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Marketing With A Simple Look In The Eye

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Marketing With A Simple Look In The Eye

A couple of days ago I had the unfortunate experience of having to stand in a queue in a local convenience shop to get a couple of things before guests arrived for dinner. I use the word convenience loosely as that’s what they’re called more so than what they provide in my view.

As I was waiting my turn, I couldn’t help but start to watch the staff as they interacted with the customers that were coming up to the counter to make their purchase.

I really started to become aware of everything that they were doing and not doing. It began to grow on me how they not only are the frontline marketing arm of the business, the last stop before the customer is made, but how their own personalities and actions transmit so much about the business, intentionally or unintentionally, right or wrong.

What got me the most, and I’ve been noticing it all over the place lately, is how much humans do not connect with each other. We allow true, genuine connection only within our immediate families, and frankly, most of those have little genuine connection in them (maybe that’s why we struggle so much as a society to keep our families together). It’s no wonder then that our marketing becomes short-lived, our intentions clouded, and our true value lessened as we move forward with business objectives. We call our employees customer service reps, but they don’t provide service, they perform a job.

True service lies in giving a part of one’s self to create value for another – a sacrifice of sorts. True service lies in connecting; connecting with another human being and sacrificing some of our own self-interest on behalf of another.

Marketing is all about connecting. The more we can connect with others, the more we can help them meet their needs and achieve their goals. The more we do that, the better marketers we become, and the more we are able to achieve our own goals as well.

I watched the shop assistant make a quick nod at me, as if to invite me forward to the counter, and then quickly look away, at the computer, at the wall, down at the counter, and say, “€12.50”. I instantly noticed the complete lack of engagement, of eye contact, of warmth, of connection. What was he afraid of? What is the danger in opening up to another human being, especially a customer?Your employees are marketers. All of us are marketers. And the things we think the least of are the most valuable and have the most impact in the things we do. A warm welcome. A genuine interest. A sincere desire. True service. A steady, interested look in the eye. That’s leverage. That’s marketing?

Paul Davis is a business growth specialist and set up Davis Business Consultants in 2001 to help business owners solve their biggest concerns: how to get more business, profits, focus and time; break through the barriers and reach the next level of growth. Having trained as a Management Accountant and become a Certified Management Consultant, Paul worked across a wide-range of industry sectors, including: consultancy, construction, high- and low-tech manufacturing, service, and nationwide retail. Paul soon became disillusioned with the lack of practical resources available to help business owners develop their business and so established his own consultancy. Paul has turned every loss making business he worked with into profit and is known for being a classic lateral thinker, his strong commercial acumen, and his down to earth approach in dealing with the constraints of a business, whatever they may be. For your FREE copy of his special report "The 7 Big Mistakes..." then visit

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  • I love this post, it is something that costs nothing and makes such a HUGE difference. If you don’t want to serve people and connect for pete’s sake get a job where you don’t have to interact with customers!

    I remember as a child shop workers ignoring us children and made a point of “connecting” with customers of ALL ages when I worked in a shop during my school years. A couple years ago I listened to my daughter talk about an old man who came into the newsagents that she worked in and had to wait 10-15 minutes while staff went looking for his subscription magazine. When she was put working behind the counter she took all the subscriptions for each day and left them under the counter in the order that the customers (regulars) came in at and was rewarded with a huge surprised smile the first couple of weeks. Over time she started to greet them by name. When she left that job, one of them complained that the rest of the staff had reverted to the “old way”. The mind boggles.

  • It’s amazing how it’s the small things that make such a difference no matter where you go. I love your story about your daughter managing the subscription magazines – that’s what helps having customers come back time and time again – they feel special and so they should, and it doesn’t cost anything.

  • Hi Paul,

    I really enjoyed reading your post and nodded my head the whole way through.

    At a marketing seminar a year back, after confirming attendance, we were left to sit and have a morning drink. There was a gap in which the main speaker turned and looked around. I saw him smirk and what he said was quite a relevation to most – ‘It’s funny how this is a networking seminar and most of us are sitting at a table by ourselves’. I was quite smug at this stage because I’d been the good samariton and asked two ladies to join my table. But the message stuck.

    As you have shown in your article, people don’t always make connections. So what is it that stops them? Is it the fear of embarrassment, being misunderstood, getting too close ?

    Your line here – ‘True service lies in giving a part of one’s self to create value for another’. Is this so hard to do, to give something extra…?
    A previous boss once said to me – ‘Do you want to just do your job, or do you want to do more than your job?’ Its the ‘doing more’ that sets us aside. Its the going the extra mile that gets us noticed, and as Mairead said about her daughter – her extra mile produced a wonderful compliment.

    Thanks Paul

  • Hi Paul. A very fair representation of the absence of “the personal touch”. I think you are right, this is indicative of a major step change in societies values and sense of family that existed in our parents generation. There seems to be an innate sense of mistrust of others and also a sense of self-preservation/self-promotion that I think came about as a consequence of the Celtic tiger. The 1980’s was the “me” generation supposedly, but think that this happened again in the noughties!

    Personal connection in our marketing activities and every level of engagement with our customers to generate trust is key to growth. What is just as important is ensuring that as customers, we are willing to trust the companies that are opening themselves up in this manner.


  • Paul, Wonderful post! Really enjoyed it & I think we can all identify with your experience. The overall standard of customer service has slipped significantly in the last number of years. It could easily be one way for the smaller operator to compete with the big multiplies, although in my experience, they are often the worst offenders?? Thanks for sharing, Niall

  • Hi Christina, thanks for your comments. It doesn’t take much to go the extra mile and I believe it’s something we should all adapt if we’re to stand our from the crowd. P

  • You’re so right Barney and my own belief is that for businesses to grow in the future they will not only have to have value and personal touch at their core beliefs but they’ll also have to be built on the foundations of honesty and integrity. We will only do business with the people we trust and so many businesses will need to change their ways and culture. P

  • Hopefully that will change Niall. P

  • I agree with you, Paul, but I don’t think it comes under the guise of marketing. People are not always aware of the impressions they are making, or they are not sure how to act in certain situations. An understanding of etiquette can help people make the right impression the first time.

  • Hi Paul,
    Interesting points. I disagree with the general theme in the comments earlier about it being age specific. I accept that younger people are so much more used to connecting online and via text, that the personal contact is less important.
    One point I would make about the average convenience store is the wage. Some people actually think they get paid PER nicety – so only give out as much warmth as they receive from their employers.
    Our country’s service providers have a lot to answer for with regard to service.
    And we all have a responsibility to do our part too – I often purposely make eye contact with the folks in the petrol station or store, and often they respond in accordance (not always).
    Even in Ireland, it could well be a societal problem, even down to attitude towards our work.
    Thanks for sharing your story 🙂

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