Connecting to your “in store” customers is critical to long term success – Customer Communication

Posted by on Jan 9, 2018 in Blog, Business Tips | 0 comments

I like attending conferences that are outside of my direct field of expertise.  Gathering information from a different perspective encourages innovation.  Main Street has always been an entrepreneurial or organic structure, and gaining some perspective can act as a catalyst for changes within our outreach and implementation strategies.   At a recent convention, a communications expert was brought in during a break out class session to emphasize customer communication strategies.  The examples revolved around retail and food, but the foundation of the information presented is applicable to any business that deals with the consuming public.  The following were some of the recommendations made to create stronger consumer ties that eventually generate loyalty and result in higher sales:   1.  Establish a rapport with customers by building trust.  At some base level, consumers understand that you are trying to sell them something.  By focusing on consumer attitudes, values, and behavior as opposed to simply ” buy this“, you can identify yourself as someone the consumer trusts for product or service information. 2.  Strengthen the resolve in your customer that your product or service category is “awesome”.  It doesn’t matter what you are selling; your clients need reinforcement to remember why they are potentially spending with you on your category of products or services.  Rotating scripted statements with your staff should be a part of your training protocols.  Someone at a pet store saying ” aren’t pets just the best!” to a potential product buyer helps build rapport (you are both on the “we love pets” team).  An accountant briefly explaining the importance of the profession to potential clients helps reinforce the reciprocal nature of the professional relationship.  A barista engaging customers with a “is there anything better than freshly ground coffee?” question/statement encourages a positive response from an otherwise monotonous transaction.  What is your “my category is awesome” statement? 3.  Provide interactive testimonials.  Conversations with customers that convey testimonials and extract opinions from customers can help drive sales conversations.  A bike business can say:“I had a customer come in the other day that said they wanted to convert their bike to tubeless tires because they hate pinch flats more than anything- have you thought about going tubeless?”  Such a statement shows that customers are taking a sales action within the store. It introduces a sales based concept to the consumer, it gauges the consumers product knowledge, it establishes expertise through product vernacular, and it encourages further interaction by extending the conversation.  That seems a little more effective in creating a sale than “can I help you find anything today?“, doesn’t it? 4.  Establish cultural authority.  Some cultural authority can be achieved simply by proximity.  A person sitting across a desk, on the other side of the...

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What does Your Storefront Say About Your Business?

Posted by on Dec 6, 2017 in Blog, Business Tips | 0 comments

1.  Walk around the envelope of your building. The whole building…  Front, back, (if you are on a corner or adjacent to a breezeway) side and look at your building from a basic cleanliness standpoint.  Paint what needs painted, clean what needs cleaned, design your windows in a fashion that highlights your business.  Trash (including the cigarette butts)  on your building exterior needs to be thrown away every day.   2.  No dead stuff. I know this should go without saying, but dead plants, birds, bugs, etc., should not be a part of your aesthetic.  Clean up, toss out, and move on.   3.  Plants shouldn’t grow where they shouldn’t grow. See those weeds growing in the sidewalk behind your building, or those trees growing in the alley?  Those shouldn’t be there.  Pick them, cut them, and (if necessary) spray them.  They don’t look good.   4.  Clean and design your windows.  You can’t look into dirty windows.  If your window displays don’t tell what type of business you are, the consuming public can get confused relatively quickly.  Your windows are your billboards.  Take some time to clean them and plan your displays.   5.  Wash your sidewalk when it needs it.  A sidewalk full of gum, trash, pigeon “markings”, cigarette butts and more doesn’t make a great first impression.  Periodically spraying down your sidewalk might need inclusion in your maintenance plan. In some locations, there are water plates downtown that you can hook into for water access. Please contact the office with questions.   6.  Consider the appearance of your upper story.  High quality merchandise in a building with an upper story that looks dilapidated to your customer doesn’t make visual sense.  This might be the year you need to get those upper story windows fixed.   7.  Check the details around your building.  Look around your building with a critical eye.  How is the masonry?  Do you notice any cracks?  Is there discoloring on your building?  Are there gaps forming around windows?  Make a maintenance list while items are small.  Early maintenance will make your building look better and potentially save you from larger issues down the road.   8.  DON’T FORGET THE ALLEY!!!- Pedestrians use the alleys much more than you think.  Trash, trees, grit and grime aren’t out of sight simply because they don’t face the street.  If left unchecked, issues along the alley can quickly become building issues.   9.  Get lit.  Window lighting and general exterior lighting are important as the student population returns.  Sunset occurs a little earlier each night, and a big group of potential customers might stay out a little later than our average citizen.  Lighting your windows and leaving exterior signage lit are inexpensive ways to promote your business.  The extra lighting also...

