The last 90 days have put a strain on our realities, whether personally or professionally. For those of us who are business owners, the challenges have been even greater, as providing for our families has been upended, and the future is not the past.
During these crazy few months you may have had the following thoughts:
- I wish I had information on all my customers to know which ones are my most loyal.
- How can I get back in touch with all my customers to let them know we’re opening?
- If no one is walking the streets to shop, then how valuable is foot traffic anyway?
- I still don’t understand social media, or what it can do for my business.
Though it’s not likely another pandemic will strike in the near future, none of us would have envisioned what just happened – or the financial crisis mortgage meltdown – or the attacks from 9/11. The last 20 years have been unprecedented, and without preparing NOW to have your business in a better positon tomorrow, you may not be able to survive the next wave of unpredictability. But there is hope!
If you ran your business without collecting, keeping and managing customer-specific information, then it’s likely you’re not able to get back in touch with your best customers, or any customers at all. Now is the time to change that. There are many companies who provide easy to understand and affordable tools to help you manage your customer information. Some businesses in town are using FiveStars, which allows you to capture customer-specific information on who purchased what, when and how long has it been since they’ve been back. You can text and/or email customers directly from FiveStars.
Also, Square is more than just a credit-card transaction company, as they’ve developed customer marketing tools that allow you evaluate which days, times and customers are the best to focus on, as well as providing both email and text features. You can easily separate customers into those who are loyal, those who spend the most, those who may just shop when you have sales, etc. Again, spending $10-$30 a month to be able to have this information and actually use it allows you to be in a better position than your competition who may not be using simple technology to help manage their business.
Whatever the case, no one can afford to just go back to the way things were — because they won’t be that way. If you didn’t pay attention to your customers before, then you can’t afford not to now. There have been businesses that have opened with lesser menus and higher prices — not the way to win back customers.
Some businesses have reached out to past clients who have used their services, to offer financial incentives for referral programs and/or special rates for additional services. Other businesses have smartly increased their level of customer-focus, and have provided added-value to their offerings, as well as new and more inventive customer experiences.
But let’s not forget social media marketing. What do you think many of your customers have been doing these past 90 days cooped-up inside for sheltering in place? Many businesses are thriving online, both for eCommerce website sales and for engaging with customers through Facebook and Instagram. Having a simple page or having an account on all platforms is not social media marketing — but if you haven’t even set up an account yet, you need to take your evening time and/or weekends to determine if you have the ability and knowledge to do this on your own, or if you need to hire a consultant who is a ‘doer’ to actually create and manage your customer outreach. Many charge upwards of $1,000 per month for these services, and if they do, you will want to specifically measure the exact sales associated with their posts and campaigns. Be sure to have your profits from these sales meet or exceed the cost of their services, otherwise you’ll be spending downward into a place you won’t be able to afford.
The bottom line is, these times are not usual, so this is no time to go back to business as usual. Many of us have been putting off doing the things we know will help us, because much of it is new and we’re not very comfortable with doing new things. Continuing to get out of our comfort zones will be the first step to insure that our days and our businesses will continue to grow and prosper!
Story by Ron Kustek, a business instructor at Cabrillo College. Email: [email protected]