Mar 7, 2008


I was watching the Celebrity Apprentice last night with Mark. The two teams had to set up an art gallery and sell art. The team who sold the most, won the competition. One team had the front part of the gallery, the other had the back room. The back room team (who WON) had to work extra hard to get patrons to come back to their room - especially since Omarosa, the Apprentice-wanna-be that everyone loves to hate - was standing in front of the door with her arm out directing people into their room and preventing them from going into the other one.

At one point, Carol Alt essentially stole a big-money contact from the other team and closed a sale. That set off some wailing and gnashing of teeth at the end. Hey, this guy didn't buy anything from his contact. Their choice of art may not have been his "thing".

That got me thinking about the collaboration and territorialism that sometimes happens in our industry. I put it only in the context of The Apprentice to start the conversation. We certainly aren't in a cut-throat "reality" TV competition with other businesses around us. But, we ARE in business to sell products.

I have heard at times about different consultants from different direct sales companies coming together to hold events. I think it's likely to happen on National Scrapbook Day more than any other time as scrapbook and stamp companies all look for a way to celebrate. I have also heard at times, that although in THEORY everyone possesses the understanding that a customer is a customer that day, that occasionally, some consultants pop corks when they see their customers buying products from other consultants. I have also heard torrid tales of consultants from the same company laying hold of the same customer and essentially "duking" it out over that person.

That is so ridiculous and does nothing but make the consultants involved look bad.

First of all, customers have a right to buy from anyone they choose. If I buy a punch from you at an event, I probably don't consider you "my consultant" the way you consider me your customer. I might buy another punch from a different consultant 2 months later and that's my right. Now, if you win my loyalty through other means, then I'll probably bring my business back to you. Otherwise, you're no different to me (as a customer) than any other consultant.

Secondly, if you believe your customers should be (and can be) shielded from other businesses, then don't selfishly participate in group activities and think your customers will put on their blinders and only buy from you. And, don't get mad at the other businesses for selling to them. Again, customers have a right to buy from anyone they choose to. What you're really saying is that you don't like to acknowledge that your customers are buying from other people. It's hard for you to watch. But remember, the "customers" of the other business owners there are probably dropping some dollars with you, also. It goes both ways.

Third, don't expect to pack up your customer list at the end of the day and take it all home again. Some consultants get upset when other business owners at these events contact "their" customers. If someone buys something from me, they become MY customer also. At that point, I have every right to market to them and try to get them to buy more. Again, if you don't like that idea, don't sign up to go. And, remember also that you have a bunch of new customers in your files, too.

I think for far too long, retailers of all sorts in this industry have had the misguided idea that they should be the ONLY retailer a customer buys from. Therefore, collaboration has been largely absent in the industry. There might be 50 consultants from the same company in a 5 mile radius or 3 LSS's, but instead of coming together to be the rising tide that could lift all boats, they spend too much time infiltrating and tattling on each other.

I love the idea of group events and shop-hops. Let shine what makes your business unique and be confident enough in your own uniqueness so as to not feel threatened by competition! Embrace the fact that you are different. Even if you are a consultant and carry the same lines as 20 other women in your area, you can still make your business unique. The "IT" factor is YOU! Your customers become loyal to you not only because of what you carry, but because of the service you provide.

Collaboration is really what ScrapBiz is all about. Each business owner has their own "Secret Sauce", but overall, we freely talk about ideas that can help everyone. I love that part best about ScrapBiz! All opinions are recognized and welcomed. And, even if there is not agreement, there is no smacking.

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