Signs are overrated

February 27, 2012 by

entrepreneurship
Late one evening as I drove back into Austin some field lights shinning brightly off the road caught my attention. The location was peculiar. I did not think there was a baseball or soccer field located there and was curious about what it could be. The next time I passed by I decided to veer off and take a look. I discovered to my delight that the lights were used to illuminate a driving range. Being a golfer and lacking a nearby range, this was a welcomed find.

The first time I patroned the place, the owner handed me a bucket of balls and suggested I pay on the way out since he was “using his internet connection to browse the web and couldn’t run my credit card until he was done.” I proceeded to hit my bucket of balls and returned to the office when I was done. I paid, engaged him in small talk about how business was going and headed out. I went back a few more times and couldn’t help but notice that there was never more than one other person there.

Selfishly, I didn’t want the driving range to close down. It was convenient, affordable and never crowded. As a general matter, I also like to see new businesses succeed. I pressed to find out how many buckets he was selling a day and he responded, “a handful.” I decided to make an unsolicited suggestion. I asked if he had considered a sign. I told him about how I found the range. I’ve never forgotten his reply: “Signs are overrated.”

I understand not wanting to follow the crowd. I appreciate unconventional approaches and rethinking rarely challenged assumptions. The problem was that he had not developed an alternative solution for the problem a sign is intended to solve. He was focusing his desire to be unique and unconventional on the wrong part of the customer experience.

Are there some areas where you or your organization need to just put up a sign, or whatever that is for you, and make life easier for everyone? Could you refocus your aspirations to be unique and unconventional on areas of your business that will delight customers instead of frustrating them?

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