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The impulse buy


Posted by Tom Friedman on Thursday, March 16, 2017 in Small Business Today Articles

Last week I did something I almost never do.  I made an impulse purchase.  Let’s start this story by stating that I do like an occasional adult beverage.  A nice cold beer on a hot summer night is nice, as is an occasional glass of wine, but if I have a drink of choice, it will typically be spiced rum.  Most often it will be spiced rum with Diet Coke Lime as a mixer. When my wife and I travel, we will typically pack some adult beverages in the cooler, as it is far less expensive to enjoy that fare with drinks you brought with you vs. drinks you buy in a bar or restaurant.  And if you are a regular reader, you know that I am cheap. 

As I was packing for our trip to St. Louis to watch son Ted and the UNI men’s basketball team play in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, I looked for that spiced rum.  When I found the bottle, there was not much left, so it was off to the grocery store after work to re-stock.  When I got there, right in front of the isle containing all the different varieties of rum, a woman was handing out small samples of a flavored vodka and flavored whiskey.  Not wanting to make her feel bad, I stopped and tried the vodka.  It was very good.

While I was savoring the flavored vodka, the woman behind the temporary stand was describing the whiskey that another patron was sampling.  I have never really acquired a taste for whiskey, so I was ready to leave when I overheard her say that this sample was much smoother than “brand x”.  The gentlemen tasting the whiskey swallowed and proclaimed that she was indeed correct, and that the whiskey he just had tasted like Red Hots, the candy.  I like Red Hots, but not whiskey, so I was conflicted.  But because I overheard the conversation, I decided to be bold and try the whiskey.  Plus if I didn’t like it there were crackers close by to cover up the taste.

I tried just a thimble sized sample and much to my surprise, it didn’t taste like the whiskey I expected.  I liked it.  I really liked it.  I liked it so much that I asked the woman giving the samples to point me to the shelf where the bottles were for sale.  She pointed just behind her and mentioned that flavored whiskey I just sampled was even on sale.  I thanked her and walked away, wondering if it would be inappropriate to ask for another sample. 

I did grab that bottle of spiced rum that I originally came for and much to my own surprise, I grabbed a bottle of the flavored whiskey as well.  As small business owners and managers, we know that if we can just get a potential client to try our product or service just one time, they will end up being long term clients.  But how do we get them to try it once?  Just like the woman at the grocery store, I recommend giving samples.  Sometimes I will get people in the bank asking for free samples, but instead of free money, I offer them a service they could use with either no service fees for a while or an additional service added on for free.  I challenge you to come up with something that you can give away that will entice more customers to come your way.

When my wife saw the receipt she was shocked that I actually bought something that I never intended.  The rest of the group that we hung out with in St. Louis was also surprised by my lack of thriftiness, but that didn’t stop them from tasting and enjoying both the whiskey and rum that I brought.  

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Tom Friedman

Thomas J. Friedman
Market President, Ankeny

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