I just bought my first dog, a handsome Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Simon. In doing so, I entered an entirely new consumer demographic: pet owner.
If all goes to plan, I'm looking at 15-plus years of consistent purchases. Leashes, bowls, dog food, treats, canine sports jerseys - Simon is going to be a Giants fan, doggone it - will all make my shopping list.
I did my due diligence, scouring the Web for counsel on what to buy. I entered PetSmart one Saturday afternoon assuming I could make wise choices on my own. I was doing fine until the cacophony of collars confounded me. Small or extra small? What material? Who knew canine neckwear could be so confusing?
This is when Kim, an employee at the store I visited, entered the equation. Benevolent and brilliant, she not only helped me find the right collar, she noticed the leash I'd selected was wrong. She pointed me to the perfect leash given Simon's breed, size, and age. And it was less expensive than the one I picked.
She proceeded to accompany me for the entire trip, helping me stock up on treats, toys, and other products I would need. For the most part, none of the items I bought were near the most expensive options. She even took some things out of my shopping cart that were unnecessary. It was truly one of the most enjoyable and productive shopping experiences of my life.
At PRWeek's recent Global-Local Roundtable, a key topic was how large companies can make strong connections with local consumers. The on-site employee's role as brand ambassador was underscored. Kim could provide a master class.
Organizations of all sizes cannot emphasize this point enough. A knowledgeable, helpful, and pleasant staffer has incredible power over how consumers view their brand. In turn, there is a bottom-line impact, as a satisfied customer will not only make purchases that day, but will more likely than not return again and again.
Sure, an effective PR campaign will resonate, as will a clever ad, an easy-to-navigate website, or a positive article. Those all get you in the door, but the in-store experience leaves the strongest impression as it's happening to you on a personal level.
That sojourn to the pet store was the first of what will be many such trips. Thanks to Kim, my feelings about PetSmart could not be any more positive - and the brand has a patron for life.
Gideon Fidelzeid is the managing editor of PRWeek. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.