Before I started developing wireless signs for vending machines, I was a vend operator. Before that, I was a financial advisor. There are a lot of things that I learned as a financial advisor that carried over to vending, but one seems especially relevant today -- my old boss used to say "don't give away the secret sauce."
At the time, he was referring to our then-new ability to submit our trades from our laptop computers, online, while visiting a client. This, of course, begs the question of why clients wouldn't just go to a discount brokerage house and do this themselves. The answer was, of course, that we as financial advisors added value."
When it comes to vending, there are customers who look at what we do and don't think it is very complicated -- they don't place a lot of value in it. This danger arises when they start to engage you in a conversation about how they think your business works, and you start explaining it in too much detail. Next thing you know, they decide to do their own vending -- which we all know never works -- or they have the idea that they can push you on price because, hey, they can get a candy bar at Walmart for a lot less than you sell it for in the machine."
Whether it comes to investments or vending machines, there is a simple truth: YOU are the expert at what you do, not your customer. Don't get me wrong, your customers' input is very important because they can tell you what they really want, and the better you service your customers the more money you will make in the short and the long runs. However, you are the one that has to be the expert at what you do, and you have to run your business on your terms. Remember, they came to you or became your customer because they were interested in obtaining a service, not getting into another line of business (yours)."
The customers that will stay with you long-term, and the ones that will be the most profitable, will allow you to do your job. Honestly, the less involved in your day-to-day business they are, the better it is for both of you. They need to know that you are a solid operator who cares about them as customers. Getting into a conversation with them about the minor details of vending isn't going to solve anything."
As operators, we need to be more firm in our offerings, and honestly believe that what we are selling is worth a premium over buying it at a grocery or convenience store -- because it is. We need to keep our "secret sauce" our secret, and allow the customer to just enjoy the fact that our service works, makes their lives easier and keeps their employees productive. How we do it, however, is up to us, and it is something that we should decide for ourselves."
DAVID LEVINE is a former financial advisor and vending company owner. He now runs MB Media Brokers (Phoenix), which specializes in low-cost wireless retrofittable signage for vending machines. Founded in 2005, MB Media Brokers was born out of Levine's conclusion that the vending industry's potential is impaired by the current perception of vending. He believes that this problem can be addressed while providing additional revenue to operators. His solution is to use digital signage to convert the existing machine base into a massive network of digital billboards, capable of both broadcasting and advertising.