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Retail.

Look at it this way: the current crop of presidential candidates are marketing themselves wide, via the national news media. They’re also marketing themselves locally (particularly in Pennsylvania, where I am very glad I do not live this month), tailoring their messages to local concerns. National political messaging, tailored to a locality-based group of voters, requires that the story be tweaked to make it fully resonant with the target audience.

Local = retail.

If you’re a company with national presence – say, for example, you’re Microsoft, with a global presence – it is, of course, important that you tell a consistent, authentic story to your world-wide marketplace. For Microsoft, that’s always been some version of ‘we’ve got what you need’. As a company that currently produces what many people believe is the only OS available (they’re wrong, but Bill Gates isn’t going to tell them that, is he?), they’ve built a pretty impressive market presence and penetration.

However, what – and who – really sells their products? Their partners. Those partners are the engine that really drives the company’s continued presence, and expansion. Those partners tell the MS story, but they also must tell one of their own, developing their own relationships and trust with the customers they serve with MS products and services.

Retail, baby.

Some retail is purely transactional, like MickeyD’s and BK. If you hit a drive-thru, you aren’t looking for a relationship with the store. You just want a #5 combo, and you know just where to get it. If you’re in a transactional business, you still have to tell a story: that your customer can rely on getting exactly what they want, when they want it, at the price that they want to pay.

Still retail. Still tellin’ a story.

I read a piece in Business Week Online yesterday that says that if your sales are stuck, you must use a script. I say that’s a crock. Scripts are for cold-calls, and if you’re doing cold-calls you’re spinning your wheels. Even if you’re in a transactional business, cold-calls are a waste of time.

Transaction-based business – other than stuff like the drive thrus, and when was the last time you got a cold-call from MickeyD’s? – has, for the most part, moved to the Web. Those businesses still use cold-calls, much  of which winds up in your spam folder, or as a delete-after-hearing-one-sentence voicemail.

If you’re looking to sell products or services, and retain those customers, you have to build a relationship with them. One of the best ways to do that is sharing stories: theirs will reveal the problems they have that you can solve, yours will tell them that you’ve got what they need. Using this approach, you’ll build trust in your prospects, and loyalty in your customers.

A number of whom will become the storied ‘raving fans’ – also known as ‘referral machines’.

So, take the retail approach, even if you’re selling globally. Build relationships by telling authentic stories: about why you do what you do, the problems you solve, why solving those problems makes your day worth living.

All business is retail.

That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it…

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