At one point in his life, Sam Walton – the founder of Walmart – was the richest man in America.
Once a week, every single week, even at the height of his wealth, Sam would travel to a random store in the chain, and spend the morning working on the tills.
This wasn’t so he could help the store out at a busy time, however, or save a few dollars on the wage bill. Whilst pushing goods through the scanner, he’d fire off questions to each customer he served:
“So tell me why you shop here?”
“Where else do you shop? What do you like about them?”
“Why don’t you buy all your groceries at Wal Mart?”
“If we could change one thing about this store, what would it be?”
And so on.
Then, at the end of a morning on the tills Sam would summon the store manager to his office and tell them exactly what he thought needed to be done to improve that store’s revenue and profit, based on immediate customer feedback.
Sam Walton spoke personally to dozens of his customers every week. Thousands of customers every year. He knew more about his customers than his store managers did.
It’s amazing how few marketers actually spend any amount of time in the same room as their market. Sam Walton did this for hours at a time, relentlessly, week in, week out.
And, yes, for many years he was the richest man in America.
These two facts may not be unrelated.