I’ve been speaking to a lot of decorated apparel industry shops lately, and it seems like a good number are on the way back to being busy. A few have spoken to me that they never closed, some are about 75% to their seasonal normal for this period, and others are just now getting ramped up and open.
I’ve been advising everyone to be looking to the future, and be thinking long-term. You have read similar ideas in other blog articles here before too. As our customer businesses and organizations start to emerge, one that we need to be doing is keeping a close eye on customer behaviors and trends.
But overall, there are three areas that most shops are focusing now:
- The Digital Experience. This is your online presence. Your website or online stores. How you use Zoom or other video platforms. Whether for your own shop or for your customers, what you are building now will make a significant impact on your business health for months to come.
- Healthy and Safe Experiences. Sure, we’ve seen plenty of social media posts with people defying conventions and not wearing masks, practicing social distancing, or flouting any norms for safety. Will those people get sick? Will they infect others? I don’t know, but what I do know is that there is another chunk of people who are extremely concerned about their health and safety. To me, it’s these people we need to be building a connection of trust.
- Empathy and Active Listening. Are you getting feedback? Do you know your current customer’s number one priorities and struggles? No assuming here. You have to be asking. Shops that are doing well right now are actively getting customers on the phone and talking to them. Not selling. Just having empathetic discussions. You need to know what’s going on.
Think About What Is Going On
In just about every corner of the world families and businesses have been dramatically affected by the pandemic. You know this to be true because you are doing your own set of belt-tightening and worry sessions.
Nobody knows what the future looks like.
What we do know is that there is business out there. People and companies are buying. They just might not be buying from you.
A good sales experience is not about the transaction. It is about relaxing the customer’s apprehension that shadows the deal.
In times like these, how are you earning trust?
This thinking is mandatory these days as you rebuild your sales process.
The Importance of Referrals
Once priority you need to be giving immediately to how you approach sales is with referrals. This absolutely has to be a pivotal part of your approach in getting your company’s sales back on track.
Because of the power of having your customers sell for you. Think about it in your own life. Is there a product, a restaurant, a movie, a television show, or seemingly anything that you tried out because a family member, friend, colleague, or someone you trust recommended it?
I’ll bet there is.
This works the same for your business too.
However, you won’t get many referrals unless you are referable. This means that you have established such a high degree of trust with your customer, that they will happily send you customers all day long.
That doesn’t happen by accident. That happens when you elevate your customer experience to such an incredible degree, that you totally dominate your market.
Let’s Build That
Now, let’s take a minute and combine the first three points I started this article with and the idea of building a referral engine. There is a method to the madness.
Start with Digital
Look around you now. Every conceivable business from grocery stores, to fitness, to meditation, has an app or online presence. Have you noticed it? Are you using them?
What are you doing differently? Let’s be honest. When was the last time you actually even thought about your website?
For most shops, it is simply a fancy business card. Not a revenue generator. And if there are sales, it isn’t a significant amount. Do you even track this?
Take some time this week to dissect your webpage. What would you need to build to make this the number one salesperson for your business?
This is what every industry on the planet is now doing.
Here are some thought starters:
- Speed rules. How fast is your site? It needs to load in under 2.5 seconds. Measure it with this tool for free.
- Where do people click? You might think a lot of people click around and view parts of your webpage, or your favorite section matters…but you would be wrong. Use this tool and see what actually happens by recording actual user behaviors.
- Get feedback on your website from actual customers. Have conversations with them. What do they like? Is there anything missing?
- How can you combine with video conferencing? Can you share your website on the video call and talk about things that matter? Example: walking though a potential customer through how an online merch store works.
- Your site has to work on a phone. Believe it or not, plenty of shops in this industry don’t.
- Fewer words. Nobody has time to read all that verbiage that is covering up your webpage. They simply click and go somewhere else. Use icons or graphics instead. Photos or videos. Show how creative you can be.
- Give them a reason to trade their information for something. You need to be building your email list for drip marketing. Have a download. Use a pop up to subscribe. This pays dividends with your marketing later.
