Very few of us start a business to get rich. Sure, it would be nice if that happened but if you are like me, the idea behind starting a business was to do something I you love while trying to make a good living. In the retail world, this usually means selling a product that we love, whether it is running shoes, bikes, art or children’s clothes. But there are some retail truths we may not want to hear.
A Competitive Market
But retail today is getting harder than ever. You know it is true. How many times have you helped a customer with a product only to watch them price shop right in front of you? Worse yet, how many times have you spent an hour explaining the ins and outs of a product only to have them walk out the door with the full intention of taking the knowledge you have just given them and buying the same product on Amazon.
It is easy to become jaded in these situations. It is easy start thinking of your customers as the enemies or as though they owe you something.
A few years back, in the heart of the last recession, I listened to a hairdresser friend rant about her customers.
“They used to come in every 8 weeks for a haircut and color. Now they skip the color and spread the haircut out to 12 weeks. Don’t they know I need to make a living here?”
She was livid. Somehow she had gotten it in her head that her customers owed her something.
What are you giving your customers?
The truth is, your customers owe you nothing. You are providing a service. You have a product they may or may not need. And let’s face it, your product can almost certainly be bought on Amazon for cheaper.
So what are you doing for them that makes them loyal to you? What are you doing to keep them coming back and actually spending money.
Building a Community
Great customer service, even when they are making you crazy, even as they look at their phones for a better price is a start. But that should be a given. There is no way a business owner should expect customers to come back a second time, much less a third or fourth unless the customer service is not just good but great.
But beyond that. How are you making your customers feel like your store is an extension of them. What is your loyalty program? Just as important, how are you letting customers and potential customers know about it?
What social activities have you planned to bring people in? How do you have your finger on the pulse of your community? Is there a fundraising effort going on at the local school that could use your help?
Ask for help
To build a community, you have to know your community. In retail, this is hard. You work 50-70 hours a week just to keep your head above water. How are you going to have time to go out and find out what’s needed?
Ask for help. Talk to your customers, find out what they are involved in. What’s happening at their children’s schools? What’s the latest news from the music boosters? Ask them for ideas for social events that might also benefit their causes. Bring people in the door.
Become their favorite place.
While a big focus of my work at Ann’s Social Media and Marketing is on social media, it’s not the biggest focus. My biggest focus is on helping my clients build communities. I believe that social media is a part of that, but only a part. If you want people to be loyal to your retail store, you have to offer more, you have to become a part of your community, create a place your customers feel like they belong. Maybe you don’t have to set rocking chairs up for the old guys in the middle of your store, but it’s a similar idea to that old country store. You want your customers to feel at home with you, ready to spend money but also ready to bring their friends, and share their favorite store. Become their favorite place.
What is your next step in building a community?