|Written by Alexzandra de la Iglesia|
Q: How can small brick and mortar retailers compete with online business?
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 all about creating an exceptional customer experience. 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 a great customer experience 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 your 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 Twitter 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 share the personal benefit your customer will enjoy when they own your product or service. That is selling. Contact Us 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, an exceptional customer experience is one of the greatest USP's (Unique Selling Points) small businesses have over big box stores or regional chains.
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.
This is a recently adopted phenomenon by retailers that has consistently yielded 20% increase in gross revenue by simply bringing a bit of nature into the retail environment. Indoor plants scattered throughout your business, a small table fountain that generates the gentle sound of water creates a calming effect and causes customers to want to be spend more time in your store.
Earlier we talked about the importance to high quality customer service and how it can directly impact your bottom line. Now I would like to share with you the second key factor in successfully building and growing a small business and give you my "Marketing Blueprint".
The first step is to:
Identify your company as THE source for your customer’s needs and solutions.
You want to help your customers make a connection to you and your products or services as the solution to their problem. “I have been where you are and therefore I understand how you feel. My products and/or services can solve your problems”. As you are writing your message remember that:
People are motivated to take action by three things:
- Fear: An example might be that without your product or service they will continue to suffer with their current most urgent need and that need could potentially become even worse.
- Personal Power: However, using your products or services could result in giving them personal power over their current situation resulting in…
- Freedom: From the headaches, concerns, burdens, and worries that up until now, have been plaguing them and diminishing their quality of life. So, to create your marketing message we are going to do a little exercise.
Using three file cards write “Fear” on the top of the first card, “Power” on the second card,
and “Freedom” on the top of the last card. Now on each card list five aspects of your product that relate to each of these motivating words. Once you have completed this step make a note of how it relates to your personal story. Now just hang on to those cards for a minute because we are going to do something else with them.
The second phase of creating your marketing message is to answer each of the following questions about your product or service.
- Why should your customer buy your product or service and how will it benefit them personally? This is the old Feature, Advantage, and Benefit part that you will use to introduce your customers to your products or services. Don’t stress on this. Just come up with a sentence or two for each feature, advantage, and benefit and then write it once on each card.
Here is a little tip. A feature is a type or quantity of something. It is also a logical or intellectual statement. So, you want to see feature specifications spelled out clearly in black and white. Advantages and benefits are a quality or conditions of something and have an emotional value.
The next questions you want to answer are:
- What is the purpose of your product or service and in concise terms what will it accomplish for your customer.
- How does your product or service work? In other words, how does it do what it does? What are the mechanics of it?
- Finally, What other things can it do or be used for? Can the same product or service be used in multiple ways or for different intents, and for a variety of different kinds of people?
Remember, people love to buy things but they don’t like to be sold to. So, first introduce them to what your product or service is going to do for them. Take the results of these two exercises and combine them to create your marketing message for your product or service. Now that you have your Marketing Blueprint and message I would like to show you how you can put it to good use with a few more business success principles.
Create more evangelists.
Everyone in your company has the power to spread the word about your business. Create a one-paragraph, 30-seconds-or-less positioning statement built around your core marketing message and share it with all your employees. Be sure they understand your company's mission and why it matters to customers. When someone asks your employees what they do, each of them can become company evangelists by spreading the right message.
Get customers fired up.
Being an effective company evangelist requires taking your individual passion a step further by creating a message or cause that stimulates others to join your company's movement. Events, for example, are great ways to spread your message and brand awareness--whether from a speaker’s platform, a cooperative event at your place of business, or a community celebration.
Listen to your community.
If you're providing a great product or service, you can bet your customers are talking or writing about their experiences. Provide a friendly home for your community by inviting ideas, comments, and participation. Create a community space on your website that allows customers to interact and share feedback. Your best customers will be glad you asked for their input. You can gather information through online surveys and share special invitations and advance notices of upcoming products and services with them through e-mail. Be prepared to accept input--good or bad--gratefully.
Create instead of compete.
The point is to create a business, a service, or a product that is of greater use value to the buyer than the monetary price they have paid you for it and to share that product or service with as many people as you possibly can. Your focus and purposeful intent must be to increase and better others, resolve your customer’s needs to your highest capacity, provide the finest possible experience for them that you can, and continually try to do it all better. This is the golden secret of any successful business.
We hope this has given you a little guidance. If you need more in depth help you can get your own copy of Business Genesis and Small Business Toolkit by clicking here or the images below. You can also leave your comments or questions just to the right of this post and we would love to connect with you on Twitter. @SpectrumBizllc . We love hearing from you and it helps us create even more meaningful content to empower your success, so keep them coming!