- Connect your site to your social media. It is sort of odd that some businesses don’t do this. Use the option to open a new tab.
- Create a store. Sell stuff. Make it relevant and as a frictionless experience as you can.
- Use the “People also bought” feature.
Your shop’s digital experience should be unique to you. If your shop is rock and roll, your digital experience needs to reflect that. Fun and quirky? Same deal. Intense cross-fit athletic? Yep. The same.
Images, colors, themes, verbiage. It has to all fit.
“Yeah, I know. I’ve been meaning to get around to doing something with my webpage. I just never have the time.”
Guess what. This is the DEFCON 1 level of intensity right now. Maximum priority. Get on it.
Healthy and Safe Experiences
Maybe one day we can go back to being the slobs that we were before the pandemic, but for the immediate future we need to be hygiene vigilant.
Your customers are. Employees too. Maybe not everyone, but it won’t take much to get a label that will be hard to shake later.
Have you ever had a restaurant in your area get hit with a health and safety violation publicly? It is the death spiral of doom afterward. What do you think might happen to businesses that are suddenly known for ignoring the hygiene factor?
Better to be safe than sorry.
Have you installed new standards, processes, procedures for cleaning, PPE, and other hygiene focused methods in your shop yet? Create better habits. Make sure the rules are being followed with some accountability.
This starts at the top with clear expectations of what everyone in the company is supposed to do. Write it out. Train on it. Post signs. Make it easy for everyone to do the right thing. This is your responsibility, not your employees or customers.
Regardless of what you believe about the pandemic, you need to be in the camp of safe and healthy experiences.
If you don’t think so, what do you think might happen if a customer posted something about how your shop doesn’t practice being safe? What if that took off?
What if a slacker employee that you terminated brought up your lack of hygiene protocols and that they “didn’t feel safe to work there?”
It certainly will matter then.
Empathy and Active Listening
Since around the end of March I have been having a steady stream of calls with shops all around the United States, but also in a few other countries as well.
The most effective tool in anyone’s toolbox has consistently been doing exactly what I was doing. Having conversations. This has led to more business than any social media marketing posts that anyone has generated.
Creating a social media post still works. Don’t get me wrong.
But, it is the real human to human conversations that are leading to more shops coming back than anything else.
Remember, it is the connections that we have as people that get remembered. Are you building equity into your professional relationships?
It’s not difficult. All it takes is a little time to listen and an active mind to ask and respond to questions. Pull a list of all your customers and rank them from best at the top to worst at the bottom. Then, start at the top and start calling.
- “How are you?”
- “What are you struggling with right now?”
- “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Start with those questions and begin the conversation from there. Maybe there is something that you can do for them right now that will make a difference.
Are You Stuck?
Lastly, I want to plug the new book that I just released last week, “Moving Past Disaster”. I know a lot of people are in a quandary about what to do with their business to rebound past this current pandemic situation. Is that you?
Throughout my career, I have been using some creative mental tools to help me unlock new ideas. From being an art director to a Chief Operating Officer, these were methods that I’ve had in my mental toolbox for years.
When the pandemic struck and it was clear that it was going to bulldoze the world, I knew that these tools could make an impact on business owners that are struggling to find their way out of the situation. It was written for you.
Use tried and true creative mental models to unlock a new direction for your business. “Moving Past Disaster” has tips, checklists, exercises, examples, and many creative thought planning ideas to provoke you into action and guide you to a new successful future. Use the Workbook pages to help organize your thoughts, delegate tasks, or consider a new perspective. When you are finished reading this book and completing the exercises as outlined you will be able to:
- Snapshot your current problems
- Develop new ideas
- Create a new Business Plan
- Deploy a 2-Year Action Plan
Your situation was an event. Events end.
It is time to get working shaping your new future. Let “Moving Past Disaster” guide you through the process of developing new ideas that you can use for that journey.
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” – Peter Drucker
“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everyone in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” – Sam Walton
“The golden rule for every business man is this: Put yourself in your customer’s place.” – Orison Swett Marsden