Making her choice On Saturday morning, for the first time in two years, I went into a shoe store to buy myself a new pair of shoes. I emphasize myself because we have twin boys who are 6, and it seems as though every other month, we are at the shoe store for them, and I just stare longingly at shoe store windows as we pass by. Now, let it be known, I wouldn’t have attempted what follows but for the fact that while taking the boys fishing on Saturday morning, I accidentally stepped calf-deep into a pond, ruining my only casual shoes, and was leaving for a weeklong work trip on Monday.

So, in a bind and against all rational thought, I brought my boys to the shoe store with me. I knew I had about two minutes to find shoes before the boys would grow impatient. But, I’m cursed with a size 11 foot (and a 5-foot-4-inch height … I will save what this has done to my confidence for another post) — so finding shoes is never an easy thing. The boys started to get antsy after just a few minutes — playing hide-and-seek under the shoe shelves. I grew increasingly anxious trying to manage the boys and find the needle-in-the-haystack size 11 shoe while thinking of all of the things that had to be done before I left on Monday.

A store clerk approached, and I thought she was going to ask, “Can I help you?” But instead, she said, “Please stop hiding under the shelves, boys.” And proceeded to walk away, stand at a 5-foot distance, and glance over her shoulder every 30 seconds in a way that said, “I will stand near you until you and these two heathen children have left my shoe store.”

I felt frustrated. And judged. And tired. Not once in the next 12 minutes while she stood near did she say, “Are you having trouble finding your size?” And in one of my weaker five seconds, I considered throwing a shoe box at her.

After the shoe store, I had one last stop to get a dress shirt. I begged the boys to behave. “Stick with me. Shopping with Mom is almost over.” We went into the store and I took a deep breath — dove in — and prayed a shirt would fly over and fall in my lap. Within two minutes, a clerk came over. Fantastic. More judgment, I thought.

But this clerk was much different. In fact, the entire experience was much different.

The store clerks didn’t just interact with me … they interacted with the boys. A male clerk talked to the boys about what sports they play and taught them a new secret handshake.

And that gave me time to look for clothes.

To the store’s credit, I not only bought that dress shirt I was shopping for, but two other pieces of clothing. And I left wanting to come back.

For B2B marketers, having a brick and mortar experience with your customers is more rare than in B2C land, but the lesson I walked out of those two stores with applies no matter what turf you’re meeting your customers on.

Listen to what your customers are telling you (even when they’re not talking). Yes. I needed shoes. And a shirt. But what I really needed was 20 uninterrupted seconds. I didn’t expect someone to babysit my children for me. I just wanted someone to help me find what I needed — faster. And the store that not only did that, but also helped give me that undivided attention by entertaining the boys, won out.

After we checked out, the clerk who had entertained the boys jogged to the front of the store when he saw we were leaving, got down on the floor and held his fist out.

“Fist bump!” he said to the boys.

“Thank you,” I told him.

About Leslie Maynes

It’s all about the story for Two Rivers Marketing Public Relations Director Leslie Maynes. She loves helping each client uncover their own unique story and finding the perfect way to share it with their audience. Leslie has been telling stories in the agriculture and construction industries for 10 years. When she gets a free minute, she can be found reading other people’s stories. You can write to Leslie at lesliem@2rm.com