What I learned about business from selling stuff on Craigslist
Over the last 3 years, between moving and trying to downsize my life, I’ve sold a lot of stuff on Craigslist.
And no matter what I listed for sale — sports equipment, appliances, or furniture — I made it a point to provide the absolute worst customer service possible.
- I didn’t accommodate anyone’s schedules, it was my way or the highway
- As soon as I had the cash in my hand, all sales were final
- The buyer was 100% responsible for picking up any items — don’t look at me for delivery service!
Call me what you will, but here was my thinking: I was offering quality items for bargain basement prices. If customers wanted to take advantage of these low prices, they would need to bend over backwards FOR ME.
And you know what? People didn’t mind. They were shopping on Craigslist. They were probably just glad I wasn’t an axe murderer weirdo.
However, if your customers are spending a good chunk of change, they’ll expect you to be more customer centric.
A customer centric business is one that goes out of their way to provide a great experience for people before, during, and after a sale. (Basically the exact opposite of what I was doing when I was unloading my old junk on Craigslist.)
And if you pull it off right, they’ll become customers for life. They’ll also rave to others about your amazing product or service.
Many of the six figure business owners we’ve helped here at GrowthLab recognize this. They see customer centricity as free word of mouth advertising — a valuable way to get more new customers for your business.
Today, I want to give you 3 ways to become more customer centric in your business. Let’s get started.
Before the sale: Make people confident in their decision
People don’t hate spending money as much as they hate making the wrong decision. For example, anyone will gladly shell out money for an overpriced burger at a food stand if they’re hungry. They’re confident the purchase will be worth it because it’ll satisfy their immediate need.
However, if a couple is planning food for their wedding, they’ll be more apprehensive. They want to make sure they have a great meal. And that their guests will be satisfied. They don’t want ANYTHING to go wrong on their big day. As a result, they’ll go to food tastings from various places. And they’ll also give guests different options to boost the chances that everyone leaves satisfied.
Jumping through all these hoops gives them more confidence they’re making the right decision.
The same thing applies to selling products online. In most cases, customers can’t interact with your product before they buy. So they’ll be more fearful about making the wrong decision.
The solution is to put some skin in the game yourself. I’m talking about giving your customers a generous guarantee so that they can hit the buy button with confidence.
I’m sure you’ve scrolled down one of those long sales pages before and come across one of those fake seals touting some kind of 30- or 60-day guarantee.
Seeing a guarantee can inspire confidence in buyers.
That’s because online marketers know they work. They reassure buyers that they’re making the right decision.
Big brands also know this and apply them to their businesses.
Take REI. They’re a retailer that sells hiking, camping, and other outdoor gear. And on their site they state their generous, 1-year guarantee:
REI has a generous return policy to encourage people to try new equipment.
And if you think guarantees only apply to hard goods, think again. Trader Joe’s is a grocery store, and they encourage their customers to try new food and drinks risk free:
Trader Joe’s lets you returned used groceries!
In fact, a guarantee is so powerful that Hyundai boosted their sales in 2009 when they launched their Assurance program.
Basically, it’s a guarantee that lets buyers walk away from a loan or lease in certain life-altering circumstances. They were the first car company in the U.S. to offer something like this. Talk about customer centricity!
But imagine if you’re in the market for a new car, and your company is facing layoffs and your job could be next. Making a big purchase like this would be excruciating. But with this kind of customer centric guarantee, you’d have the confidence to make the purchase.
You wouldn’t have to worry about collections, the repo man sneaking into your garage, or keeping up with payments in the event of a job loss. You just turn in the car, and you have a clean slate.
If you were ever in this situation — God forbid — you’d probably feel like you owe them a debt of gratitude. You’d be a customer for life.
That’s what a strong, customer-centric guarantee can do.
