The world is changing at a perpetually increasing pace. How well is your business keeping up?
Take a look around. Texting, Facebook, Twitter, and the growing plethora of social media offerings have forever changed our mobile communications landscape. According to Nielsen, more people now access the Internet using cell phones instead of PCs.
Consumer behaviors are also clearly changing in response to these technological innovations. From Baby Boomers to Millennials, the populace is becoming savvier to online buying and selling. They’re also more willing to share their thoughts about products and services through online reviews. Focusing on new ways to attract and keep customers in a generally lukewarm market will give you a powerful edge over your competitors.
Here are some quick tips to trigger your thought process.
Rethink Your Business: Outsmart Your Competition
Many small business owners consistently keep tabs on their own business, getting bogged down with internal challenges, but they neglect to stay on top of competitors’ actions.
Do you know what your competition is up to? Learn what they’re doing – or not doing, as the case may be – and do it better.
For example, a 35-year-old entrepreneur was able to dramatically transform his parents’ traditional retail wine store by launching a website that provides online reviews of wines – something his competitors hadn’t done. This small business owner grew the audience for his website by adding video blogging, which led to his appearing on television, speaking at national thought-leadership conferences, and becoming an author. He now has over one million followers on Twitter, and the store has grown from a $3 million business to $50 million in annual sales.
Reinvent Your Business: “Wow” Your Customers
Are you delighting your customers? Complacency may trap you into believing you’re doing all you can to keep your current customers happy. With all the competitive “noise” in the marketplace, you may need to go above and beyond the ordinary so that your business has the all-important “wow” factor that makes it really stand out.
This concept is highlighted by the story of a supermarket bag boy who singlehandedly grew customer loyalty and repeat business in a way that was amazingly simple. On his own initiative, and without the store manager’s knowledge, the bag boy wrote a short inspirational note each day before work, signed it, and made enough copies to drop into the bags of each shopper. The notes were a huge hit with customers, who started shopping in the store several times a week instead of once a week and also told their friends about the personal service.
At little or no cost, these notes revolutionized customer service for the store, built customer loyalty, attracted new customers and grew sales. A small touch, with big results.
Do Something New Every Month
Avoid the trap of relying on special pricing and promotions to drive traffic. These tactics can hurt your bottom line and don’t create the continued service that encourages growth. Instead, generate ways to bring customers back again and again.
For example, an Orlando-area store that sells women’s clothing and jewelry creates unique, themed T-shirts each month that the owner sells to elicit increased foot traffic. The shirts help raise money for charitable causes at the same time. One month it might benefit a homeless shelter while the next month it might support a cancer initiative. Employees wear the T-shirts, which feature the company name, along with jewelry and other clothing sold by the store in order to encourage additional purchases.
Customers entering the store will frequently buy the latest in the T-shirt series, along with items they were already planning to purchase. Supported by a monthly email newsletter and a Facebook page with over 4,100 “likes,” the business continues to thrive, even during soft economic times.
New Advertising “Punch”
Do you know how well your advertising is working? With today’s tools, metrics can help you tailor your advertising “spend” for maximum effectiveness.
For example, web analytics can tell you exactly how well your website is converting traffic into sales. Learn to utilize date and web analytics to design an advertising campaign that packs power behind its punch. Simply analyzing information isn’t enough. Use what you learn to reach your maximum potential ROI. Social media campaigns can be constructed to target very specific groups (age, gender, interests, etc.) with remarkable precision, punching up your presence where you want it most. Customer reviews, both good and bad, can be used to influence perception simply by the way you respond.
A tip: Running smaller ads with higher frequency will keep your company name “on the radar screen” on a more regular basis.
Traps to Avoid
While Groupon and LivingSocial may draw an instant flow of new customers looking for great deals, be sure to construct your offers in a way that encourages repeat business – not just a one-time purchase. Also, remember that it's easy to get caught up in non-value-added work. Look for ways to eliminate tasks that do not generate revenue. Consider outsourcing various tasks on a project basis. Delegate low-value tasks to your employees, while you focus on building your business.
By “thinking outside the box” while still using proven marketing strategies, you can reach new demographics, delight your customers, and build a stronger referral base to drive new sales.
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