Over the past few weeks I have been interviewing retail businesses that belong to the same association, and naturally have some things in common. That’s what you notice on the surface.
However, taking a deeper look reveals many differences among them, including their location, years in business (1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation), product mix, competition, and the demographics of their customers.
When you look for similarities you will find them. And when you look for differences you’ll find them too.
I think its best to look for both if you want to serve all of your customers equally well.
A Cross-Section of Challenges
In response to my query of their top challenges, here’s what the owners of three respective retail businesses had to say.
- Staying top of mind with our customers.
- Getting customers back into the door.
- Minimizing price shopping.
In many respects, they are all saying the same thing. If you stay top of mind with your customers you increase the likelihood of getting them back in the door, after which they will eventually get down to comparing your price against others.
Indeed, it seems that one challenge leads to another. This is why small businesses all have to spend time with their customers to really understand the depth of their challenges – and the opportunities that will arise after effectively working through them.
This often requires a significant shift in perspective – one that may not occur after trading a few emails. You have to go deeper and compare their situation with the hundreds (or thousands) of other customers you’ve served to discern which solutions to propose.
Differences Call for a Marketing Mix
Those of us with formal marketing training are familiar with the term marketing mix. It recognizes that diversification is the most reliable path to maximizing marketing results. You just have to dial in the right combination for the circumstances.
I find that many marketers and business growth consultants are incapable of making this application because they tend to lean on their favorite solutions. This is like a physician prescribing without accurately diagnosing the root cause of the problem.
They call this malpractice.
Will social media marketing solve all of your marketing problems? Doubtful. But it could prove to be a valuable complement that combines well with a mix of email marketing and traditional methods such as direct mail.
I’ve never been a big advocate of direct mail marketing because it never worked well for me. Nevertheless, I recognize it still works well for many small businesses, especially if their clientele is not accustomed to using the Internet.
The Internet is 20 Years Old This Week
If there are marketing methods that are working for your business you should by all means continue using them.
You know what has been working for me? Picking up the phone just as I did over twenty years ago when we didn’t have an Internet, or email – and cell phones weighed more than your new MacBook Pro.
Carefully designed phone calls, when coupled with a few emails and some social networking are working well to bring my business top of mind with those that can hire me.
And I’m hearing the same from my colleagues.
My customers happen to be mainstream small businesses. Though, my colleagues that work with corporations and government agencies are saying the telephone these days is also their shortest path to new business.
If you need to get more customers in the door, as most of us do, you have to get their attention. If that is not happening with social media – or email, you pretty much have only one option left.
Yep, sometimes you have to just pick up the phone.
Is this a trend? It depends upon your present business challenges and the nature of the the customers and markets you serve.
Our communications today are so digitized that a friendly phone call can be a welcome interruption to our workday.
What do you think?
Note: After this article was published it was brought to my attention that there are laws governing telephone solicitation. Just to be clear, the phone calls referenced here are personal – not automated phone calls.
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Until tomorrow, Jeff