New business owners might feel the world has all gone online in recent years and that the high-tech landscape has changed the very nature of the entrepreneurial game.
While there is some truth to that, the old adage that “the more things change, the more they stay the same” also applies to hooking new customers.
Winning customers for your business is an art that requires a deft hand. It demands market research, sensitivity, and effective decision-making to lure new customers and keep them coming back. The same applies whether you’re operating an online marketplace or a storefront, Martin Lehman, a retail clothing industry veteran, told BusinessNewsDaily.
“You need to do a lot of research before you open your doors,” said Lehman, who now serves as a counselor for SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). “You need to fit your inventory to your customer . You need to ask yourself a lot of questions.”
Getting to Know Your Customer
Lehman typically asks new retail business owners a raft of questions:
1) What are you going to sell?
2) Who is your customer and how do you get that person in your store?
3) Are you going to run a Tiffany-style operation or a Walmart?
4) If it is a brick-and-mortar business, where will it be located? Where do your customers live and shop?
5) Is there competition in your area?
6) What are other stores in your area selling?
Even if you do all the right things, you have to expect that business will start slow, Lehman said. “The first day, there won’t be hundreds of customers piling in,” he said. “The next thing is that you have let them know that you’re there.”
Helping Your Customer Get to Know You
Lehman recommends connecting with your local Chamber of Commerce, advertising in as many forms of media as you can afford , pushing to get publicity, and asking suppliers for help getting the word out.
“The web is wonderful, too, but people still have to find you there,” he said.
That is where business consultant Doug Williams comes in. He helps businesses develop their online presence through his Washington-based firm, Alesco Marketing.
“The last ten years have seen a tremendous shift--everything moved online,” said Williams. “Eighty percent of businesses have gone online to advertise, while those using traditional media have fallen sharply. There are all types of ways to get your message out and get leads. But businesses without an online presence aren’t doing themselves any favors--it’s less expensive and is more measurable than traditional media.”
He said that online advertising gives business owners much more control than they have ever had with their marketing budgets. He agreed with Lehman that the more avenues for generating leads, the better.
“You need to pick a mix that matches your industry, your product, your personality,” Williams said. “The easiest thing to do is to have your website optimized for local searches. It doesn’t cost a penny.”
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