The shop that didn't need a website

The shop that didn't need a website
Photo by Kristina Flour / Unsplash

One of the shops in our cozy city of Haarlem sells high-end HiFi. As I pushed the door for the first time a few years ago, I was surprised at the really exceptional brands they had in store. The friendly owner was surprised too. He politely asked if I had an appointment, and as I was saying that I wasn't aware I needed one, he asked me how I found the shop. Indeed, the shop had no signboard, logo, or any branding really.

So I asked if I could make an appointment on their website the next time I want to drop by. His answer was a curt "but sir, we don't have a website."

I guess that most of you could be shocked that a business selling extremely expensive consumer equipment wouldn't bother with any marketing, web presence, AdWords, Google Maps, or Instagram. His secret? A hard-earned intimacy and trust built with a specific customer base that would do most of the commercial work for him, introducing new potential customers in the network, sharing demo days invitations, and such.

Why would he need a website? His deadly efficient (and deceptively simple) business model is defined by two words: curation + community. As someone that has been for quite some time co-managing a business that shares much of the logic and mindset of this shop owner but relies quite a lot on this website to keep our customers, prospects, and like-minded professionals engaged... I found his stance quite fascinating.

Beyond the anecdote, this is now a scenario I integrated into different ways as a tool to challenge the strategic perspective of leaders in the industry.

And you could ask yourself this question about your business:

How would you reposition if you had to become a VIP business, solely relying on word-of-mouth and engaging a high-end community of customers without other forms of marketing? What new opportunities would that unlock? How would you change your offer?

Another (more operational) question would be:

How would you rebuild an audience, keep your customers engaged, and develop sales if you had to stop all of your digital marketing expenditures in six months?

I concede it might seem weird. But it does question the idea that you are that customer-driven to begin with. Are you?   

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