The world has changed a lot over the past 20 years, probably more-so than any other 20 year period in history. Whether you like all of the changes or not, there's no denying that the internet is arguably the single most disruptive technology that man has ever created.
One of the consequences of having so much information at our fingertips has been the ability to comparison shop and do our own research before we make buying decisions. In the past, you tried to find a store, sales rep, friend, or neighbor you trusted that had information about the product or service you were interested in buying and sought their advice before making your purchase. Now, it's easy for anyone to pop that question into Google from anywhere and be presented (if not inundated) with answers and competing offers. This has resulted in a decrease in the perceived value of those personal relationships.
My dad is fond of reminiscing with me about the "good old days" where you had your clients and you were their vendor. You made money, they made money, you both put some of that money back into your community, and everybody was happy. For the most part, those days are long gone.
The availability of comparitive price shopping, while positive in some instances, has also had some unintended consequences. Somehow it seems to have instilled in us this feeling that any time we purchase an item and somebody actually profits from that transaction, something underhanded occurred and we were taken advantage of.
On the other side, your clients are dealing with the same issues from their clients and either forget not to treat their vendors the same way or have to because it's the only way they feel like they can earn a living.
As far as putting money back into their community, communities simply aren't what they used to be. Our population is becoming both more urbanized and globalized by the minute, changing our definition of community.
Urbanization has increased the size of our communities which makes it difficult to feel like we're really a part of them. They're simply too big for most people to feel like they matter. It also means that not contributing to the local PTA fundraiser, buying Girl Scout cookies from the local troop, or sponsoring the local little league team likely won't have the negative affect on your business or reputation that it used to.
Globalization has made it ridiculously easy to communicate and stay in touch with everybody and anybody that's ever been a part of our lives. The result is that we're consistently reaching out beyond the small geographic area we used to be relegated to and instead, spread our attention and efforts out over a far larger area where we're once again a much smaller piece of a much larger pie.
While I may sound like I'm putting down the current state of the world in a very "back in my day we walked 20 miles to school uphill with no shoes" sort of way, I really like the world we live in and I honestly wish I could live forever just to see what the world will look like in 100, 500, 1000 years and more. I also feel like it's our job as business owners to respond and adapt to the world as it exists and find ways to succeed in that world, rather than complaining about the current state as we go out of business.
With all this in mind, understand that you're more-than-likely guilty of making decisions based solely on price when you should have placed more value on other factors while performing your calculation (I know I am from time-to-time). In the future, try to recognize it when it's happening so you can decide whether it's worth paying more for something because the overall value of the relationship makes it worth paying a little more this time (or every time). As a vendor, be sure to understand when it's worth making less or taking a hit for the same reason.
I can tell you that the clients I have that continually hammer me on price get less from me (even if they don't end up getting a better price) and only serve to hurt themselves in the long run. If I feel like it's a constant struggle to make a reasonable profit every time I sell you something, I'm not very likely to go above and beyond for you, and you're going to get exactly what you pay for and nothing more.
On the other hand, clients that understand I need to make a reasonable profit just like they do (or I won't be here in five years to do anything for them), get every ounce of my energy and end up getting far more from me than they pay for in return.
This article originally appeared on Chris Searles Blog
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