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Pricing enticement strategies to drive traffic (while preserving profit).

Posted by on Dec 4, 2017 in Blog, Business Tips | 0 comments

Retailers are forced to compete for consumer dollars.  With the ascension of on-line sales and other direct to consumer portals, customer competition is more intense than ever.  In response, many business resort to discounting to drive traffic.  Lowering prices can influence demand- to a point, but the demand for products based on price is more complex than some might think.  The following are some pricing strategies and concepts that you might consider when attempting to drive consumer traffic. 1.  Demand pricing is elastic, so small discounts may not move potential customers.   Have you ever seen a store advertisement for “10% off-store-wide” and responded “meh”.  The idea of enticing a potential customer with a “deal” is to make the deal too good to pass up.  Small, blanket, discounts often simply result in consumers getting a “deal” that they were unaware existed. 2.  Be careful not to give away the whole store.   When discounting- “whole store” discounts typically don’t create good data on the effectivenessof a promotion.  Smart businesses choose items as “loss leaders” to draw in the consuming public and “up sale” on regularly priced merchandise.  If someone simply walks out with one “deal” and no other merchandise, the promotion was ineffective. 3.  Highlighted items may create more demand and brand awareness.   Some small businesses have a hard time conveying the breadth of their product or service offerings.  When businesses state “20% off store-wide”, they are missing an opportunity to discuss some of their unrecognized products, their best brands, or their special seasonal merchandise.  When the same store highlights a deal on a particular item, consumers instantly know something about what that store sells. 4.  Reward repeats.   It is almost always more profitable to maintain existing consumer relationships than to generate new ones.  If you are going to hand out targeted discounts, look to your best customers first.  Provide “bring back” coupons for people that purchase at your store.  Create special shopping nights for top customers (with an extra invite for a guest included). 5.  Don’t get predictable.   Some stores discount like clockwork.  In those instances, many consumers will just “wait them out”.  Any sort of announcement that indicates eminent discounting or “deals” should include some planned variability to encourage multiple shopping encounters. 6.  Reward volume purchases.   In retail, the saying goes: one items loses, two items break even, and three or more is where the profit happens.  You are spending almost the same amount of time, money, and effort on a customer that buys one item as the customer that buys five items, but one customer typically makes you more money.  Try and find ways to encourage multiple item sales whenever possible.  Of course, there are exceptions...

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Holiday Security Tips for Small Business Owners

Posted by on Nov 15, 2017 in Blog, Business Tips | 0 comments

The prime holiday push is upon us, and all the extra traffic is great for business.  Busy stores produce great sales opportunities, but they are also prime targets for those with less than great intentions.  Busy staff members can’t look after the floor, rush transactions, and make quick decisions (on-line and in person).  Some extra training can prevent your business from absorbing losses that negatively impact your business.  Before things get any busier, schedule a staff meeting (or at the bare minimum create a memo) that cover some or all of these points:   1.  Keep sight lines on the floor.  Big trees, extra decorations, and more merchandise can hide people as they lift items from your shelves.  Walk your store to look for “blind spots” and find ways to counteract hidden areas.  Make sure your staff is seen throughout your establishment.   2.  Strategically place small, high value items in employee proximate locations.  “Impulse items” tend to sell better at the register anyway, but if you are concerned about aparticular item “walking away”, move it!  Tracking your inventory for last minute reorders and to calculate shrinkage can help you establish better inventory management, but don’t be afraid to shift your merchandise on the floor.   3.  Establish training to identify counterfeit currency.  Does your staff know how to spot counterfeit cash, checks, or other forms of payment?  CLICK HERE for a Federal Reserve education area on different denominations.   4.  Read the “from” before you click.  A lot of scammers are moving to digital methods to hack your systems and steal your financial data.  Many digital thieves use a method known as “phishing” to encourage you or your staff to click on links embedded within a standard e-mail.  These text based emails are generally evoke the name of an agency they think you will trust, and they encourage you to click on an embedded link.  Look at the “From” section in the email for a clear giveaway.  Most governmental or organizational groups won’t email you from a gmail or yahoo account.  When in doubt, call before you click.   5.  Be aware of “teams”.  Established shoplifters will often migrate through communities working in teams.  One team member will occupy a salesperson while another lifts items from  your store.  Recognize this tactic and account for all of your guests with either a single staff member bouncing back and forth, or bring in another staff member (when possible).   6.  Check the card.  Credit and Debit cards are used for 75% of retail transactions,according to a 2016 payment trends study.  Although security mechanisms within cards have improved over the past few years, it is still important to match the card with the person giving you the card.   7.  Secure your deposit.  Even though...

