I read a lot; whether reading articles, books, blogs, websites and trade journals, social media posts, etc. About a year ago, my eyes started bothering me, so I made an appointment at the eye doctor. Sure enough, it was time for reading glasses and left the exam with my prescription. I went online and stumbled upon Warby Parker. Warby Parker has a wonderful bright website that was easy to navigate, they had frames that I liked, and I was intrigued. I prefer shopping in store rather than online, so I went to their location in Downtown Detroit. I went to the store and had the most incredible experience. Every single thing went well, from the time I walked in, to the time I left. I was so impressed (and that doesn't happen too often), I simply had to share my experience with Warby Parker's corporate office, and here is what I wrote:
Now that I've received my new glasses, I wanted to take a moment to share my experience with your company. Simply put, I am totally and completely blown away impressed!!!
From the moment I landed on your website, I was impressed. Your website is clean, modern, and easy to navigate. At first, I was a bit nervous about ordering glasses online; but only until I realized that you provide in-home try on. Then, I saw that you had physical locations, one in Downtown Detroit. So, off I went to your beautiful store in the hottest new area of the city. I walked in to a bright, inviting store, and was greeted by the nicest, friendliest, happiest staff I could've possibly met. Every single person at that store was smiling, they all said hello, and were all eager to assist. You could just tell that everyone was happy and ultimately wanted to be there. Each member of the team was inviting, friendly, kind, welcoming and approachable. Even the little things were noticed, like offering a glass of Vernors - a legendary Detroit soda brand. I wound up ordering two pairs of glasses to start with, although I could've ordered 50 more. I placed my order, felt great about the process and was excited to receive my new glasses in the mail. Every single person that I encountered in that store left a memory, and my overall experience could not have been better.
I was sent emails throughout the process and my frames were delivered within the time-frame I was promised. When I opened the box, every single detail, from the packaging of the boxes, the quality of the eyeglass cases, to the message on the lens cloth; every single detail was spot on. Everything, and I mean everything, was so far beyond what I expected, I just can't believe it. One pair needed a little adjustment, so I wound up going back to the store. I was helped by one of the opticians, and we wound up having a great conversation about Warby Parker and a video I saw online, about how your company provided glasses to a seamstress in India. Great story by the way! Another thing to point out, I am so incredibly impressed by your mission, "buy a pair, give a pair." But not with the intention of simply giving away glasses, rather with the hopes of providing sight to those in need, all while creating jobs, building sustainable communities and growing economies in parts of the world so desperately in need. Impressed, really doesn't even begin to describe it.
I love my new glasses, the look, the quality, the lenses and the styles. I can't wait to order more frames! You should be very proud of the company you have created, from your innovation of the eyeglass industry, branding, mission to make this world a better place, and all the "people" on your team who make it happen; absolutely and completely incredible.
Yes, I was that impressed all the way around and I can't think of one business that even comes close. Last week, I wanted a few new pairs of glasses. Where do you think I went? You guessed it, Warby Parker. I absolutely love this company and all that it stands for. Warby Parker offers amazing glasses with the highest quality frames & lenses, low prices with amazing quality, a remarkable experience, unmatched value, simple return policy, friendly staff, and they even give back with a buy a pair give a pair program (2.5 billion people around the world need glasses but don’t have access to them; of these, 624 million cannot effectively learn or work due to the severity of their visual impairment. To help address this problem, we work with a handful of partners worldwide to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need). They have locations all around the country, but for me, there are two locations in Metro Detroit; one in Downtown Detroit and one in Somerset Mall in Troy. I’ve been to both stores and they are both amazing. The Warby Parker team smiles, they're happy, friendly, attentive, they're there to help but don't hover, they offer their advice yet let you make your own decisions, the store is bright and welcoming, they provide fitting, and even eye exams. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about the company. I now get so excited when I see that blue box in the mail!
