One Customer At A Time

Last summer I took my car to the local self-service car wash and was surprised when a man approached me as I toweled off my car. Dressed in cowboy boots and accompanying hat, he introduced himself as the new owner of the car wash.

He explained that the previous owner had provided very little in regards to whom his customers were, so he decided to spend his days meeting them face to face.

After we chatted for a few minutes, he extended his arm to shake my hand and thanked me for visiting his business. This is not something I’m accustomed to. If the vacuums aren’t clogged and there’s plenty of foaming soap on the brushes, I’m generally satisfied.

I hadn’t given this interaction much thought until a couple of weeks ago when I visited the same carwash. As I pulled my car into the vacuuming area, this same man approached me. In fact, he was wearing the same cowboy boots and hat.

He asked if there was anything he could do to help, and I told him I was surprised to see him again. I figured he’d spend a few weekends wandering around the wash bays, and then return to his position as the invisible owner behind the scenes.

He shook his head and then said something I’ve been thinking about ever since: “I don’t have the budget to run radio or print campaigns. So I’m out here every day, earning customers one at a time.”

This man’s approach seems to fly in the face of most of the marketing I witness each day. How often do you receive a blanket offer from a cell phone or internet service promising the world if you’ll only switch or upgrade to some fantastic but limited-time offer?

Just this past week my internet service provider called to offer us home phone service while my satellite TV company continues to send us offers for programming we already subscribe too. I’ve been a customer of both businesses for many years yet they don’t know me from the guy off the street.

And yet it’s no surprise why this is the case. Larger companies with deep pockets cast a wide net with their marketing campaigns instead of investing their time with individual customers. When you’re big it’s often easier to write a check than it is to spend your weekends drying off cars.

Our owner recently wrote about why we don’t spend a lot of money on advertising at Puget Systems. I’m proud to say that our approach to selling custom built computers is more in line with the carwash cowboy than many traditional computer builders. We don’t blanket magazines with expensive ads or look or extract every last ounce of profit from our existing customers by pestering them to upgrade.

Nearly every computer we build is a result of one-on-one conversation with our customers. Each day I speak with potential customers who are genuinely surprised that we not only answer the phone, but that we answer each question instead of pushing upgrades and extended warrantees. Yes, it’s an investment in personnel and, at times, requires patience. But that approach has worked for us from the beginning and continues to work for us today.

One customer at a time.