Butt Brushes And Your Strategy

The little things that turn people off of doing business with you can make all the difference.

Millions of people shop every day.

Thousands of retail executives spend millions of dollars every year trying to figure out what makes people lock in and buy their merchandise. They talk store formats, look and feel, customer flow, sales interactions, and any number of other concepts. And, then, some guy comes along with a perspective that attacks high concept with a decidedly low concept insight.

That’s what Paco Underhill did in his book Why We Buy.  One of my favorite insights from that book is about the “Butt-Brush Effect.”

Put simply, the Butt-Brush Effect is an insight that shoppers tend to stop shopping when they are touched from behind.  So, when racks in stores are packed too closely together, people moving past one another are more likely to “brush” their rear ends against one another.  And when that happens?

They tend to get uncomfortable and stop shopping.

Butt brushes are easy to describe in a retail environment. They are, literally, butt brushes.

But butt brushes exist in all contexts.  They are little portions of customer or vendor experience (yes, I’ll include vendors) that make executing your strategy just-that-much-harder.  They make people uncomfortable.

In your business, butt brushes are unintended impacts.  They come from people who aren’t setting the strategy.  They sometimes even come from people just “doing their jobs.”  Those are the ones that are the most insidious.

What are some examples?

There’s the “aggressive attorney” butt brush.  You know him. He’s the guy who makes closing the transaction a complete slog. He’s the one who focuses on the little details to the exclusion of the relationship.  He makes it hard to like your company.

There’s the “credit Nazi” butt brush.  Kind of like the aggressive attorney, the aggressive credit guy is a sales prevention army of one.

Then, there’s the “purchasing” butt brush.  You’ve gotten to know the senior managers of your prospective vendor.  They like you.  You like them.  The deal is as good as done.  Then, you have to pass them off to the purchasing department. Things get…brushy.

Then, there are the many tiny butt brushes that you offer up to your prospective customers and strategic partners every day.  A fantastic example of that is the “my smart phone is more important than you” butt brush.  Yeah, you get it.

So, you’ve invested untold time and dollars into customer insights and strategy.  You’ve established a path and process to get there. And, you might be right…

So, why let butt brushes ruin it all?  Little discomforts (sometimes driven by little mindsets) turn people off.

Keep an eye out for them.

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