Business advisor Helena Cotter examines the vital ingredients that make for the successful mix in today’s chop-and-change environment
In our personal world we are often guilty of trying to be everything to everyone, stretched this way and that, never being able to, or knowing how to, say no.
When it comes to business though, attempting to be everything to everyone may lead us to becoming nothing to no-one! Stretching out your arms trying to capture and hold onto every type of potential customer can result in failure.
Therefore, clarifying and understanding who your customers truly are and who they are not is fundamental.
It is important to recognise that no appointment should be viewed as a waste of time, as all make for experiences good and bad… and it is experiences that we can learn from.
Having said that, being able to filter out those customers who probably are not yours to start with makes perfect sense.
Don’t get caught out giving in to demands or requests which go against your better judgement, your gut feeling, or company procedures.
Why? It’s because you’ll never be able to offer every single product out there to every single customer. You cannot please everyone all of the time.
It’s frustrating isn’t it when, towards the end of an appointment, the customer utters those immortal words: “I’ve fallen in love with a dress down the road”, or “I’m going to think about it” or “I’ve got other appointments”.
And the myriad of other reasons they come up with to not buy today. The smokescreen objections as I call them.
Unfortunately, these objections can sound like a big NO at which point, most people will give up and say: “I’ll just write the details down and hope to see you again”. The likelihood is, you will never see them again.
They may leave wonderful reviews online saying how brilliant you were, what a fabulous experience it was, but they will buy their dress elsewhere.
Avoid thinking that what all customers want today is the cheapest, not the best. Full price customers do exist. Often the first thing a bride wants to know is: “what’s new?”
Genuine customers will pay for being the first to wear something. They are looking for the best choice, not more and more of the same thing.
Full price customers make up a high percentage of business. So, it pays to establish your uniqueness early
on in your marketing.
Creating your own brand persona
Fill your business with fabulous personalities. Remember, customers are influenced by you and any staff you employ. Trust, rapport and building relationships is hugely important and a vital component for business success.
Which style do you favour? Warm and friendly? Calm and relaxed? Upbeat and dynamic? I’ll say it again… you cannot be everything to everyone, so a good mix of styles will help you win through and enable you to work with all types of customer.
Make sure you match and marry the same messages throughout all areas of your business, online social media, local advertising, national advertising etc.
• 70% of customers notice when staff are untrained and lack knowledge. This will result in a lack of sales.
• 89% of customers will walk away – even if they love a dress – should they have a negative, unprofessional experience.
• 70% of customers will buy based on how they are treated; if the experience they have matches and exceeds their expectations.
• Efficient service is ranked high. A whopping 78%.
Remember, everyone is aspiring to offer brilliant customer service. How do you stand out from the crowd? What do you do to draw customers to you, giving them such a brilliant experience they will want to buy from you?
Your customers will be very clued up these days and have done bags of homework online before making the decision to come to your boutique, let alone buy anything.
Give your customers some love and they’ll love you back. Keep delighting them. The smallest acts of kindness go a long way.
They’ll fly the flag for you and your business – for FREE! Especially after they purchase from you.
Offer a consistently high quality experience. Remember, over 80% of your business will come through your door via recommendation. So, it’s hugely important for your customers to leave with a good impression.
It’s easy to overestimate demand. We’ve all been carried away at shows which can result in a stock room/garage/spare room at home full of dresses that are never going to sell as they don’t represent your target market.
Don’t be worried about saying no to taking on something you are unsure will sell. Instead of over-broadening your product range, narrow it down! It doesn’t necessarily mean less, just more of the right thing for your own particular boutique/shop.
Highlighting and tightly defining your core clientele will allow you to focus on quality, not quantity of appointments. Appealing to a smaller, honed group of customers makes better business sense. Keep it lean!
Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t look back because you aren’t going in that direction.
One of the reasons small businesses struggle is because customers today make the rules and their bare essential expectations are not being met.
You are the shining light for retail. The best of the best, so the key is to innovate on the basis of who your customers are and will be in the future. Listen and engage with them to help create a more prosperous business.
Recognise when you need help – and act!
There is no shame in asking for help. Someone to support you while you grow your business. We all need help from time to time. None of us knows everything. Retail – and especially bridal retail, changes all the time.
You need to be ready to face these changes head-on with a can-do attitude.
Understanding this will take you one step nearer to achieving your goals. Lead the way with your innovative and high energy approach to running a contemporary, outstanding bridal business.
I think this expression from the good people of Tahiti sums it up perfectly:
“Eat life or life will eat you”.
Go get them, and the best of luck!