The CoVid Chronicles 6:
Are Your Products and Services Right for the Recovery?
April 21, 2020
During the pandemic, consumer and business-to-business activity has virtually shut down. Isolated consumers are working from home, educating and managing their children, signing up for Netflix or enrolling in an online self-improvement course. Non-essential businesses are either completely shut down or operating on a very limited basis. Very little is being purchased in the way of goods and services. When we do begin our return to the new normal, the buying power of consumers and business will be weaker than before.
As we all plan for the recovery, businesses will try to visualize what their customers will need and position themselves to adapt and respond quickly. Customers old and new, increasingly rely on the internet as a source of information about goods and services and their providers.
It has never been more important that your web site or social media presence clearly and completely describes the goods and services you provide. Your media should also clearly differentiate your products and services from your competitors’. Taking a page from the old-time salesperson’s handbook, you must give the customer a reason to buy; buy your product, buy from your company and buy now.
Even if the product you sell can be found elsewhere on the internet or in town; even if your product is more expensive, you need to make the case for your company; better service, better know-how, better savings in the long run. One of my sales reps used to say, “Pile it high and watch them buy”. I believe we’re going back to the days when goods and services had to be sold. During a long shutdown, people are learning that they can get along without many things they once thought essential. Small business people who have has to keep the lights on by doing most things themselves may find they don’t need as many employees or outside services and goods.
Here is a list of self-examination questions about you and your business which may help to guide you in your post-recovery campaign:
Does your website and other media platforms completely describe the goods and services you sell?
If not, strengthen your sales pitch, including compelling reasons to buy, including product and service quality and .reliability. If you can, obtain testimonials from your customers and, with their permission, post them. If you sell a number of tangible products, list them on your website or on a Shopify site, linked to your website and other platforms. Even if you don’t plan to sell online immediately, the Shopify platform is a virtual “storefront” for showcasing your products. It’s easy to get set up and you don’t need to be a web designer.
If you don’t have a website now, get going. Do-it-yourself platforms like Wix or Weebly make it easy for non-techies to establish a user-friendly website which tells the visitor about you, what you do and why they need you.
Are you keeping in touch with your customers regularly?
Mail Chimp has a free version for small users and an engine that will help you turn out a polished-looking newsletter to everyone on your mailing list. Back in the last century, even before we had email, there was a sign on our sales counter, “sign up for our newsletter”. Several times a year, we wrote, printed and mailed (yes, snail-mail) a newsletter to our customers with tips and useful information, advance notice of forthcoming sales and discount coupons. How much easier is it now, when, with one click, you can send an email newsletter to hundreds of customers, with no postage? Remember to include links to your website and social media platforms. Every platform must to drive traffic to your other media.
Competing in the Marketplace
There are very few businesses for which there is no competition. You can however, create a market environment where it will seem that you are the only player. That happy place is achieved by exemplary customer service, being at the leading edge of technology in your business vocation and cultivating a highly-trained, customer-centric staff.
If you possibly can, avoid competing on price alone. There will always be someone willing to sell cheaper and there will always be consumers who will buy on price alone. These are not your customers. They are indifferent to quality, customer service, loyalty or the shop local mind-set. Concentrate on those you want to cultivate, over the long term. When the rent is due today, a dollar is a dollar. But, if you invest in building customer loyalty, your far-sightedness will be rewarded with repeat business and the most valuable form of advertising you cannot buy: word-of-mouth. Or, in today’s terms, a “like” on social media.