Soap

Dream big.

Not long ago we were shopping for a few odds and ends. She needed a special soft soap – aroma Nag Champa – made by a small local manufacturer. It wasn’t in the organic section of the big store we were in so we thought we’d pick it up later.

Being the thoughtful guy I am (please remind her) I thought I would pick it up the next morning and save her the trip.

The odyssey begins,

Because I’m headstrong (or foolish) I ultimately visited the six local stores the soap maker’s website said their products were stocked. They weren’t. Knowing they’re kind of a low-key place I also hit up the biggest farmer’s market on the north side. Nada. Bear in mind there were lots of food, services (knife-sharpening any0ne?) and even other soaps, oils and candles there, but none by the maker she likes.

On Monday morning I called the soap people. After a few rings, a muffled voice answered, perhaps just waking up since it was only 11:30 in the morning. He didn’t say the name of the company so, thinking I’d mis-dialed, I asked if it was the place I was trying to reach.

“Yeah,” he said. Under-impressed by his slacker style in this capital of slackerdom I went on to say I couldn’t find his soap at any of the stores listed on his webpage. “Not so and so?” he asked.

Nope. No soap there.

“What about?…” This went on for a few minutes. No. I tried them all. I asked for help. I told people who you were. Nothing. Finally he mentioned one place not listed and I made the long trek to the south side only to find a measly group of their items in dusty packages and bottles but no Nag Champa. My odyssey was officially a fool’s errand.

Now, what has soap got to do with managing? A lot it turns out.

Turns out soap is a lot like any other personal care product: we like what we like. Sometimes its the aroma, the performance, the size, shape, tactile feel, whatever, but we are not most of us given to switching. And in a town where organic animal-test-free craft-made products are really important once you find was you like its hard to switch. I wanted what she wanted because I want her to have what she wants.

Its more than likely the soap makers don’t have any real dreams of expansion or market share or QoverQ growth stories. I get that. They sleep in, say “yeah” when they answer the phone and make soap when they get around to it. They obviously restock their outlets and update their website even less frequently. So I get it. They may be into the soap just as much as they want to be.

As a consumer though I shake my head. You gave me something I like and made it hard to find, so pretty quickly I’ll get over it. Its foolish to keep pining for what we can’t have, and I have better things to do.

The moral of the story for management is this. If you’re going to make soap, french fries or Daimler-Benz, it isn’t good enough to make the best that you can make. To really satisfy customers you’ve got to make it easy for them to get your products. You’ve got to make it easy to do business with you.

Or just learn to sleep in because there won’t be much demand for your soap.

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