By Ron Kustek
It’s an understatement to say that businesses, especially small businesses, have had their hardest 9 months to change, re-engineer and survive. Unfortunately, many small businesses operated on the edge of profitability, and the recent pandemic has been better for those who had little or no debt, and invested properly to adjust.
The first thing to realize is that there has been a seismic shift in the way customers purchase. As discussed before in this column, if you don’t have an online e-commerce website, then you likely closed. Many successful businesses have taken this time to truly look at their website and how they present themselves to customers. Here are some of the priorities you should be focusing on:
- Clarifying your product/service offerings: Customers are used to quick convenience. Meaning, if they can’t understand how to navigate your site to make an order or purchase, they leave. Simplicity is key because people are used to efficiency and speed in their online transactions. You should follow the 80/20 rule, which is focusing on the 20% of goods that result in 80% of your sales.
- Design for cross-device, not just mobile: Though customers are increasingly using their phones to buy everything they need, there are many who still use a tablet, laptop or desktop to see a larger font or picture to make comparisons and choices. Choose the BEST software to make sure your site is flexible for ALL viewing devices.
- Develop a loyalty program: The best way to keep customers loyal is to offer them an incentive to keep coming back and buying from you. You need to have an online system that tracks and automatically rewards loyal customers to remain loyal customers. There are many low-cost tools you can use, and there’s really no excuse to not invest in your best customers.
- Promote. Promote. Promote: This means, be where your customers are. People have much more time on their hands and are tweeting, sharing on Facebook and purchasing through their Instagram feeds. If you’ve not put out the effort to understand these social marketing platforms, you may be too late. You need to be where you customers are, and if they’re not out and about walking past your location, then you need to be in front of their eyes which are usually glued to the tools they use for connecting. But don’t waste your money on every platform – as the more you know your target customer, the better you’re able to know where they’re spending their time, for you to efficiently spend your money.
- Don’t treat every customer the same: Remember that you have both repeat customers and first-time customers. You may get first-timers by better optimizing your site for organic search results, or being on platforms that you haven’t tried before. You should know by now which are new customers and which are repeats, without physically seeing and recognizing them. Software does this for you.
- Don’t Forget Emailing – The #1 Digital Marketing Tool: You should have an email list by now. If you don’t, you’ve wasted valuable time. With every order, whether by phone or online, simply ask for the customer’s email, telling them you’d like to add them to your VIP list or customer appreciation/loyalty program. Let them know that besides offers from your location, you may also send them discounts from partner or neighboring businesses, that is, if you’ve put out the effort to make these alliances.
- Take pride in creating your online-to-offline experience: The sale doesn’t stop when the money reaches your bank account. Think of adding a personal hand-written thank you note or other physical communication that becomes a ‘surprise’ when opened by your customer. Many businesses take locals for granted, thinking that just because they’re a small business they’ll be supported. Remember: People like to be appreciated.
These are the seven areas you should be focusing on to make your 2021 a great year! There’s no mystery or magic in being able to commit your energy, time and financial resources to making your business better. I fully understand this is hard work that requires a lot of research and time. But isn’t that why you decided to open your own business in the first place?