Locked in

Several years ago, a manufacturer made a major marketing push in an attempt to move the groundwater industry to 3-inch residential submersible wells. Their pitch centered on the lower costs of drilling a 3-inch well. Of course, they offered a 3-inch submersible that no other major manufacturer offered: a “perfect match” for these installations. In some regions, this manufacturer had some success with this strategy, at least in the short-term.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago, and what I saw happen. A young couple, who purchased their home a couple of years ago, was out of water. The homeowners didn’t know what was downhole, but knew the unit had failed and it was time for a replacement. After talking with a couple of neighbors and doing some internet research, they decided they definitely wanted a Franklin Electric 4-inch submersible. They contacted their water systems contractor, who was not the same one who drilled the well ten years ago.

When the contractor came to pull and replace, he immediately noted the 3-inch well. Not an older, encrusted 4-inch well, but a relatively new 3-inch well drilled exclusively for a 3-inch submersible. Of course, he had to tell the homeowners, “Sorry, but there’s only one product that will go down that hole, and I don’t carry it. Or, I can drill you a new well that will accommodate what you want. And actually, that might not be a bad idea, since with this drought, it looks as if this well might have gone dry. Three-inch wells offer far less storage of water, so they are more prone to being overpumped.”

The homeowners found themselves locked in with no options, and that left them feeling frustrated and angry. They didn’t like being told what they had to do, even if they had been happy with the performance of the original system. In fact, they were angry enough that you can bet they will run fast and far to another manufacturer the first time circumstances allow them to do that. The manufacturer may have garnered a sale from its exclusive approach, but it did not build a relationship.

What’s better? The short-term sale or the long-term customer? I’ll pick the long-term customer every time.

The object lesson here is that gimmicks and strong arming don’t build a brand, and they don’t build loyalty. Listen to your customer. Figure out what his problem is and how to solve it. Give him options and let him be part of the process. Otherwise, if you lock him in, the next time he needs something, you may find yourself locked out.

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