Streak Free and Squeaky Clean

This month we examine a key marketing tool: Windex. What does Windex have to do with marketing? Everything!

Visual impressions are critical to business success. You can have the best advertising and media plan in the world, but if your store’s external appearance and interior design don’t harmonize with the style of your advertising and the quality of your products and brands, a warning bell sounds in your potential customer’s brain.

Roland Puton, past president of Rolex Watch USA, always walked the street or the corridors of a mall scrutinizing the “neighborhood” of storefronts and window displays before entering a prospective or current Rolex jeweler. He insisted that his area sales managers do the same, to assess the competitive environment, understand local business trends, and monitor them. He studied window displays and noted if product arrangements were inviting, uncluttered, and free of fingerprints. Some were near perfect, others were good, but most were not—and these were existing or aspirational Rolex jewelers.

Storefronts, window displays, quality of merchandise, and point-of-sale materials told him if the retailer was confident, managing well, and working hard. Such impressions also provide insight into the quality of sales associates, the diligence of store managers, the local retail business climate, the integrity and intent of the ownership, and, ultimately, viability in a crowded sector. For Puton, jewelry stores had to represent Rolex in a manner befitting the best-selling luxury Swiss timepiece.

In The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell covers this concept. In the chapter called “The Power of Context (Part One),” he says, “We are more than just sensitive to changes in context. We are exquisitely sensitive to them.” He cites the “Broken Windows” theory of James Q. Wilson and George Kelling: If broken windows are not repaired, people assume no one cares, and more windows are broken. The New York City subway provides an instructive example. By cracking down on petty crimes like turnstile jumping and graffiti, the subway system ultimately reduced crime, saved money, and improved customer satisfaction.

Dedicate a portion of your marketing budget to ensure positive first impressions. Replace faded awnings, fix cracked glass in showcases, replace even slightly worn counter pads, and always use gloves when setting up and taking down window displays.

Invest in a good window designer and work closely with that person to keep your windows looking fresh, interesting, and representative of the jewelry and timepieces you carry. You can’t have too many Selvyt polishing clothes or bottles of Windex in your store.

Pay attention to walls, light fixtures, flooring, furniture, and carpeting. Fingerprints on a wall are as unappealing as they are on a showcase, and the same goes for scuff marks on the floor and stains on the carpet. Your arsenal of cleaning supplies should include Goo Gone, Goof-Off, and other spot cleaners as well as upholstery and carpet spot cleaners like Woolite, Resolve, or Spot Shot.

Keep a small can of spackle, some fine-grit sandpaper, and a can of paint to repair nicks in walls—and don’t forget scratch-covering solution for furniture and showcases. Look up, literally, and replace burned-out bulbs. Check lighting fixtures for dust and insect carcasses and give them a fast wipe. Train your sales staff in the proper products to use, and reward them for constantly doing the “little things.”

Whether or not you carry Rolex—or aspire to—apply the Puton Test to your stores. You can be sure your local Lexus dealer, Coach Leather store, and exclusive day spa are streak-free, squeaky clean, and meeting their customers’ expectations.