I Like Them, I Really Like Them

As I mentioned in an earlier column, I’m fiscally conservative — okay, cheap. So imagine my husband’s surprise when, as we were planning our family vacation, I said, “No, I don’t want to shop around for a cheaper price; I want to book it with Alex.”

Alex is a travel agent with a Canadian company that I’d been corresponding with via e-mail for weeks. I’d found him online; his company is the only North American rep for the resort that was my original choice. Unfortunately, after Alex did lots of research on my behalf, I decided that the resort was too expensive for us. So when I realized that a cruise was more in keeping with my budget, I asked Alex to help me out. Never mind that he’s in a different country and that I’d never even had a phone conversation with the man.

After several more weeks of research and e-mails, Alex found us a cruise that met all my criteria. This is when my husband stepped in and offered to do some comparison-shopping. But by this point I knew that any differences in price would be minimal. And so I declared that, forty or fifty bucks be damned, I wanted Alex to have my business. I liked Alex. He’d gone above and beyond in finding me the perfect vacation, and his e-mails were well written to boot.

This ties in to something that consultant Don Libey said at last month’s MeritDirect Business Mailers Co-op: Ninety percent of people still do business only with people they like. In these economic times, many marketers believe that they can compete only on price. But people will pay more to deal with a company that they like.

Take a look at this year’s CATALOG AGE 100 (the full ranking begins on page 48). Many of those companies aren’t the cheapest providers of what they sell. But for one reason or another, people buy from them time and again, because they like those companies.

Dell, for instance. Our household has spent hours on the phone with Dell’s service folks. True, much of that time was on hold, but much more was spent talking with friendly, knowledgable reps who knew, or made a point of finding out, what we needed to resolve our tech problems.

Or Nordstrom. I once ordered a pair of inexpensive pants from a Nordstrom catalog. The CSR made a point of telling me that the pants ran large and asked for my measurements to ensure that I selected the right size.

Of course, you needn’t be one of the 100 largest catalogers in the country to have people like you. In fact, it’s probably even more important for smaller players, which generally can’t compete on price, to be likeable.

I recently ordered gifts from Asia for Kids, which because of its specialized niche (Asian-themed products for youngsters) is unlikely to ever make the CATALOG AGE 100. The presents arrived with free stickers. Something free! And something that just about every kid likes! Will I be ordering from Asia for Kids again? You betcha, and I probably won’t even shop around first. Because I like them, I really really like them.