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The Future of Point of Sale

Posted by on Nov 12, 2015 in Business Tips | 0 comments

Revolutionizing an Integrated & Seamless Buying Experience By Shane Wilson – Special Projects Coordinator Remember this old thing? During its time and place, it served a very valuable purpose – turning a business’ sale into a deposit, while also doing some basic calculations. This was the height of technology at one point in time – unfortunately, widely used Point of Sale (POS) systems today are almost as ancient. Take a look at this. The “future” of POS systems, some sci-fi pipe dream, is in small- to-medium sized businesses as we speak. (Disclaimer: this system, developed by former head of Google Wallet Osama Bedier, is touted by some as “future proof” – as made evident by the comparison between these two pieces of technology, nothing is truly future proof). The point is this – your POS, while being the foundation of your cash/credit exchange system, can do so much more, and an outdated POS system can hinder your business’ growth for years to come. Below I’ll outline a bit about what the future of Point of Sale will look like and how you can seamlessly get your business up to speed. 1) POS systems will continue to enhance not only the customers experience, but also the business owner’s. Deeper integration between front end and back office systems means greater insight into inventory management, in-store customer tracking, supply chain management – you name it. These links are working constantly, giving the business owner more time to focus on extrapolating that data and making it work for them. 2) Customer experience (Customer Relationship Management) is becoming one of the most critical elements as they relate to POS systems. This includes endeavors into loyalty rewards programs, mobile-integrated payment methods and savings mechanisms – even self check-out becoming more widely available. Customers, especially those in the Millennial generation, crave new, intuitive ways to interact with businesses during both the shopping and inevitable transaction experience. A quick, seamless way into this is the use of tablets (digital in-store advertising, for instance) that allow the customer to interact via QR code or similar mechanism. 3) Revolutionary authentication systems are on the way – and quickly. The use of traditional scanners may soon go the way of the dodo bird, as more businesses make way for biometric scanners, visual identification systems (for in-store customer tracking and personalized advertising), and voice recognition. Imagine customers lining up to shop at your store and make transactions via fingerprint scanner that contains all their relevant card information, making the process incredibly efficient and secure! 4) The benefits of a cloud-based POS system are becoming too good to pass up. (If you’re unfamiliar with the cloud and its benefits, check out this nice...

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The Donation Dilemma

Posted by on Oct 27, 2015 in Business Tips | 0 comments

Giving purpose to your donation strategy By Shane Wilson – Special Projects Coordinator Let’s face it – it’s the time of year where every business is seemingly bombarded with donation requests. While the agencies making these requests almost always have good intentions, it’s hard to keep up with the sheer amount of “asks.” Emporia Main Street is no different – we make donation requests (volunteer time, auction items, etc.) and receive requests pretty consistently. There are several questions that come to mind when thinking about how to deal with this issue: How do I keep up with all of these donation requests? How do I decide which cause is right for my business? What if I don’t have enough resources to donate? Alternatively, you could very easily switch out these questions with more purposeful ones: What’s my system of prioritization with local charities/organizational requests? How does my business’ current value system match with my donation requests? What are some ways I can donate other than a check? I wanted to take this time to address these questions, along with providing some insight into the importance of small-to-medium sized businesses giving back to the community. 1. Your business should be doing something to give back to the community, in some form or fashion. Beyond the tax benefits and “good will” you build with your customer base, it’s simply the right thing to do. This doesn’t mean that everyone has to cut a check and be done with it – there’s more to it than that. As part of Emporia Main Street’s philosophy, we’re always looking for a value-added benefit when approaching people or businesses and asking them for goods, services, or time. We know it’s important that the relationship be reciprocal in nature; it’s the true definition of “win-win.” In turn, both parties receive value for whatever the transaction may be. This same approach can be taken by your business. 2. Your business’ values should be reflected in your giving methods, medium, and destination. This seems like a no-brainer, but it can get tricky when you’re bombarded with requests, especially around the holidays. In other words, how you give is just as important as what you give. There’s an odd sense of cognitive disconnect when a business starts dabbling in an area that isn’t specific to them or their value system – it’d be weird seeing Mulready’s Pub do raffle drawings for a Miller-Coors event in Golden, CO, just as it’d be strange to see Walmart doing small business workshops. For example, Radius Brewing Co. takes part in very intentional giving with their “Pours for a Purpose” program. Their methodology – using a craft that’s unique to their business structure and...

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