I suggested we take a big trip to somewhere we wouldn’t typically go. I know Chris has wanted to visit Australia for some time, but we’ve done very little research on what all Australia has to offer.
I personally take care of all of our travel arrangements, booking through online tools like Travelocity or directly on the airlines’ websites. This trip, however, needed to be special. Not only am I unfamiliar with all the possibilities for us in Australia, several inter-country flights are required to get the full experience.
I reached out to two travel agencies I found in my online research. The first, Down Under Answers, got back to me within a day via email asking me to give them a call to discuss the trip in more detail. The second agency I reached out to took over a week to respond to my email request for more information. What happened next is how I made my decision on which company would be in charge of my travel itinerary.
I first spoke with Shana, a travel consultant at a large, package-focused agency. Shana was focused on my budget and the logistics. She wanted to know how much I had to spend first. Then she asked how long we would be traveling. When I told her we had less than two weeks, she said well you must see all the major sites then so that when people ask, you can say you’ve seen the Sydney Opera House and other well-known tourist destinations. Shana didn’t take the time to learn that we are not big into sightseeing. We prefer the less touristy areas of any country we visit. After learning our budget and our timeframe, she said she’d put together a few options and get them emailed to me by the end of the day, which she did. The packages she put together included some great tours and excursions, but they really weren’t right for us. They didn’t match our interests.
Next I spoke with Kirk at Down Under Answers. He patiently listened as I described Chris and my travel preferences. We don’t want to feel like we’re on the run non-stop. Kirk didn’t rush me. He let me babble on about where we’ve been and what we like in our vacation experiences. We want to relax and enjoy the scenery and beaches. He piped up and said we must visit the St. Kilda and Glenelg areas, two areas that are a bit off the beaten path. While they weren’t included in his typical packages, he was able to put together an alternative so we could make the trip customized to our needs.
Kirk went on to talk about flight options. Concerned about connection time, length of flights and ability to get the best airfare class that wasn’t listed in his system as available, Kirk was truly looking out for us. His intimate knowledge of the area showed. His expertise was worth every penny of commission he’ll make from booking our vacation. And I fully expect that as we get into more details of the trip, he’ll continue to provide a valuable resource.
Here’s the marketing help small business owners can glean from my experience. Don’t assume each client is like the others. Shana assumed we were the typical package seeking Australia tourist. While she was knowledgeable about the country, she didn’t listen to what our needs were so her expertise was missing the mark with me. Kirk, on the other hand, not only listened, but found an opportunity to share his expertise.
When prospects reach out to you, are you listening first to what they need rather than trying to sell them what your most popular offering is? Your job as a boutique business owner is not to sell the same package to every single client, rather to listen to what their needs are and put together something that matches what they desire. Stop selling and just listen. Be a consultant. You’ll find more clients when you use this strategy.