Thursday, January 30, 2014

Love Your Customers. Engage.



UPDATE: 

Taking a look back at past articles I have posted on this blog has been interesting. While not much has changed from a strategic viewpoint, the environment around us has definitely changed. Who could have predicted that Facebook would be the place whole families connected online - even grandma and pop! 

Engaging with customers who are online and those who are in their social circle and could be your next customer, has never been so easy. Small business has never had the leverage they do now to spread their message - and I don't mean advertisements - and attract people who love what they do. 

Yet many small business still have no real website that has the capacity to work for them in this way. The changes that would make them function are often not big, but they are significant changes in so far as how well they work. The look of the website may not even be changed, though most websites tend to be poorly designed visually and with respect to functional navigation layout. Sadly few have much in the way of quality, relevant writing that is on target for their product and customer demographic. 
In other words - they have nothing that someone looking for that information and to buy - will find from those stores. They have not bothered to make it available - not to Google, and so not to customers. 

Facebook for business pages, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram, your blog - all of these have the capacity to drive traffic to your website - people who are interested in your product. See my articles on Blogging for business for more information.

Please, let this be the year you get that sorted for the sake and welfare of your business. - Lindy

The social media world is abuzz with messages on how the future is all about caring for customers and your network, showing you care and being authentic in our engagement with people online.

I see this and I know it's true, and I wonder if this should give me hope that business will soon come to understand this too.

Now while I'm prone to be optimistic, I am perhaps not optimistic enough to expect that this will happen for the great majority of businesses. More than that, I predict a great many businesses will continue to not 'get it' at all, and will keep doing what they are doing, without regard for the changing face of business and the new way that people are coming to expect to deal with businesses as they look to buy goods and services.

For the smart business owners, they will realise The Jig Is Up... and if they want to be relevant to customers, if they want to have their loyalty and their ongoing business, then they have to smarten up the way they do business. The smart ones, will do just that. And in doing that, they can own that segment of the local business, if that's what they want and if that's what they incorporate into a strategy to accomplish this as an outcome.

Enter the era of Engagement. Well it isn't such a new era. Years ago my parents opened a corner shop to let them earn money when my eldest brother was hospitalised for quite a long time. The corner store was a great example of local business engaging and relating to local customers and responding to the market. The shopkeeper was a part of the community and 'they knew where you lived', so your reputation was important, as was your ability to provide a service model that accomodated the needs of your customers and made your business an integral component of their day-to-day life.

In 2010 that's still the way it is. I hear business owners say "customers aren't loyal any more". And they are probably right. Customers have no reason to keep coming back to your store if you aren't providing them something different in the experience. If you train your customers to just look for discount prices, then guess what? They will find the stuff cheaper somewhere else. Probably at a big box store that can buy supplies cheaper than you can. So there is no future in that kind of selling model. What the big box stores can't do - and the family business can - is provide expertise, and engagement and responsiveness. The family business can determine to be the best in their particular field, sell stuff that is worth the price to buy and be there when things go wrong, to make them right again. That's what business can do - and that's what business will do... if it wants to stay in business in this new economy.

But that's not all bad. And technology lets us not only provide this expertise and superior service model in our local downtown area, but potentially, across the internet to those people who want what you specialise in. If you set your business up well, you can sell your stuff to people close by - and people not so close by, but who want what only you can do.

So what is the 'takeaway' from this? Simply this.

If you want your business to be vital into the future you need to start approaching it as a business. Understand the way the market works and you make sure you have:

  • A clear Vision for what you want to achieve
  • Communicate that Vision to your employees, friends, partner, and customers
  • a strategy of your own to follow in implementing your vision
  • actions and steps in place to deliver what you promise
  • methods in place to monitor and track your progress
  • a clear understanding of who your competitors are - and
  • what strategy they are using.

It's not good enough now to just turn up each day and do what you do. Think. Plan. Take Action. Engage.

That's what will keep your business healthy in the new economy.

Oh and one final thing. If you don't love your customers ... get out of business now.

Related posts

Nurture your customers - how and why
Businesses are hiding online and nobody can find them
Business articles on social media and online marketing 
How this clothing business in an Australian country town started selling to the world

Thinking Of Getting A Business Coach?
Lindy Asimus
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