A Brilliant Marketing Idea That Was Decades Ahead of Its Time

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I remember growing up as a kid in Baltimore and going to a bike shop called Princeton Sports. Its early location was in Pimlico, very near the famous horse racing track. The owner of the store, Sonny Davis would size you up and promptly figure out which bike was the right one for you. Maybe I was just young or maybe every kid has fond memories of getting a bike, but I can still visualize the incredible energy that Sonny brought to the process.

A few years later Sonny moved to a larger location out in the suburbs and began selling ski and tennis equipment in addition to bikes, along with apparel for each of the sports. Soon after, Princeton Sports began a program that I was befuddled by at the time, but continues to this day.

His idea was to allow people to bring their used skis, boots, etc., to the store on a Saturday before the start of ski season and swap with or sell to other customers. I remember this struck me as odd. Why would a business owner allow people to do this on their property when Princeton could be selling them new items instead? Wouldn’t it hurt their business?

What Sonny proved was that building long term relationships and trust are far more valuable than short term sales. Sure, they inevitably lost some potential revenue during those events, but customers who invested in expensive sports equipment greatly appreciated the ability to monetize some of their prior purchases instead of having them pile up in the garage. Additionally, there were loads of related purchases that must have occurred. Who, for example, gets a pair of skis and doesn’t have the bindings professionally tuned up?

Twenty five years before eBay was launched and light years before any local competitors, Princeton Sports was establishing a unique bond with its customers that still holds true today. Now run by his kids, with two locations, in an environment where independent sporting goods stores struggle to survive, Princeton keeps rolling.

Below is the advertisement for this year’s annual ski swap event. What can you be doing to foster similar appreciation and loyalty from your clients?

Tips to Foster Long-Term Relationships with Customers: MoreVisibility

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