small business

How do your customers reach you?

January 13th 2015
Author -

photo credit: Ken Hawkins

We run a local online business directory, Buy Local Inverell. When we moved to Inverell there were hardly any businesses online and we wanted to know basics like contact details for doctors, plumbers, restaurants, and so on. So we set up this simple directory, anyone can contribute information, we also added some ourselves to get it started. It has been quite successful with good traffic and enquiries for local business.

Recently we had an email enquiry from someone needing a removalist. The enquiry came in on Saturday, obviously the customer needed to get some quotes happening for their move and had found some time to investigate their options on the weekend. The removalists could not be contacted directly as they only had a landline phone for business hours. So on Monday I gave these removalists a call. My intention was to provide the details of this enquiry so the removalists could approach the customer and help them out. I explained to the lady who answered the phone who I was and asked if she would like to take down the phone number of this potential customer. She said she didn't! She said "if they want to contact us, they can do it through yellow pages and over the phone". I was dumbfounded.

Now I know that this lady may have been frightened of the Internet or thought I was a scammer. But if she took the number and called this customer with something as simple as “we understand you were wanting a quote...” she would have quickly found out it was legit.

Don't worry, this story has a happy ending, the second removalist took the lead and hopefully helped these people out.

It got me thinking. Are you expecting customers to reach you in a certain way? Can you find places in your business where your ego, your fear, because “that is the way we have always done it” gets in the way? It takes a different mindset to be open to these opportunities. It can be risky, but with such savy customers today it is important to reach them where they want you.

If you want to improve your ability to do this for your business I would advise taking your time and talking to loyal customers about how you can help them more. Research your customer base and identify potential places you can help them connect with you. Maybe you could open for 2 more hours on a Saturday, maybe your website could answer some of their common questions, maybe you could try some new product lines, maybe you could try a new social media platform like Pinterest or Instagram.

The key to effectively doing this is measuring. Have a benchmark of what your store takes in the 4 hours it is open on a Saturday. Then compare that to what it achieves with the 6 hours open. It could make you money, if it doesnt, is that expense justified to allow your customers to see how flexible and willing you are to help them? Or alternatively shut down that experiment and try something else, or try it again in summer.

The objective isn't discovering a formula for success, the objective is creating flexibility in your business, an open mind to examine opportunities. 

The web is ideal for measuring and examining opportunites. We can assist with making your website respond to your customers needs. We can list new product lines for you. We can write articles for a new market extolling the features of your products. We can trial social media platforms. We can report back to you on the steps we took and the results we got. 

You may discover a market none of your competitors are in, or maybe this new market will save your business in a few years.

View our services to see how we can help and please contact us with any questions you might have.