One of our writers was recently reading a thread on a guitar discussion forum about the struggles that “mom and pop” guitar stores are having competing with big box music stores as well as online retailers. Retail has never been an easy business. Margins are small, overhead is high, and every purchase of inventory is a gamble that you know the minds of your customers and their needs. In the Internet age, where online retailers have much lower overhead, massive buying power, international reach and in most cases aren’t even required to collect state or local sales tax, succeeding in retail seems nearly impossible.
However, some companies are doing it and doing it well. What do they know that others don’t?
Successful businesses change—failures resist change. This is 2013, not 1983. To say a lot has changed in thirty years is a gross understatement. When retailers, or any business, cling to old ways of doing things out of stubbornness, tunnel vision or just fear of change, they’re crawling into their deathbeds.
- Successful businesses communicate—failures don’t. How much confidence does a business instill when its website says it was last updated in 2007? Or when its blog hasn’t seen new content for three months? Or there are dead links on its website, or misspellings in the content?
- Successful businesses provide excellent customer service—failures don’t. As popular as online shopping is, it can be an aggravating experience at best when something goes wrong. In fact, dealing with “customer-no-service” in a strange land is so difficult that PC World actually devotes a column in each issue of their magazine to a customer service issue that they’ve helped a subscriber resolve.
- Successful businesses provide great prices—failures don’t. Bite the bullet, offer better terms and agree to match any competitor’s price.
- Successful businesses add value—failures don’t. Getting back to the mom and pop guitar stores for a moment—the good ones do more than sell a product. They integrate themselves into the community by sponsoring jam nights and demonstrations, offering lessons, providing repairs, sponsoring shows at local venues…in short, anything to provide something (often at no cost) to the customer that builds loyalty.
- Successful companies do it all—failures don’t. Once a copier salesperson told me that you can’t have great prices and great service—that something has to give. Not in 2013, mister. If you’re not doing items 1-5 with a commitment to item 6, then somebody else who’s trying harder is going to put you out of business.
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