Marketing Lessons from the Mall

Sunday afternoon, my daughter Mary Claire came to me with a broken pair of glasses. Apparently her three-year-old brother had mistaken them for a chair, with the result that the earpiece had broken off the frame.

I drove over to LensCrafters, where we had bought the glasses, confident that they could solder the earpiece back to the frame and that would be that. But the clerk at LensCrafters said no, it wasn’t something they could do. She suggested I try a place called “Fix-It-Quick,” which occupied a kiosk at the nearby Eastgate Mall. If “Fix-It-Quick” couldn’t fix it, I could replace the entire frame (if they still sold that style) or I could replace the glasses entirely.

Now, I should tell you I’m not a fan of malls. I usually try to avoid them like vampires avoid garlic. But I figured it couldn’t be more than a few bucks to solder the glasses, and a trip to the mall would be worth it to avoid the expense of a whole new pair.

I found the kiosk easily enough, and saw that they fix all sorts of glasses, jewelry, and watches. I handed the glasses to “Mark,” who was staffing the kiosk. “These look expensive,” he said, before he quoted me a price of $65 to repair them — and told me it wouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.

65 rocks was certainly more than I expected to pay — but still worth it, as it was a fraction of the cost of a new pair. “Value pricing,” I told myself as he sat down at a funny-looking box with eyepieces that looked like the color-blindness tester at the Department of Motor Vehicles. (Turns out it’s called “LaserStar” — and yes, Mark’s business is “LaserStar Certified” for both jewelry and optical repairs.

Then he told me I could watch him make the repairs on closed-circuit TV. I didn’t care much about the mechanics, but I was intrigued how watching the repair made it more of an “experience” — and how it helped market his business.

I wound up having a great conversation with Mark, who turned out to be the owner of the business, along with a second kiosk, in Lexington, KY. I was surprised how many lessons his marketing had to offer ours.

How does he price his services? He told me that he had gone to different opticians and determined that the average cost to replace a pair of frames was $150. He took that number, cut it in half, and backed off just a little more so it wouldn’t be too obvious how he got there. Now that’s value pricing! Notice what was not included in his formula: rent for his cart, hourly rates, or the price of solder!

How does he find his customers? I mentioned I had been referred by LensCrafters. He thanked me for letting him know how I found him, and told me that when he opened his kiosk, he had gone to all the local opticians with information on his services. (He went to jewelers, too, along with anyone else who actually sells the stuff he fixes. Smart!)

By then I had told him about TaxCoach, and how we teach you to price your services according to the value you deliver. He reported that he paid his accountant $250/month for writeup, with payroll and personal taxes extra. I’m betting he found that accountant himself — how many of us are out looking for “under the radar” clients like him?

As we wrapped it up, he said “Here’s your receipt that you don’t need.” At that point I had some return advice for him. I told him that, because the glasses were a medical device, the cost of fixing them could be tax-deductible. I suggested he tell all his eyeglass-repair customers the same thing — and I have no doubt that he’s sharp enough to do it.

Here are the bottom-line questions for you:

  • How can you make your service more of an “experience”?
  • How can you price your services to reward yourself for the value you deliver instead of the time it takes to solder an earpiece to an eyepiece?
  • How can you network with fellow business owners and professionals to deliver a steady stream of clients to your practice?
  • What sort of “unexpected” clients can you find that aren’t being approached by your competitors?

I’m not suggesting you spend your afternoons at the mall! But I am suggesting you keep an eye out for successful marketing ideas in unexpected places. You never know when you’ll see success that you can adapt for yourself!