August 31, 2009

Creating a Wow!: B+H Photo/Video Manhattan

How do you create an ever-too-rare Wow! moment? So remarkable that observers spread your story. You can't buy this publicity. You can only get it for free.

Here's an example from B&H, specializing in photo, video and professional audio. We first learned of this visit-worthy Manhattan store from native Pauline Frommer's New York City guide (2006 edition).

What Makes B&H Special?
Just speed, service and selection.

You've heard those words before. What's different here?

The speed is zippy. You may wait for a consultant if you go at a busy time, but that's fine since there's so much to see. The service is exceptional because you'll find knowledgeable staff within steps. The vast selection is something you need to see to believe.

The Process
You leave your bags with an attendant when you enter and get a receipt. While theft seemed unlikely, we still took our valuables out. You wander around to drink in the atmosphere. You notice the crowds. You spot the automated conveyor belts rushing green baskets just below the ceiling. Are they just for show?

The array of choices overwhelms you. How do you find what you're seeking? You ask at the help desk and get clear directions to the right department. As you walk, notice the well-stocked bowls and sample the Starburst-like candies. They give your fatigued body a welcome boost after a long day of sightseeing.

Ask for help from the specialist in area of interest (we were looking for a monopod to use with our new video camera and ended up getting a more versatile Manfrotto 585 stabilizer instead).

After you make your decision, the consultant verifies availability and prints a product page which you take to the order processing line. We waited for several minutes. Your item arrives by conveyor belt in moments (45 seconds for us) and gets inspected. You get a printed order form and head to the checkout. By the time you finish paying, your bagged order is already waiting for you.


You've got to see the process yourself. In words, it's difficult to convey the impression this form of shopping creates. You don't lug your purchases around the store. This reduces shoplifting too because you don't have physical possession of anything until you've paid.

Did we save any money? We didn't know but left happy and felt compelled to tell others. You can't buy publicity like this.

What About You?
When your clients or prospects say "Wow!", they aren't comparing you with your competitors. They're benchmarking you against with their whole range of experiences. If you focus only on your direct competitors, you'll make incremental improvements at best. And you won't stand out.

Instead, think back to what created a Wow! for you. Perhaps at Walt Disney World, a well-organized event, the first hotel that left a chocolate on your pillow, an executive physical, a courier delivery service, an especially attentive waiter or B&H. How can you do something similar? And get the kind of publicity that you can only get for free.


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