This article originally appeared on Robinia Creative.

–  –  –  –  –  –  –

Three miles from my house there is a gas station with pumps that, to this day, I still struggle to use. I can’t tell you the number of times I have “coasted” into this station, desperately needing a fill-up but dreading to do so.

I must first to decide whether my Honda CRV takes “Regular” or “Regular without Ethanol”—I thought I needed 87 octane, but that’s not an option.

Next, I have to figure out how to get the nozzle out of its holster and turn the pump “on.” Yes, the pump has an on switch. Forget payment, moreover, I have since learned you pay after you pump your gas…

There is always a traffic jam in this station, as, although there are a total of five pumps in the lot, only one serves our hungry vehicles with “Regular” fuel. If you’re not the only customer, you’re the last customer.

To recap—I hate this gas station. They make it so hard for me to be their customer and I so desperately want to be their customer.

Gas is like toilet paper: everyone needs it; daily life depends on it. I am willing to bet that every American over the age of sixteen visits a gas station at least once a week. No other market sector (besides the grocery store, perhaps) has this amount of customer interaction.

More importantly, no other market sector has more competition. The basic rule of thumb is, if you see one gas station, there is bound to be another—and another. If you don’t like BP’s price on the left side of the road, look to the right and go to Shell, or Exon, or Speedway, or Sheetz, or—well, you get the point.

When both market demand and competition is high, innovation in process and/or narrative often wins. The station that can get you what you want, when you want it, and at the ease of how you want it, will most often win your business.

Gas Stations now offer the evening news while you pump and access to car washes built in to your experience. However, the station that is easiest to pull into is the most well-used. Period.

Take for example the comparison between Amazon and Walmart: both offer nearly everything under the sun online; both offer free two-day shipping, but which company wins your dollar? It’s just too easy of a question.

Our businesses can learn a lot from gas stations.

The goal of digital marketing is to connect your brand’s products and services with your customers and help the “fill up” process be as quick, painless, direct, and peaceful as possible.

This “gas station optimization” starts with your brand’s narrative—how easy and painless is the “first interaction” between your customers and your brand? How easy is it to pull off into your lot?

We are all overly busy and need simple solutions. Are your products and services simple? Or, are they at least simple to approach?

Have you overthought the customer fulfillment process and neglected to just help them just “fill their tanks?”

Please don’t get me wrong. I have used the gas station near my house. It was painful, but I have braved the stop twice now. I did it. I was scared; but I did it.

However, this station will never grow into today, let alone tomorrow; they won’t get my recommendations. Simply, they are stuck in yesteryear because their customers leave the interaction scarred and absolutely and entirely worn out.

They make me think way to hard.