Have you seen the home page of my website? I wonder what your reaction was the first time you saw it. Well, there is a story behind that idea, and here it is.
Early in my advertising selling career, I’d come back from a day of pounding the pavement visiting small business owners in Vallejo and Fairfield, CA frustrated that no one wanted to buy newspaper advertising. I’d plop in a chair in my sales manager’s office and tell her about my rough day: “Ok, today sucked, no one can afford to advertise, they think they don’t need it, or say it’s too expensive…”
Her advice? “Ok – well then tell them you’ll see them when they’re ready to advertise their “Going Out of Business Sale.” I’d laugh nervously. I couldn’t say that if I wanted to keep my job and my reputation as a sales professional!
Was it Bad Advice?
As bad as that tongue-in-cheek advice was, over time I realized she wasn’t wrong. Many small business owners who told me they couldn’t afford it or didn’t need it or said it wasn’t where they wanted to spend their money- came running to me when it was time to announce to the world that their business had failed. Suddenly their going out of business sale popped up in every advertising medium in town, where they’d been absent before. Miraculously, NOW they found the money to advertise! And suddenly, every medium in town was exactly the right place for them to advertise! Wow, what changed?
My Consumer Experience
A couple of years ago, I got a postcard in the mail. Addressed to me, it was from the furniture store I had bought my sofa and loveseat from 2 years earlier. Yup, they were going out of business – and yup, this was the very first time I’d heard from them since I made my purchase. It absolutely amazed me! They’d had my information for 2 whole entire years and waited until now to contact me? They never once called or wrote or emailed to ask if I was happy with my purchase, or to tell me about a sale on lamps or rugs or coffee tables to accessorize my lovely new sofa and loveseat. Never once a simple “thank you for being our customer” ! And now, here they are going out of business!!! Hmmmm…
The ironic thing is – if these businesses had put the energy and resources into promoting their businesses that they put into promoting its failure, they probably would have survived!
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late to Nurture Relationships
So this is the story I am trying to tell with my website. I want to stop other small business owners from making these same mistakes. That does NOT mean you should start buying advertising from every sales person who walks in your door – quite the opposite really. The story I’m trying to tell is this: don’t wait until it’s too late to find the money or the right time to invest in your business. Don’t wait for someday… someday is not a day on the calendar and it will never come.
Don’t let your only communication with customers and prospects be the one announcing your going out of business sale. There are so many simple and inexpensive things you can do to build and nurture relationships. Short on money? Make a few phone calls in your down times to past customers to say “thank you” and offer a discount on their next shopping trip. Or call them to let them know you just got a beautiful new lamp in that would go nicely with the sofa they just bought. Or send out a monthly newsletter with info and ideas and fun facts. But in order to do all this, you must become diligent about collecting information. Keep records of all your customers, get prospect information and build a list – and don’t wait until you are going out of business to use it!
What Do You Think? I’d love to hear from you on this. What is your experience? Do you have any inexpensive ways to build and nurture relationships with customers and prospects that you’d like to share? I’d even love to hear your feedback on my homepage. What did you think when you saw it for the first time? Did it ring true to you? Make you think? Feel free to comment away!!!
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