Columnists Chuck Koehler The Retailer’s Perspective: How do I attract customers in 2012?

The Retailer’s Perspective: How do I attract customers in 2012?

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Just so you know, the title of this month’s column is not a statement, it’s a question. What is the newest thing I have to figure out in order to drive customers to my business?

I started in this business in 1978 when cable TV was pretty new and we finally had 24 channels instead of 3. But, in the year 2012, as a single store retail operation, I just can’t keep up with everything. It makes me think about how easy it used to be. But, back in 1978, I used to think it was hard.

Over Thanksgiving I overheard the teenagers in the family saying that they very seldom use Facebook anymore. They’re now using Twitter almost exclusively. I had to admit I’ve never even logged on to Twitter. I’m sure I could figure it out, I just don’t want to. I finally got Facebook figured out and now it’s no longer cool. Damn.

Back in the day, we all advertised in our local newspaper (that everyone in the town read) for a very reasonable price. We’d place an ad, customers would read it, they’d come in with their checkbooks in hand, write us a check for whatever we were advertising, and at the end of the day we’d deposit the checks in our bank account. Simple. BUT... back then, it seemed so hard.

Back then I remember stressing about how big the logo needed to be. Do I put the price in the top right corner or lower left corner? Do I want to use black and white or 4 color? Now I’m trying to decide if I want to advertise to 27 million people really cheap or only 9 million people for three times the price with a much more targeted ad. Geez. In reality, all I want to do is spend $5,000 on an ad campaign and generate $10,000 in sales. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so.

Nowadays it’s almost impossible to advertise just to your core customer base. In the year 2012, all of the main stream media outlets are feeling the same pinch the post office is feeling. They’re struggling to find a place in this brave new world too.

Newspapers no longer rely on trench coat wearing reporters out pounding the pavement digging up stories that made people buy newspapers (thus seeing my ad). Newspapers now subscribe to news services and just copy and paste their content off the Internet. Of course they still sell their product to us like they’re still the only game in town. But last I checked I had a few other options.

Let’s take LinkedIn. Okay, in reality I only know it exists because I keep getting dozens and dozens of e-mails reminding me I haven’t set up a LinkedIn account to respond to the 3 LinkedIn friend requests I’ve received this year. If I ever decide to do that, I promise you 3 people you’ll be the first ones I add.

Radio advertising used to be a pretty good return on investment. But of course now with satellite radio and iPods, most people don’t listen to the radio any longer.

E-mail advertising used to be okay, but now e-mail is so full of spam that your message just gets lost in the fray. I’ve been paying attention lately to how many e-mails I get from companies in the jewelry business that send me their ‘specials’ via e-mail, and out of the last 100 or so, I’ve read exactly ZERO. I’m sure my customers would do the same to me.

Television is off the radar screen for me anymore. 900 channels and nothing is on.

“Hey wait, don’t change the channel my commercial is about to air.”

Hell, I can’t tell you the content of the last 100 commercials I saw. When the commercials come on, people get up and do other things until your program comes back on. If you DVR’d the program you just skip through the commercials. It’s just a big waste of money to me.

But there is something I have come to a consensus on with other owners in the same situation I’m in. People still come into brick and mortar stores at about the same rate as they always have, but the difference is how they shop in the year 2012. Instead of going store to store to shop and compare, they do their shopping online and have made their buying decision before they ever walk in your store. Once in the store, it’s just a simple matter of processing their credit card and handing them their new bauble.

So, at the end of the day, here’s my goal for 2012. I’m going to really work on and improve my online presence. Yeah, I know I should have done it sooner, but look in a mirror. How many of you reading this have a website that’s current to within this week?

Yeah... me neither.

How about those of you out there that paid the money already for a flashy, attention grabbing website. Do you have that new merchandise that just came in yesterday online ready for the world to see?

Yeah... me neither.

What I’ve finally come to grips with is this fact; when a potential customer, via word of mouth, hears ‘I’m the man’ in regards to their problem, the first thing that potential customer is going to do is Google Anthony Jewelers Nashville and look at my website. That’s where I choke.

Years ago when I first built my website it was under the guise that customers were mostly looking for contact info so they could call me or e-mail me a question about the products and services I offered. And, back then I was correct. But as I look at the calendar I can clearly see that it’s not back then anymore.

The old saying, “You never have a second chance to make a first impression” applies differently though in the year 2012. Back in the old days, our first impressions were made face to face. I was (and still am) pretty good at that one. Unfortunately, that’s just not the way it is anymore. Nowadays, most people’s first impression of you and your business is via a Google search. If you Google Anthony Jewelers Nashville you’ll see a pretty sad online presence. That is the first impression new customers have of me and it’s not my best side. I’m sure more than a few potential customers just hit the back button and go to the link under me. I now realize that the first impression most people are going to have of my entire operation is based on that Google search.

So, here’s my thinking for the new year. If you’re reading this, it’s a pretty good bet you either own a jewelry store with just one or two locations, or you work in a small jewelry store and the owner is within 25 feet of you right now wondering why you’re reading this and not working. If any of you out there have already figured this out, please write to me and let me know what’s the best way to do this whole ‘online presence and store’ thing.

Then, over the course of 2012 I’m going to commit to making my online presence the best first impression it can be and I’m going to share it with everyone. Let’s make this a group project.

So, if you’ve got a cheap, easy to maintain, easy to update, looks good, makes the phone ring, lots of compliments, flashy, website solution for the rest of us, please share and I promise we’ll feature your store and your website on the front page of the paper.

Well, I gotta go now; I’m going to turn the page and read Brad Simon’s column so I can be on the cover for a change instead of page 18.

Happy New Year everyone!

Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide.

If you would like to contact Chuck or need a speaker or instructor for your next conference/event he can be reached at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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