The boy who cried ‘Bonanza!’
I was walking across the rail tracks at Oshodi a few days ago, its a route I use often on my way to my parent’s house (when I go through the valley of the shadow of public transport, but then that’s another story), pickpockets were everywhere, traders were showcasing their wares, touts were bullying said traders. Basically, nothing was out of the ordinary.
A few feet to the usual spot where the bus conductors try to drown each other’s voices in their bid to lure passengers, I noticed an unusual flurry of activity around a particular trader that had a heap of ‘bespoke’ shirts in front of him, ladies and gentlemen alike were tussling to get their hands on the best items before the next chap, and in the background, like a movie soundtrack, I could hear a young boy shouting at the top of his voice…
“Bonanza! Bonanza! Buy your office shirts for N500 only!”
Normally, I would ignore and forge ahead, keeping my head in a swivel to be constantly alert for any trouble (as per military training from TV shows), but something I couldn’t quite point out hit me about this particular scene.
After picking out a bus, arguing with the conductor about the fare and shouting at the driver to not ‘kill me for my mother’ with his reckless driving, I settled down, and it hit me. I had seen that very trader at the same spot a few weeks earlier, selling the same heap, for the same price, but people didn’t glance at him twice as they passed by, I remembered feeling pity for him as it looked like his efforts were for naught.
So what had changed? I thought about the two times I had noticed him, the differences in his presentation and outcomes. In that bus, between the shouts of ‘Buhari is useless’ and ’This economy is bad’, I thought of a few theories.
Theory 1: Most of the time, people don’t buy needs, they buy deals.
The basic necessities for life are food, shelter and clothing, in that order. Humans only ‘need’ clothes for protection from the elements and to maintain a sense of decency (although looking at fashion trends today, the second point can be argued). Every purchase made outside these elements is usually more emotional than logical. On the plus side, these emotions can be hacked.
Case in point, our bespoke salesman on the rails of Oshodi; When it comes to the final facedown between the buyer and the seller, the buyer always wants to walk away feeling like they had a good deal, not just a good deal, but a better deal than the seller. By screaming ‘Bonanza!’, this man had tapped into that little nudge in the brains of some simpletons that ’This deal would favour me more than it would the seller’, so they flocked to ‘take advantage’ of him.
Theory 2: People still rely on their most basic instincts to make buyer decisions.
We see this one everywhere, advertisers and promoters play on our base emotions to nudge us towards a sale. Guys will buy things if the ads promise them (subconsciously) that it would help them score more girls, look more powerful in a meeting or be more intimidating during sports, quite synonymous with neanderthals wearing animal bones to insinuate ferocity to their clans and potential mates.
By getting a small boy, between 8–10, to do the shouting, this seller unknowingly appealed to the motherly instinct of the young ladies passing by, at least enough for them to look at the boy and find out what he was on about. Once the ladies showed interest, the gentlemen, in their subconscious never-ending quest to find out what women really want, stopped to investigate.
Theory 3: Advertising might make them come, but good products/services will make them stay.
This is where a lot (and I mean a lot!) of people get it wrong. As much as you think you have the next big thing and all you need is for the world to see it, you have to dedicate a lot of time and effort into ensuring that your product is not only good from your point of view, but from everyone’s.
It’s why I believe organic growth is a necessity for any business for at least 3–6 months before you dole out the huge advertising budget and put your products in our faces, under every mention (Yes i’m subbing you Twitter).
Organic growth helps you manage feedback and fine tune your product from your idea to what the public really wants, but I digress.
My seller-muse may have used his ‘Bonanza tactics’ to get his potential clients to stare at his heap for just one second longer than they usually would, but his products were good enough to keep them interested and that’s what made the difference.
Theory 4: Blow your trumpet, people won’t blow it for you, they’ll just amplify the sound.
Long story short “My product/service is so good it will sell itself” = Big. Fat. Lie!
You have to let people know about what you do, if they don’t know, they won’t come looking for you because, well, they don’t know. Believe it or not, people don’t always know what they need until you tell them they do.
That seller would have laid around with his apparently good stock, smiling to himself and going home empty handed if he didn’t step up and find ways to get the word out and direct traffic to his little corner.
It was somewhere around this thought that I got to my bus stop, I glanced at the motorcyclists parked around, but my usual ‘guy’ wasn’t there so I had to use an alternative. Climbing unto the back of the bike, I realised that even though he was ‘my guy’, I had picked his bike supposedly randomly the first time, so what happened? how did he become my guy?
The rest of the bike ride was me thinking up even more theories on customer retention, I hope I find the time to pen those down too.