Last month, my wife and I, along with our six-year old, went to China for two weeks to adopt a little girl. She’s healthy and amazing and we couldn’t be more blessed to have her. My wife chronicled our journey on her blog, check it out if you’re interested.
The last few days of our trip were spent on the island of Shamian in Guangzhou. What an amazing place. It felt like Savannah, Georgia, which surprised me because the rest of our trip was nothing like it (Beijing and Zhengzhou, both great cities but not tropical in any sense). One of the fun things about Shamian Island is the many shops they have for tourists and adopting parents. And they love to negotiate, which my wife curiously found to be very exciting.
As we were visiting a shop, one of the other parents that was traveling in our group came up and showed us a drawing of Chinese characters that spelled her adopted daughter’s name. She said that we must go to “Jordan’s shop” to get one done, he does them for free, but unfortunately if we were going to shop, he doesn’t negotiate.
Great, that sounded like fun, so we put Jordan’s shop on our list to make sure we hit it before the day was over. When we got to his shop later that day, it pretty much looked like all the other shops we had been in. Just about the same products and just about the same price. But there was Jordan when we walked in, sitting and drawing characters for a parent and kid that were shopping.
Where do I start with Jordan? Let’s see. He was the happiest, friendliest and most positive person we met on our entire two week trip. The guy was like a beam of bright light shining through that little shop. He seemed genuinely interested in our story, where we were from, loved telling us about his hometown and was obviously very happy to draw the Chinese characters for Hannah’s name.
We ended up coming back to see him two more times over the next couple of days. And I’d say we bought about 70% of our souvenirs from him. And I’m sure we paid 25% more than we would have because he didn’t negotiate. But we were happy to support him and his business. He immediately felt like a friend.
He probably doesn’t realize it, but he’s kind of a small business super genius. His differentiator is his personality which translates to customer service in his shop. This on its own isn’t anything unique. Lots of people are fun to be around.
However, by giving away free character drawings, he is able to get the most out of that differentiator. Think about it, people flock in there to get their characters done, and while he is drawing it (which takes between 5 and 10 minutes as he’s very chatty), the person shops around and gets to know him. He has created a vehicle to give him time to create a bond with his customers which plays to his strength.
In the other shops, its an immediate negotiation. You don’t feel any connection with the shop owner and you don’t distinguish between any two shops. In Jordan’s case, he is essentially charging a premium because he’s a nice guy. Same exact products right next two several dozen competitors, at a higher price.
Lesson: no matter what you’re doing or what your line of work is, figure out what makes you great. Then think about how you can give your strength the most exposure. That will be a winning formula every time.