Nov. 25/Dec. 2, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 11
By Lisbeth Calandrino
I have been a supporter of the independent retailer for more than 20 years. However, I’m afraid some of you have fallen behind or given up. You want more customers, but you’re not willing to do what it takes to attract them; or you hire someone who has no idea how to market or how our industry works. There are times when you must bite the bullet and ask for help from digitally savvy experts.
Just because you didn’t grow up being digitally savvy doesn’t mean you can’t learn. Do you think things are fine just the way they are? Well, I’m here to tell you they’re not. What’s fine about your competitors stealing your customers because you’re afraid to look reality in the eye?
When you were first in business, you did everything you could to build success. You took all kinds of chances and didn’t care what anyone thought. Business was all “word of mouth.” You went to the right events and met people who could help you get customers, and you stayed in touch.
Nothing has changed, except that staying in touch is even easier if you’re digitally savvy. How long do you think you can continue living on the laurels of those 40-year-old customers? All businesses are dealing with the same phenomenon—their aging customers are leaving the marketplace and they’re having to deal with customer who are digitally savvy.
When did you become scared to learn new ways to run your business? That’s not the same business owner who was willing to take a crack at anything to build business. In the old days, the playing field was pretty level. There were only a few ways to get customers, and the winner usually had the biggest budget. Now, you don’t need the budget—you need chutzpah. Get out there, learn the game and dirty your hands.
Regardless of your age, you are already digitally savvy to some extent. You use email, maybe peek at Facebook and Twitter. Owners often say, “It’s stupid;” “I don’t want people knowing about me;” “It’s for young kids;” etc. Being digitally savvy has nothing to do with age. Your mistake as a business owner is thinking everyone is just like you.
The old expression, “Treat the customer the way you want to be treated” is simply not true. You have to treat her the way she wants to be treated. If you don’t have a digitally savvy plan in place, you’re treating her as you want to be treated. Every customer is different, you can’t lump them all into the same category.
Nor can you use the same strategy from 20 years ago. You’ve survived this long by staying ahead of the competition, not playing catch-up. You’ve always been a leader, stay there.
Communication with customers has always been the key to your business thriving. You relied on printed documents and other forms of what I call “static communication.” You told the customers what you wanted them to know, and customers didn’t talk back.
Like it or not, today’s customers are talking back and telling us what they want. I suggest you learn how to listen.
If you’re not digitally savvy, you can’t hear them when they speak. It’s like that proverbial ostrich—sticking your head in the sand and thinking because you can’t see them, you believe it’s not happening.
I can tell you that the tree is falling in the forest and, yes, it is making plenty of noise without you.
Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.