While anyone can publish online to a website, a small business, with a customer base that’s local, and that’s often not looking for that businesses story details activity; this sort of business would be wasting time and money with only an online presence.
So then, how do we reach the customers?
Press releases through the local newspaper. Have an event and promote the event, but include a large dollop of background about the business, the people who work there, perhaps the unique location and the historical significance of the building. Any information and background that will catch the readers eye, giving them a greater appreciation for the business itself. Don’t forget to include the values and reasons for the existence of your business; anything that matters, and that will help to create a bond with the customers. A press release costs only some time to create. If published, it may reach a significant percentage of your community, your customer base.
Sales Flyers. Go ahead and promote the products and services that you wish to present to the community, but reserve a half page to say something about your values, what your business aspires to provide or solve for the greater good, that sort of thing. Only speak the truth. What drives you? Where is your passion, your reason for being? Give the customer a strong sense of who you are, and why they ought to do business with you.
Window Display. Why not? If you have a window, clean it, and post a welcome sign with a paragraph or two about the business and its people.
Business Cards that direct attention to a website with information that matters to your customers. This could be technical information. Maps or directions. PDF files that help the customer to use your products. Details about government regulations perhaps. Include your story on the website, include a PDF with a long version of the story if there is one. Include pictures – lots of them if possible.
Notice the four ways a story teller might tell their story, and why only the last should be used. Also, please play attention to telling just one aspect of the story at any one time, and why that’s important.
My wife and I are currently doing some remodeling. We recently had a series of bad experiences at one of the big box retailers. Ultimately, to resolve our problems with the retailer we traveled between three of their stores. I don’t want to waste my readers time on a rant about the experience, but what we noticed is that the service experience was bad in all three locations. There is something to learn from that.
Most of the problems had to do with the bad information. Items that were supposedly in inventory simply were not there. Bad inventory records. It’s the end of the year and I’ll bet they take inventory just now and may correct the records shortly. Nevertheless, it was the prime issue.
The customer service people involved were not really helpful. I’d say they were overworked, but we also noticed that many of the customer service personnel were talking with each other, wandering about, and just seemed underused and perhaps trying to find information. It makes me wonder about the record keeping and the software being used.
The items we needed were not available in one location in sufficient quantity to complete our project. The project is not overly large. The items were simply not stocked in sufficient quantities for an average project.
What does all this matter?
As an opportunity, these big box retailers are dropping the ball and giving others an opportunity to satisfy the customer demand. The demand is for the products needed, and it is in sufficient quantities to complete the work. Also, there is demand for reasonably good communications and customer service. It’s just too hard to do business with a group of persons who are not engaged and haven’t the tools, or the will to help.
Almost everyone has experienced this sort of treatment in one of these big box stores. Service and support are non-existent. Can your business capitalize on this? Maybe you don’t have the size to compete on all fronts with these guys, but perhaps you are simply better at one or more things. Isn’t that what you want to tell the customer base?
Beat them on your terms and tell the world about it.
Every business is selling something – products or services, or both.
If you believe that the product or service is all that matters, then all of the businesses that invest in clean and bright showrooms, nice furnishings, and that sort of thing are wasting their resources. Really, I can’t imagine that many would think that.
The things mentioned, like a clean and bright showroom, are meant to convey an image to the potential customers. Design details like color and open spaces is used similarly. These are background for the sale, but they obviously matter.
If these things are so obviously important, think about how you are conveying information to the customers. Does word of mouth leave the customer with enough? Is the sales person covering the concerns of the customer related to your product or service in a way that the customer can relate to and draw comfort from? Is the customer even engaging a sales person when they come to your place of business?
In a large way you are probably missing the opportunity to engage with some, or many, of your customers. Some are interested in buying, but they don’t want to get involved with businesses that don’t care about them. Some just need better information to move them to buy.
There needs to be a smattering of details about your business that lets them know your values and lets them know about the specifics of products. Let them leave with something in their hand. Something to read and contemplate over coffee the next morning. Close the sale quickly if that’s possible, but also give the customer something to learn about you and your team, something to make them feel like they’ve made the right decision to buy from you. Something that will make them come back again and again.
Some of this can be done with paper based information, but more effective will be a digital presentation either from the web, or even on a thumbdrive. Giving the customers more than expected is just plain smart. How can you use these thoughts in your own business?
I’ve become a little more fired up about this part of my business lately. I seem to go in waves. Until recent I’ve been writing in my two books that are in progress and that ought to be published yet this year. I think that I get a little burned out on any one subject after thinking about it for too long. Sometimes the subjects need to simmer in my subconscious for a while, then I’m ready to get back to them and move the story along. For that reason I need a few things going at the same time when they involve multi-week commitments of my time.
Working on this website and the ideas that I postulate here is a little different. The ideas are more succinct and the businesses involved don’t have stories that go on for hundreds of pages. So focusing on these considerations can be intense and through without wearing a hole in my mind.
I particularly like to postulate a thought and then to explore it. To meditate about the various ways that a method can be used to move the business forward in term of communications with the customer base. And better, to introduce thinking to that group of people about an improvement in their way of life or a way to think about aspirations and how those aspirations can be addressed through doing business.
Whatever is postulated for the customer to reflect upon, it brings them closer to you, and that’s what you want. That tends to close out other businesses and create a closed loop for your own business to thrive within. It’s good stuff to think about over a cup of coffee.
Business owners and managers often make the mistake of seeking an ideal marketing or advertisement plan that is unrealistic for their business because of cost or complexity.
Sometimes simple ideas, simple repetition of basic principled efforts work best.
So what foundation does your business have? Usually there are certain things about the business that are known and appreciated; dependability for example.
What do potential customers think of your business? Do they even know that you exist at the moment? Do they have a sense of what you stand for? Your principles and your intentions? What have you told them? What can they see?
What can be changed to create a better image, more visibility, and a better understanding of the positive attributes of the products and services you offer?
Think about it. Make notes and discuss the ideas with your associates. What you think is basic and well understood about your business may not register with the customers. They need to be told about it and then told again another time and in a different manner. It’s your job to make these concepts, ideas, and principles clear.