Great Ideas for your Small Business: Make House Calls
In this high-tech, constantly bustling world, a little personal service goes a long, long way. Visiting your clients or customers at their homes or in their neighborhood gives some businesses a definite edge over the competition.
Mary Heyob and her husband, Tom, sell crop insurance in the Midwest. Nadya, a Balinese-based clothing designer, meets her clients in hotel suites across America. First Union National Bank of Maryland sends bankers to set up branches in retirement homes. And London-based Norton & Townsend tailors visit well-off and well-dressed men in their homes and offices. Although they all sell vastly different products, they attribute much of their success to meeting their customers’ needs on their own turf. “We see 95 percent of our customers on their farms, all over the state,” said Mary Heyob, who serves as office man- ager and bookkeeper for the Pro Crop Insurance Agency.
Because the sale of crop insurance is totally regulated by the Federal Crop Insurance Corp., the prices are set by the government. This means the only way the Heyobs can set them- selves apart is by providing terrific service. They know their customers’ needs and meet with them on farms throughout Indiana and western Ohio.
Keeping thousands of customers happy is what Nadya does best. Originally from Chicago, the one-name designer fell in love with Bali while vacationing there in 1978. By 1980 she started hiring artists and seamstresses to create her unique, comfortable batiked or hand-painted cotton and rayon clothing. On a visit to New York City, she told me she had 125 people working in two locations, with annual sales in excess of $1 million.
Nadya spends about six months creating new lines of clothing, then she hits the road—selling her wares across America. She keeps her overhead low by setting up shop in hotel suites in Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Boston; Chicago; and Irvine, California.
While banking services are not as glamorous as Balinese fashions, smart banks are sending bankers to nursing homes to serve elderly customers. A branch in Maryland’s Edenwald retirement facility has 500 square feet with about 170 safety deposit boxes.
Jim Bowe, vice president of American Seniors Housing Association, told the Washington Business Journal that seniors are attractive bank customers for several reasons. They have consistent income and have to maintain a certain standard of living to stay in a retirement community. They are a good source of deposits and tend to be very loyal customers.
Finally, if you want a fine, custom-tailored English suit brought right to your doorstep, just call Norton & Townsend in London. Their tailors visit busy men in their homes and offices in both London and Manhattan.
Think about ways to expand your business by reaching out to customers at home or at their offices. Consider Avon’s tremendous global success: They send representatives in canoes up the Amazon River! Providing any sort of delivery service is a cost-effective way to reach more people. Not many businesses make house calls these days—maybe you should give it a try in your business!