I've got the Amazon Prime 36 hour sale on my calendar. I buy from Amazon all the time, might as well get the deals. Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com have transformed how we shop. Accessible processes and affordable prices have closed the expense gap for many, created jobs and fostered small businesses, globally. Amazon has brought a lot of goodness to the world on a very large scale.
This past lazy Sunday afternoon, however, I had a different shopping experience. I decided to head over to Macy's on State Street. An afternoon at Macy's is not a task, it's an event, one to prepare for and savor. I carved out a good part of my day so I wouldn't be rushed. I wore a summer dress, strappy sandals and a little makeup. I bet my doorman thought I had a date - and I did.
A native Chicagoan, I remember when Macy's was Marshall Field's. Luckily to the relief of Chicagoans citywide, Macy's has respectfully kept the essence of Marshall Fields. They maintained the intangible "good will" found on the balance sheet that they likely paid for. Smart business. We all have a Marshall Field's story, whether it's coming to see the Holiday Windows, having lunch in the Walnut Room, being assisted by a personal shopper, buying an item you still have and treasure or meeting under the ornate clock at the corners of Washington & State.
I was going for shoes but Macy's is not a one stop shop. I started in the hat department. While I live in the Millennial my soul is in the 40s. I love hats. I played, trying on all of the most outrageous summer hats with feathers and flowers. A man walking by with his family smiled at me kindly . . . who doesn't love hats? As I left, I had every good intention of going to the shoe department. I was seduced by the dresses, long elegant evening gowns. Many I knew were perfect for me. The same floor houses business attire so I went there - hey there might be a deal? While there, I snapped photos of the intricate mosaic-designed ceiling.
I dawdled at the lingerie department remembering what a treat nice lingerie is and then felt myself drawn to the wedding dresses. Still no shoes, I'm getting there, I'm getting there. The voice inside my head said "don't go, this is silly, you are not going to buy a dress, you'll waste the staff's time." My heart whispered "I bet there are some really pretty dresses inspired by Meghan the Duchess of Sussex' recent wedding. Don't you just want to see?" I did. Christopher caught my eye and invited me in. When I told him I wasn't in the market but just wanted to admire the styles, he then insisted I step in. We had a lovely chat and were later joined by Jessica. We reminisced about movies from the 80s, styles and the future of retail.
I forced myself to break away and enjoy the shoe department.(Sarcasm :-) I struck up a conversation with a lady and her husband as we tried on shoes, and compared and contrasted the styles. One of the great things about the store the size of Macy's (8 floors!) is the massive amount of inventory. You're very likely to find your size and when the season changes, even get a good deal. They need to move the inventory to make room for the new items and if you play it right, (signing up for the text message deals!) you'll walk out with armloads of shopping bags!
Mission accomplished, I couldn't leave just yet - there's the furniture department! Visiting the furniture department is a stand alone experience. The creative staging is inspiring. As I disembarked the 8th floor escalator, I was greeted by Kewsi (pronounced Kwazi) who stopped, introduced himself, asked my name and shook my hand. He reminded me of my Dad, an Eastern European Immigrant, who worked in a steel factory but on the weekends was never without a tie. My Dad would often say 'there are two things you can control in life, how you speak and how you dress."
The subtle impact of thoughtful presence and presentation are worth investing in. (My Dad said so) I look forward to my next indulgent Sunday afternoon at Macy's. They've nurtured and sustained the soul of Chicago. I'm grateful.
Content Marketing is defined by me as using communication to further your product by providing value to your community. It's ok to 'subtly sell' however there's a delicate line. I think of it as a panting dog. You know type, you can feel that a sales rep needs to make a sales goal or earn a commission and is just not going to let you walk out of the door.
It takes courage to let your content sell. It takes courage to share information you know you should be charging for.
Let me help you to look at content marketing in a new way. Consider that it is relationship building. Relationships are built on trust and have a delicate balance. When you give away valuable information you are trusting that your audience will use it properly. You are trusting that when the time is right, and when you ask in an inviting and engaging way, the customer will buy from you. You take the risk that they may not.
How do you build that courage? Know your value and know your audience. If you are truly building a sound relationship with your audience it is highly unlikely your target customer will buy from someone else.
As you continue to give valuable information away you are building a relationship, a partnership so to speak. In our fluid world of constant change there is a pretty high likelihood something may not go perfectly. If your audience is engaged, they know it was a blip and you'll fix it.
These are the kinds of customers you want, partners that are in for the long haul. Invest in your relationships by having the courage to use content marketing wisely. As you start building and sustaining a solid customer base, it won't feel courageous anymore, it'll seem smart -- because it is.
Alicia Dale is a strategic thinking Creative that understands the power of words to influence, change and build new infrastructures. This Blog is to capture ideas that have no where else to go at this very moment. Who knows how they will be developed? Or where they will go? For now they are sparkles of light easily stored where I can search and find them when they call my name again.