Small Business Academy

19 Jan

1/12/2012

storeOwner

 

Q: How can small brick and mortar retailers compete with online business?

A: I get this question a lot and I want to reassure any of you that feel you may be loosing your customer base to an online retailer there is a solution. In a word it is personalized customer service. If your business is a stand alone, meaning not in a major shopping center or mall, you have several things going for you.

First, what any of the online giants or big box stores could never offer for the simple fact of whom and what they are, is personalized customer service. The more you emphasize this in your daily business practices the more successful you will become. Continually look for any opportunity to add a special touch or service throughout every stage of each business transaction. Let me give you some reasons why and then I will give you some examples of what I mean.

80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers.

This is simply fact for almost all businesses. This means you need to make it a priority to find out which one in five of your customers are those who keep coming back for more of what you have to offer and then make every effort to keep them happy and buying by asking them about their needs and what they are looking for. Offering opportunities for you customers to communicate is invaluable. Try adding a comment section to your website or Facebook page and then read it often to discover how you can best serve your customers and keep them buying.

Focus on long-term customers.

Repeat customers are the holy grail of sales. They advertise your business for free to their friends and family, they help you forecast, they save you marketing money, and most importantly, they buy your product or service.

Repeat customers cost less than new ones.

It’s less expensive to bring existing customers back into your place of business than it is to attract new customers, which makes perfect sense when you consider the expense of advertising, marketing, media, and other tools necessary to attract new customers.

Repeat customers are walking billboards.

If a customer comes back to your business, chances are pretty good that they liked what they saw and enjoyed their experience with you the first time around. They’re going to spread the word to friends, family, and co-workers which is free publicity for you!

To build repeat customers, be consistent.

On the surface, developing a solid base of repeat customers might seem like little more than a matter of providing excellent service or products. While there is truth to statement, your quality of service and product must be consistent to keep them coming back.

Hire the right people.

Since your employees are on the front lines, their demeanor and interaction with your customers or clients can cement relationships that bring customers back to your business repeatedly. Individuals who are positive, friendly, and really care about doing a great job is the first step. Anyone who is going to interact with customers, from the receptionist through to the collections department, has to understand the importance of creating a positive experience for your customer.

Keep it personal.

By definition, a repeat customer is someone you get to know. Nurture that relationship by keeping your interactions as personal as possible. For instance, get to know customers by name. Connecting on a personal level with customers is one of the best competitive advantages there is. Everyone loves it when they go into your place of business and you remember their name and their favorite item or service.

Stay in contact.

Encourage repeat business by staying in touch with your customers through a blog, newsletter, comment section on your Facebook page, or some other vehicle that affords ongoing communication. A handwritten thank-you to customers with orders over a certain amount that includes a discount on their next purchase is a spectacular touch in today’s world of all things digital.

Learn to sell

If you only learn one skill in business, learn how to sell. I suggest using the Feature, Advantage, Benefit approach. State a selling feature of your product or service. Next state an advantage of that feature such as more power, ease of use, better function, etc. Now state the personal benefit your customer will enjoy when they own your product or service. That is selling. Partner with sales professionals if you’re struggling. Don’t put this one off or you’ll find yourself out of business before you know what’s hit you.

Without Sales You Have No Business

Without sales you have no revenue. Without money coming in, you have no business. Your goal and way of conducting business should always be that when your customer enters your place of business they should have the impression that they are personally better off for having come there, their needs will be met, and solutions to their most urgent problems will be found.

Always have at least three Unique Selling Points.

If you’re not doing at least three things better than your competitors, your customers may choose them over you. No matter how long you’ve been in business you should always be looking for opportunities to excel.  However, exceptional customer service is one of the greatest USP’s (Unique Selling Points) small businesses have over big box stores or regional chains.

Evangelize

Tell everyone who’ll listen to you about what you’re doing extra enthusiastically. If you tell 100 new people in the next month, you’ve got a ready-made network to turn to for suppliers, recommendations, potential collaborations, and free referrals.

These are just a few tips and tools for starting and running a successful business. Next week we will talk about creating the blueprint for your marketing and sales message, the second vital part of building and growing a successful business, so please make sure you read both posts.

I hope this has given you a little guidance. If you need more in depth help I have a free video series that goes into more detail about this very subject at AlexzandraD.com so please feel free to enter you email address and the entire video series will be delivered right to you inbox! Good luck!

 

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