Are you seeing a shift in how your customer’s are doing business with you?
For many of the business owners that I am talking to every week, there certainly seems to be something going on. Many are highly concerned. Anxiety ridden almost.
There is a shift that is happening in front of us, but many are not doing much about it.
Why? They feel it is hard to read the tea leaves regarding what might be going on. And who can blame them? There is so much uncertainty in the air, making decisions about what to do and how to do it seems like a gamble at best.
But, there are some things that have changed that absolutely will stick.
Let’s take a minute and unpack what might be happening here.
Customer Flight to Online
As nobody really trusts going into stores right now, many shoppers and consumers are buying everything through a web portal of some kind. Physical distancing is the culprit here.
Reports that I am reading suggest that categories such as apparel, are seeing as much as a 15% increase in customer growth. That’s good news for our industry. But, some caveat here. It looks like the growth is skewed to younger buyers for online apparel sales.
So the reality check here is if you know the market for your customers, you can either be thrilled that sales might be coming back or dismayed that you serve older customers.
Regardless, what are you doing with on-purpose intent to create more sales opportunities online?
This is True for B2B Too
As more of our legacy customers are working from home, people are looking for a frictionless way to order. Can you make an in-person visit?
They might be still in the office as the lone wolf worker or part of a limited staff. However, the adoption of using video conferencing and more technology in the sales process has probably changed the way we do business calls forever.
B2B buying habits are changing too. I think these days with competition cratering, and simply the sense of everyone doing things differently you may be surprised that once-loyal customers to another shop might be willing to give you a try.
Of course, the other side of that coin is that loyal customers of yours might be willing to try someone else as well. That sword swings both ways if you are not careful.
You better be taking care of business. Or as Elvis used to say, TCB.
The one thing that is going to make the difference is your ability to create engagement in an authentic and human-to-human way. People are generally looking for affinity with others.
“If you are like me, I’ll buy from you.”
Can people see themselves “in” your company? This is why Mark Schaeffer and other marketing experts are constantly talking about how the “most human company wins.”
“If I like you, I’ll give you a shot.”
Start By Providing More Value
What is “value” anyway?
Let’s start with the notion that everyone values things differently. One of your customers may value something more than another customer.
Have you asked your customers what they value? One great question, especially these days, is to simply ask your best customer:
“Hey, what is the number one reason why you do business with us?”
What do you think they will say?
Is it one of these answers?
- Availability. You have the items I need.
- Community. You are a trusted member of the area.
- Convenience. Because you make it so incredibly easy to do business with you.
- Creativity. Where do you get these fantastic ideas?!!
- Dependability. You always ship on time. Never miss a deadline.
- Knowledge. You are my go-to wizard for answers.
- Quality. Never any issues.
- Make Money. As in, you help make us more money. Cha-ching!
- Safety. During this crisis, I like the fact that you are ensuring my health and safety.
- Save Time. Without you, we’d be a mess!
- Solve Problems. When I’m in a jam, you bail me out.
- Sustainability. You help make the world a better place.
- Trust. I always know you will come through for me.
If you want a stickier customer that won’t suddenly evaporate on you, I’d spend some time working out the details on the first, second, and third ideas on how you are bringing them value right now.
But what if you don’t know the reason why your customers buy, or it’s based on the cheapest price?
Danger zone, my friend.
Commodity-based buyers will always be looking for a better deal somewhere. And in this industry, there’s always a fool that will do it cheaper.
A better investment in your time is to find customers that are in alignment with the value that you can bring them.
What If There Isn’t Customer Alignment?
But here’s the rub.
What if the potential customer and your business are not a good fit? Maybe they trudge out the tired old saying, “Hey, I can get this cheaper somewhere else.”
You shouldn’t waste your time with tire kickers and customers that aren’t seriously aligned with your value. Instead, ramp up your marketing, lead generation, and sales efforts to find better potential customers that truly value what you bring to the table.
The goal here is to work half as hard for twice as much.
Not simply to be busy being busy. I’ve talked to too many business owners that brag about how “busy” they are, but when it comes down to profitability the bank vault is pretty bare.
Understanding The Tea Leaves
Right now, there is a lot of disruption.
Are you still trying to sell the same way that you did a year ago? Maybe you think things are going to return to the good ol’ days of February of this year.
Fat chance that attitude is going to work out.
Everything has shifted and will continue to shift. Once strong and vibrant companies are filing for bankruptcy and closing down. The longer this pandemic lasts, the more business carcasses will be around town.
You need to keep your head up and look for opportunities to capitalize on. Keep a notebook or pad of paper handy and start jotting out ideas of what you can do.
This is all about survival. As a result, you are going to have to get comfortable doing the uncomfortable. Make changes.
Some ideas for you to use:
- There is no waiting. Invent one really creative idea and take it to dozens of clients or potential clients. How many can you close?
- Your customers may not be calling you. You need to contact them.
- Use video if you can. Zoom, Skype, or Soapbox…or any other tech. Show your face, connect, and engage with people.
- Follow up. Most people give up on the second or third attempt. Go to twenty if you need to. Use drip marketing to make it automatic.
- A “No” now may mean a “Yes” later. Sometimes it is about timing.
- Ask for referrals. “Do you know anyone that I might be able to help these days?”
- Partner with another business. They are struggling too. What can you do together?
- Try something different. I know shops that are insanely profitable right now selling masks, hand-sanitizer, and even promotional marketing packages. Areas where they never ventured are now proving to be a sacred lifeline.
- Rethink customer engagement. How can your business work if you don’t have customers come inside?
- Talk to your customers. Where are they struggling? How can you help?
- Emails are great, but these days may be too timid of an approach. Go see people if you can. Video or phone calls are the next best. Have real conversations.
- Information makes you stronger. What don’t you know?
“The purpose of a business is to create a customer.” – Peter Drucker
“The golden rule for every businessman is this: ‘Put yourself in your customer’s place.” – Orison Swett Marden
“Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.” – James Cash Penny