- Published on Monday, 10 October 2011 11:55
The Mantra of Retail
I can tell you everything you need to know about running a successful retail business in just six words! Only six!
- Find it.
- Like it.
- Buy it.
These six words describe the process that every buyer goes through whenever you (or one of your competitors) makes a sale. It works the same whether you sell from a storefront, a booth at a show or a website. Make any of these step difficult for buyers and sales drop. Make them easy and watch sales go up.
I will freely admit that the "six words" are not original to me. I first heard them at a seminar put on by an ecommerce marketing company. I have never seen the basic proces of buying put so clearly or briefly. Anyone can remeber the six words.
Of course, learning how to put them into practice is a bit tougher. As they say, "the devil is in the details".
That's what this blog is about. Nothing more, just how to implement the six words. I will cover many specific techniques for local and online merchants, but keep in mind that they all come back to the six words.
- Published on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 14:19
The First Two Words...Find It!
And probably the most important!
If no customers ever find you, you might as well not exist. Any effort that you put into your products (Like it!) or operations (Buy it!) is wasted if no one sees them.
So how do we get people to see us? You are probably thinking "He's going to tell us we need to advertise." Sorry it's not that simple. You see, most advertising is wasted. Why? Because the customers never FIND IT! The rule applies to advertising too!
There is one simple rule to being successful at "Find it!". Be where the potential customers already are going!
Where Are All the Prospects Going?
Let's do a little experiment. I want you to give away pencils. Go ahead and (mentally) grab a handful of pencils. Then go stand the middle of the Mojave Desert (I'll wait while you get there) and try to give them away.
Right about now, you are probably thinking I am confused. (All right, you probably think I'm bonkers!) Why did I send you to the middle of the desert, with no one in sight, to give away pencils. What a waste of time!
Okay, let's try again. Go stand on a street corner and hold out your pencils. That worked better, but we could improve it. Move to a location in front of the Staples just up the street. That helps a lot. Finally, let's hang a sign around your neck saying "FREE PENCILS". Now they are flying out of your fist. People are fighting each other to get your free pencils. Congratulations.
I assume you get the point. All the advertising in the world won't bring results if you don't put it where the customers are. A bad ad in the right place still brings sales. A Clio-winning ad in the middle of the (figurative) desert is just a waste of time, effort and money.
I recently took our dog to a dog park. On the gate to the enclosed dog run was a sign from a nearby dog bakery. After we finished at the park we stopped by the store and ended up buying a bag of homemade treats. I talked with the owner about the sign. It turns out that they sponsor the dog bark in return for the right to have their sign on the gate. Very smart advertising at a location where the potential customers are already going. Small cost and big ROI (return on investment).
Do It Yourself
Start making a list of places (local and/or online) where potential customers are already going. Don't worry about whether you will be able to advertise at them. For now, just figure out where the customers are going. That's the first and most critical step to being successful at "Find It!".
- Published on Saturday, 19 November 2011 20:39
The Salmon Theory of Sales
The third part of the Mantra of Retail is "Buy it!" Seems easy and obvious enough, except that so many retailers make it so difficult. Especially online. You try to put something in the shopping cart and checkout, only to find that the website is not doing what you expect it to do. Or maybe it asks a whole bunch of nosey questions before it will let you check out. Or maybe it can't accept payments the way you want to make them.
It's called the "salmon theory of sales". Only the customers that are strong enough to get past all of the obstacles are allowed to buy from you. The others fall, exhausted, by the wayside.
Sadly, businesses often create this situation by trying to follow otherwise good advice. "Always get the customer's email address", they are told. So they do. In fact, you can't buy anything without giving up your email address. WRONG! Sales always come first. You can't do email marketing to someone who never bought in the first place.
We've all heard the saying "Keep It Simple, Stupid!". It's true. The simpler you can make the buying process, the more sales you will get. It certainly applies to online businesses, where the shopping cart and checkout are the most technically difficult parts of the website, and therefore the easiest to mess up.
But local retailers can make the same mistake. Not having enough checkout lanes or not having a backup plan to accept payments if your network connection goes down are just two ways that local retailers can make buying from them unnecessarily difficult.
Make it fast and keep it simple.
- Published on Friday, 28 October 2011 10:09
'Getting Found' isn't everything; it’s the only thing
This paraphrase of the famous sports quote highlights the importance of the first two words of the mantra, "Find it!" If customers don't know that you are in business, you might as well not be!
So where do potential customers search for local businesses? Well, in the old days it was the Yellow Pages. "Let your fingers do the walking." Today, not so much. I don't know about you, but I don't even let a phone directory (of any color) into my house. They go straight from the doorstep to the recycling bin. If your business relies heavily on older customers, the phone directories may still be significant for your business. But for most customers, the place they will "Find" you is the same place that you are reading this article: On The Internet!
So how do local businesses become more 'findable' on the Internet. Simple. Be there. You need a website. You need it just as much as the guys who actually sell online.
"Wait a minute", I hear some of you saying. "I don't have a website and I show up just fine i the search listings. Why do I need my own site?"
Why Local Businesses Need a Website
Without a website you have no 'home' online, no place that you control to show potential customers what your business is all about. You are, like Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, 'dependent on the kindness of others'. Yes, Google Places, Yahoo! Local, Manta and other online business directories are very good at finding your business with no help or effort on your part. You may very well have a basic listing already showing. But keep in mind: so do all of your competitors!
Sucessful competition is all about making yourself stand out from the crowd. You can't do that in a short directory listing that some anonymous low-level employee at Google or Yahoo! put together for you. They don't know what is special about your pizza shop that makes it better than the dozen other pizza places nearby. They certainly don't know about the special you are running this month to bring in more business. If they don't know, it's not in your listing and potential customers won't know. One of your best sources of new customers is making you look just like all of your competitors.
Claim What Is Yours
It actually is even worse than that! Most of these online business directories have a process that allows you to "claim" and enhance your listing, often for free. Many of your competitors have already done this. Their listings are showing up higher in the list, usually in bigger, bolder type. They have added a customer description and pictures to the listing. You can do this too. In fact, you must do this to compete successfully. The details vary from directory to directory. We'll get into which are the most important ones and the details of how to claim your listing another time.
It's Still Not Enough
Just claiming your listings is a good start, but it's no more than a start. Their is a limit to how much you can tell a potential customer in a short directory listing. Usually, you are only allowed one picture. If you are a restaurant, such as our imaginary pizza place, you absolutely need to show your menu. All types of businesses need to advertise specials and discounts. All of these things can be done easily on a website, but are difficult or impossible on a directory listing.
It's All About Credibilty
We want to do business with people we can trust. If I find a listing for a car mechanic, go to his shop, and find that he is operating out of a rental storage unit I may have second thoughts about entrusting my car to him. His business location may allow him to offer lower prices, but it doesn't build trust.
Claiming and customizing a directory listing is a small step to build trust with potential customers. But you can only do it properly with a professional-looking website. Being able to link from the directory listing to a nice website immediately says to the customer that you are real, he can trust you. He is much more likely to call you or show up at your business once he feels this way.
Actually, we are already transitioning from "Find it!" to Step 2 of the mantra, "Like it!". But more on that next time.
What Is This Place?
The Giant Killer is dedicated to showing how old ideas combined with new technology can "level the playing field" for small businesses against their larger competitors, both locally and online.
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