Great Leaps Forward



Whatever happened to town centres? A combination of out of town superstores, supermarkets, ‘local’ mini-stores, the online shopping explosion and unrealistic rents have killed off all but the strongest of retail brands. But for the influx of fast food outlets and charity shops, smaller towns would consist of little more than row upon row of boarded up premises. It’s a tough landscape, yet some operators can still prosper by employing traditional tactics that were the precursors of much of today’s marketing mantra….

I know that in these recessionary times the Ashton family is spending far too much money with Dave the butcher, but being a dedicated carnivore I can’t see any way round it, indeed I’m not sure that I want to.


Dave isn’t actually our local butcher, indeed to drive to Dave’s from our house takes you past at least 5 other butchers but he comes highly lauded by half the mums in the school playground. They get free chipolatas and koftas in exchange for the recommendation (the tastiest member get member initiative ever).

Dave doesn’t publicise himself as such but every weekend his produce is consumed at dinner parties, barbeques and Sunday lunches all over Harrogate, the ultimate in word of mouth (in the mouth) advertising.

My kids hate going to Dave’s because they know it’s always a long visit. Dave takes time to know all of his customers by name, their families, their favorite meats, their regular orders, everything! He’s more than happy to make up a special marinade or sausage flavour to suit the individual palate (the ultimate in CRM).

All of this works because the product is brilliant, and nobody knows or talks about meat as much as Dave. Whilst he might not be on first name terms with all his produce he certainly knows which herd / flock they come from and their diet and environment. He clearly loves his job, he can and does talk about meat for ages. His enthusiasm rubs off and justifies his prices, for some reason you don’t mind paying twice as much for a sausage made from 100% iron age pork (a cross between wild boar and free range pig), and they do taste twice as nice.

Even when Dave gets it’s wrong he makes it right again. Once when we were going away for a self-catering break we stopped by on the way to pick up the meat. Dave spent so long talking about his marinades sausages etc. that we managed to walk out of the shop leaving the order on the counter.

Having spent the weekend eating beans on toast we returned on Monday to the butchers to find Dave looking like a broken man.  He explained that he hadn’t been able to sleep all weekend because he was so worried about what we were going to eat! The fact that he cared so much meant as much as the free steak he gave us in compensation.

Fifty years ago I’m sure high streets were full of retailers using similar tactics to woo and keep their trade. Somewhere down the line these tricks got lost only to be rediscovered via current marketing / CRM jargon.

The basics are still just as simple:

Know your customers

Who they are / What they want

Where they come from / How to get more of them

How to sell them more and keep them coming back

Treat them as you would like to be treated and they’ll sing your praises


Love your product:

If you don’t believe, nobody else will

You have to understand it to sell it

Make it as good as it can be and be proud of it.


Translate these truisms into today’s digital world and watch your sales grow.