As the former owner of a clothing store, I got used to customers coming to me; visiting the store to have a look around or to purchase an item. In those days I never had to worry about knowing enough people: people who would help me grow my business, and people who would recommend my business to others. I was used to the system of people coming to me, and in fact I built my business around it, but those days are long gone.
People aren’t shopping in stores as much as they used to for a multitude of different reasons. Personally, I believe that people simply don’t have as much time or disposable income as they once did. Why would someone drive all the way to a store, park their car, and perhaps purchase an item, when they can get that same item, at a lower price, anytime of the day or night on-line via their mobile device or laptop? Traffic to retail stores continues to decline, and as former owner of one, I know that nothing is more frustrating than standing in your store day-after-day waiting for people to walk in and perhaps make a purchase. So what’s a retailer to do?
In order to solve a customer’s problem, you have to know who that customer is, and what they want or need from your business. At this point, considering I am a Retail Consultant/Social Media Coach you would probably expect me to go into a tirade about your business’s lack of presence on social media. WRONG. If you have no idea who your customer is, then you have no idea how to engage that customer. Creating a Facebook page or Twitter account at this point would be a waste of your time. What I am suggesting is kind of crazy…I want you to go out and talk to people.
If you have a business, you have to consider yourself a newcomer to a strange land. You have to be willing to meet new people on a regular basis to continue to grow your customer base. It doesn’t matter how you do it…JUST DO IT! Join a meet-up group. Join a bowling league. Volunteer at a non-profit. Participate in the activities of your local BIA or simply start talking to strangers in the supermarket line. You should always be willing and able to tell people about you and your business. You should always have a business card with you AND you should always follow up! (This applies to your staff as well.)
Keep In Touch
When I closed my second store in 2008 I was a little burned out. Instead of keeping in touch with my loyal customers who had supported me for the 17 years I had Cavern Clothing, I decided to make a fresh start in a different direction. Four years later, I realize what a huge mistake that was. These customers…all 1500 of them, were my connections. I ran into two ladies yesterday who had been my customers from the very first year I opened my store. After a hug and a chat we agreed to meet for fish and chips at the beach. After lunch, we sat in the sun and they asked me what I was doing now. In about 15 minutes they suggested two or three things they might be able to do for me. Just like that…after all this time. In my opinion people want to be talked to…not sold to. Your customer list is not just names; it’s a group of people who have something in common with you. My mistake was in believing that because I no longer had clothes to sell to these ladies, I no longer had a relationship with them. That just wasn’t true.
Consistency is key
Communicate with your customers on a regular basis while you continue to meet new people. If you are on social media, use it. Don’t use it to sell…use it to communicate your brand. Be social, and build a business that will have your former customers buying you fish and chips at the beach long after you have moved on to your next business venture…