Your Next Customer ISN’T buying –how Ted’s Fly Fishing Shop treated prospects

This blog often talks about the tools and technologies that companies can use, the same principles apply to real-life, and how we treat the next customer.

Last night, I had dinner and drinks over at my Uncle’s friend’s place. Ted, who’s already retired, shared some of his wisdom with me regarding running a business. His business? he launched a silicon valley startup right in the heart of the valley, but the thing was, it has nothing to do with tech. In fact, he had run a fly fishing shop in San Mateo for 15 years, and knows what it’s like to run a startup. Like most startups in the valley, it’s a combination of ambition, risk, and all passion.

The most meaningful story, which I’m now sharing with you, explained how he treated prospects. Three gentleman used to visit his fly fishing shop, yet they didn’t have enough money to purchase the gear or attend any of the exclusive trips accustomed to the fly fishing community, yet Ted welcomed them in. They were encouraged to be part of the shop’s community, hang out in the store, and at least live the dream –even if from afar.

Three years had passed and the gentlemen kept on returning, the small software company, which the three gents co-owned, eventually was sold. Each of the three were worth about $11 million dollars –each! There was no way to predict these guys would have ‘made it’ for their company when Ted invited them to hang and be part of the club.

They came back specifically to thank Ted, for letting them hang out in his ‘club house’, even though they couldn’t afford to purchase any of the gear or excursions at the time. Over the next few years, they purchased 3 exclusive excursions per year, helping Ted grow his business from a 11k net to a million dollar yearly business. (and yes they had a website).

Lessons learned

1) You never know which one of your guests will become your big customers, treat everyone as a top customer.

2) Those who are interested in your products, invite them in, let them be part of your community. This applies to the web as well.

What about Ted? He’s now happily retired, with all the creature comforts as well as friends and family, and couldn’t be wealthier. So back to you. How are you treating your prospects? Do you give them the same amount of benefits and respect as customers? How can websites align with this strategy