My father was at one time a pastor of a small church in Independence, Missouri. The former superstar of convenience shopping, K-Mart, was up to their shenanigans. They were stocking adult magazines where children could plainly see them. Parents were understandably upset at this and wanted K-Mart to stop. K-Mart however did not seem to care. Enter stage left, my father, the pastor.
My father went to the manager of the local K-Mart and gave him the ultimate of either putting the magazines where children could not see them, or he and his congregation would boycott K-Mart. The manager laughed, saying that such boycotts never worked. Boycotters always caved in for the K-Mart weekly specials, so the boycott at most would only last for a few weeks.
It was at this point that my father smiled and told the manager how he intended his congregation’s boycott to function. The church members were not promising to never shop at K-Mart, only go to other stores for as much as possible. The church member could still buy any products that were at significantly lower prices or buy the cool weekly specials, but they would go to the other stores first to buy their groceries.
The manager went pale. He realized that this proposed boycott was tailored to circumvent K-Mart’s sales strategies. You see, K-Mart would use their weekly specials and select discounted items to pull in their customers, who would more than make up for the discounted items by purchasing their other groceries. If the boycotters purchased everything they need other than the discounted items, K-Mart would be selling their weekly specials at a net loss. What is more, this boycott plan was a highly sustainable boycott because the boycotters were not sacrificing anything. They would still have their groceries, and they could even buy the special items K-Mart had on sale! It was a win win scenario, except for K-Mart, which would go out of business.
The manager was quick to try and come up with a compromise that would appease the church. A happy story for all!
What can we learn from this little anecdote? If we understand someone’s business model, we can figure out how to customize our strategies to maximize their losses and minimize our costs. In other words, we can make a difference1.
What are some ways you can change your local community using this principle?
- Understand the opposition and how it operates.
- Understand your group and how you can operate.
- Devise a strategy that is low cost to you and high cost to the opposition
- Define an end goal and devise mile marks that result in visible results.
1. Not everyone realizes this, but boycotts are not about removing support from a company, they are about enacting change. To remove support completely is to be written off. If however, you are willing to do business, the company has a vested interest in keeping you happy.