Stop Selling, Start Connecting

Patagonia sign

I want to tell you a story about my new jacket. It’s a Patagonia Nano Puff which retails for a whopping $199. It’s functional and meets all the requirements one could hope for with a jacket. It keeps me warm, is fashionable, and even folds into its own pocket. I could have purchased a near-identical jacket from The North Face for $50 less, but I chose not to because I’m Patagonia’s newest loyalist.

 

So, why the change? Patagonia connected with me without trying to sell to me.

 

Patagonia did something that most business’ are frightened to do – they took a stand. In December of 2017, the company replaced their homepage which usually showcases all of their products, with a black background and large bold white writing:

Home page image from Patagonia.com "The President Stole Your Land"

“The President Stole Your Land” from the homepage of Patagonia.com

Most business consultants would call this suicide.

In a world where many brands try to appeal to the masses, this was a bold statement. Patagonia knew they would lose thousands of consumers especially Trump supporters (of which there are many) and they did.

A product image of a black Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket

My new Patagonia Nano Puff jacket (that I love).

 

So, why do this? Why put so much at risk?

 

The reason is simple. It’s in line with their mission and values. The Patagonia Mission is to “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

 

Had Patagonia not taken this public stand, no one would have blamed them, but they did because their mission isn’t something that sounds good like many corporate mission statements. Their mission is what defines them and is their compass of how they operate.

 

We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Can you imagine the satisfaction of working at Patagonia if you share the same values?

 

Burble Software

Burble is a proud sponsor of this blog.

So why am I writing about this in Blue Skies Mag? It doesn’t seem relevant. The reason is I want this for the skydiving industry. The best companies in the world are values-based companies that know who they are and why they do what they do.

 

Our landscape is filled with selling and shouting into the digital sphere, “WE SELL SKYDIVING! WE SELL SKYDIVING! WE SELL SKYDIVING!” The voice of so many DZs in our industry is about selling at the lowest possible price as opposed to offering a service that inspires and enriches lives. We’ve lost our brand story. What is our identity and why are we really doing this? Right now, it’s a straight-up hustle: jam them in and jam them out. Huck meat, throw drogues, complain, repeat.

It’s uninspiring. ¬†

 

Please don’t be like Mike!

Great marketing isn’t advertising or selling. It’s connection. Replace the word ‘marketing’ with the word ‘connecting.’ Resonate with people before, during and after their experience, but PLEASE stop marketing your sale. Sell who you are. Sell what you believe and differentiate yourself from everyone else who’s safely able to get people to the ground just as you do.

 

Inspire people. Too much of our industry’s marketing has become a bait and switch deal where we spend money to get people to arrive at our DZs only to stop connecting.

 

Ben and Jerry's has long been known for taking a stand on many issues connecting them with their customers.

Ben and Jerry’s has long been known for taking a stand on many issues connecting them with their customers.

I’m not suggesting that running a DZ in today’s day and age is easy. It’s not; I’d suggest that it’s never been harder, but today’s marketplace shouldn’t lead to undercutting… that’s the easy way. In fact, today’s environment suggests that we should be differentiating ourselves as much as possible.

 

Patagonia is in a crowded market filled with competition, but they’ve taken a stand. They’re a premium brand and are more expensive than their competitors, but they have inspired people by standing for what they believe in and that courage has translated into a loss of customers, but also a surge of new customers and better yet, loyalists.
A Patagonia sign outside of a Patagonia retail store.

I purchase my shoes from Zappos, shop at Costco and buy apparel from Patagonia because these companies have connected with me. Their values align with my own and they’re boldly doing business their way when it would be easier to do it the way their competitors do it.

 

I want our industry to do the same. People are always watching; more than we think. Let this be the year we focus on inspiring our guests… I promise it will pay off.

 

Inspire and Be Inspired.

 

 This content was published in the March 2018 issue of Blue Skies Magazine.

About James La Barrie

James La Barrie is passionate about marketing and changing a company's service culture. Originally from the Caribbean island of Antigua, James melds his approach of marketing and delivering elite service together as one. James has injected his 'service marketing' approach throughout his career to transform companies from good to great.

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