So, what’s the point you ask? The point is this…. Small business owners who want to be successful should emulate Warby Parker. I am asked by hundreds of small business owners that call into our office, and I also read blogs on sites like Alignable, LinkedIn, Quora, Small Business Trends, and Small Business Bonfire. By far, the number one question asked by thousands of small business owners is: how can I compete with online retailers, and the overwhelming competition in my industry? Well, here is my answer. You can't, so stop trying! Let’s face it, brick and mortar small businesses are operating at a significant disadvantage in our current economy. They have to pay a lease on their buildings, usually exorbitant insurance costs, utilities, labor expenses, inventory expenses, and a host of other bills just to keep the lights on and the doors open. In that sense, they have almost no chance of competing with huge companies that can leverage their capital, technological advantages, and economies of scale to undercut brick and mortar shops.
Positioning your brand and its USP. (1 min video)
Think of it this way, suppose you're a small business that sells shoes. How can you convince a customer to buy shoes from you instead of from Amazon.com? Thanks to your overhead, you can't sell your shoes as cheaply as Amazon can. You can't afford to maintain the inventory or warehouses that Amazon can, so you might not have the right shoes in the right sizes in stock at all times. You can't afford to be open 24 hours a day, so you can't sell your shoes at 3 a.m. the way Amazon can, and the customer can't buy shoes from you on her couch lounging around freely in her nighty.
That sounds hopeless, doesn't it? Well, it shouldn't, because you've got something that Amazon, or anyone else for that matter, doesn't have. You have the opportunity to sell an experience. You have the opportunity to create a memory. You have the power to give your customers personal, hands-on attention. You can find out about their individual needs, and you can help them find exactly the shoes that will work best for them. You can give them a shoe-buying experience that will have them walking out the door smiling, and they'll be very likely to come back the next time they need a pair of shoes. Whether shoes, jewelry, craft beer, clothing, eyeglasses, or anything else, it's not necessarily about the product, or service, rather the the value and experience you can bring into your customers life.
The secret to succeeding as small business owner in today’s world is by providing value to your customers that they can't find elsewhere. As a local small business owner, the greatest value you have to offer is the human touch. You can do business the way that it's been done for centuries, with small business owners and their staff developing relationships with the people of the communities they serve. Customers value those relationships, and they're willing to patronize the independent businesses that provide them.
How to create a unique selling proposition to command your industry. (1 min video)
No one is going to sit around the dinner table at a family gathering telling stories about buying shoes from Amazon. The process is efficient and relatively cheap, but it doesn't inspire interest, joy, passion, or loyalty. You, on the other hand, have the ability to offer your creativity, your heart, and your personal dedication to your customers. If you do that, you'll wow the people you do business with, and there will be no stopping you. And then maybe you'll have people like me writing blogs about you and telling the world how much they love your business!
Look, the bottom line is this... Your focus should not be about competing, or even beating the competition, rather carving out your own niche and being remarkable with what you have to work with. What do you do that nobody else does and how can you build on that? Costco, Walmart, local eyeglass stores, various boutiques, and other internet sites sell glasses, but I wouldn’t think about going anywhere but Warby Parker. They have created their own niche and that’s why I am loyal to their brand. They have become my go-to. In this case, it’s not just about glasses; it’s about value, customer service, trust, and an overall experience that was remarkable. Maybe you like Ford’s and when you need a car you go to your go-to car guy. Or when you want a burger, you go to your go-to burger joint. When I think glasses, I think Warby Parker. And that’s exactly what you need to do with your niche. You need to be the guy/girl. You need to be the go-to. Whatever it is you do, you need to be number one on their speed dial. Way too many business owners are focused on beating competition. Why? You can't beat the competition, nor should you try. Beating competition in today's world is a fools errand, and I'm guessing you're not a fool. Competition only exists when you’re doing the same damn thing as everyone else. And if that’s the case, you have bigger problems on the horizon.
Small business owners need to emulate good businesses, be exemplary, be remarkable, and be unique. If you are unique, there is no competition!
Charles Barr, Co-Founder & Director of LVRG Funding, a "boutique" small business funding company dedicated to helping America's small businesses thrive and grow. Charles is highly dedicated to the genesis of professional development, social networking and civic engagement, with a passion for cultivating creativity, entrepreneurship and a spirit of community.