Who’s a spoilt bugger – our customers, that’s who. Yes, they often whinge about how suppliers don’t support independent retail enough, complain that buy deals aren’t as good as they used to be or moan about price rises, but we still love them. There isn’t a month in the year that a retailer or restaurateur isn’t invited to a couple of tastings, a winery visit and a sporting event by their suppliers – we invest bucket loads of money trying to gain a customer’s favor in the hope that it will translate into increase sales.
Customers get flown to the Jacobs’ Creek Golf Open by Pernod Ricard, go to every sport’s grand final thanks to Fosters and Lion Nathan, fly to an island off the Queensland coast curtosy of Jim Beam, are taken to wineries for boozy tastings by all and sundry and entertained in the finest restaurants by visiting winemakers. Each week, reps with winemakers in tow visit customers to show off new release this and repackaged that, while behind the counter sit half a dozen sample bottles that other reps have graciously left.
That’s just the way the trade works. From the outside it looks like a roart, from the inside it feels like a never ending cycle – but is it all worth it? It won’t take long for today’s boozy lunch to blur into last month’s boozy lunch and be forgotten. If you take a customer to the races this year, there’s an expectation that the same will happen next year. If your winery visit is a quiet, civilised affair, does it get trumped by the booze fest at the winery down the road?
It’s a shame, but we’re definitely getting less return for spoiling customers than in the past – in fact there’s almost an expectation that to do serious business you have to provide some serious added extras. Finding a hook that customers can’t say no to, that experience that other supplier’s aren’t offering and at the same time, an activity that provides the opportunity to relationship build is harder than ever. Perhaps it’s time to turn the tables; rather than spend that money on customers, spend it on the sales team after a big month and feel comforted that at least they’ll appreciate it.