During the sale: Create a customer-centric welcome mat
A product should be an experience. Imagine you booked two separate apartments through Airbnb for a trip. In the first rental, the host put the keys in a secure, but easy-to-find location. And when you walked in, they had a bottle of wine with a note attached to it. The note was a brief welcome message, along with some basic contact info, and ended with “feel free to use anything in the kitchen.”
However, the second Airbnb was hard to find. You had to wait an hour for the owner to show up and give you the keys. And when you finally settled into your place, you discovered that the air conditioner was busted and the water pressure in the shower was low. You called the owner, but couldn’t get a hold of him.
Which experience would you be most likely to give a favorable review? Which one would you want to come back to? It’s a no brainer.
Which is why it’s so important to create a customer-centric experience for anything you sell.
The easiest way to do this is by creating a nice welcome mat.
Here’s how we do it at GrowthLab for our Zero to Launch course. Whenever new customers log in, they see this:
If you play the video, you get a friendly welcome message from the course creator, Ramit Sethi. Then he goes into a short personal story about building an online business followed by what you can expect over the next 8 weeks.
All the next steps and where to direct any tech or support questions are also listed on the same page as the video.
This makes everything accessible in one location.
You can also do this with physical products. The other week I got a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses.
Here’s the insert they included with their glasses:
A simple brochure can be a good welcome mat.
It’s all the basic information on warranty, product specs, and care instructions in one convenient place. But they get really customer centric by putting this same information in 4 other languages! If you unfold it, you’ll see everything repeated in German, French, Swedish, and Portuguese.
A little touch like that can go a long way to someone whose native tongue is any of those languages.
Your welcome mat will vary depending on your product or service. But here’s a general outline you can follow:
- A friendly welcome message (Don’t be a robot. Be warm and sincere!)
- What the customer can expect when using the product/service
- Administrative details and contact information
Also if you put contact info for any kind of customer service, make sure it gets answered! People hate bad customer service more than they hate bad products.
After the sale: Do a courtesy check-in
I’m a dog owner. A few times, I’ve had to take my dog to the vet for some minor illnesses. And after each of those visits, I received a phone call from the vet’s office asking how everything is going with the dog. Is she feeling better? Doing okay on the medication?
It’s a short check-in call that doesn’t cost much more on their part, but can go a long way in building loyal clients. So it’s no surprise that I once ran into my old neighbors at that same vet — months after they moved away. They told me, “We love the care here, so it’s worth making the trip across town.”
That’s the power of a simple check-in after a sale or transaction.
The level of follow up you can do depends on what business you’re in. For example, Zappos, who sells thousands of shoes a day, probably can’t call each customer to ask how their new kicks are doing.
However, an auto mechanic who does a few major repairs a week probably can.
And no matter what line of work you’re in, you can do one thing that’ll go a long way in running a customer-centric business: Send a simple survey.
What’s great about a survey is that you can set it up once, automate it with email, and then not have to worry about collecting responses all the time. You can just review everything every few weeks to get a pulse on your customers.
Here’s how you can create a mind-blowingly effective survey in 5 questions. Simply ask the following:
- What were their initial reasons for buying your product/service?
- Did your offering meet or exceed any expectations they had?
- How can you improve your product/service?
- Would they recommend your product/service to a friend?
- Basic information like name and email
Try to keep the survey around 5 questions. In our experience, any more than that and people won’t finish it.
The fifth point is important because it allows you to follow up with any additional questions. You’ll notice that some people will give very detailed and thorough answers. And when you email them, you’ll get a good conversation started.
At GrowthLab we use surveys with beta testers of our products. Collecting this feedback lets us make our products better with each iteration. Then, when it comes time to launch, we know we’re releasing something that we’re truly proud of. And something that our customers will love and recommend to others.
Bonus: If the feedback was good, ask those folks if you can use them as customer testimonials. This will help boost your sales even more in the future.
So if you’re trying to unload your old stuff on Craigslist, like I was, forget about customer centricity. But if you want to build a business that lasts, it’s a strategy that can pay for itself many times over.