You don’t always have to spend money to grow your small business. Whether you’re providing a product or service, the important thing is you make sure a few key things are done first before you start spending money on marketing or revamping your business. Right now you may have a “diamond in the rough”, but with a little planning ahead, you’ll be prepared to show off the little gem you’ve really got!
When you work every day, a lot of things can start to go unnoticed. Things like signage and overall appearance can become like wallpaper that you walk by without a second thought. You may not notice that signs have become faded or the things you see are not the same way your customers see them.
If you want to grow your small business, you have to start on the outside so potential customers will want to go see what’s inside.
Now take a look of your outside storefront. Ask a friend (or even a customer) to give their honest feedback about the appearance of the outside of your shop. If you want to do it yourself, a neat trick is to take a picture of it to see things from a different perspective. Do you see anything in the photo that bothers you or could be improved?
Clean the windows, wash the exterior walls & trim (a Magic Eraser works really well), remove old signs that have faded or stickers that have begun to peel. If some of your signs are advertising products, ask your vendor for a new one – you are giving a portion of your space to advertise their product. If they are not giving you an incentive for giving them advertising space, the least the vendor can do is give you a new sign or decal.
Even if you’re keen on little details, you’d be surprised what your customers may notice that you didn’t see yourself.
First Impression When Walking Inside
Think of your favorite shop or small business. When you first walked inside, what was your initial reaction? Think of what you saw, what you heard, and what you smelled (yes, I said ‘smelled’).
Now think of your business, and what your customers might answer to those questions.
Did you let out a little laugh? Probably not for something good, eh?
Are you thinking about what your customers really experience?
There are so many times I’ve entered a small business and was in awe from my first impression due to the lighting, cleanliness, and front display.
The opposite is true too! I’ve flat-out walked out of places or didn’t buy anything because I was turned off at first glance. I remember one place in particular I’ve never gone back to again because the carpeting had such a bad odor!
Again, you can easily ask a friend or customer to give their honest opinion about what they think when they walk through your door. Make sure the floors are clean and swept, your signage is in good condition, and you have an attractive display or marketing info about your services a few steps from when you first walk in.
Sometimes lighting can’t be helped, such as those glaring florescent lights, so make sure everything looks really good. Everything placed in the front are of the store should have a purpose to meet the needs of your customer. Which brings us to the next point…
What’s the first thing you notice when you look at a “clearance” section? Mismatched products, nothing is organized, and if you ask me, I don’t want to deal with it, and I’ll walk away from it… like to another store.
That’s not what you want your customers to think when they’re visiting your shop. If you want to grow your small business, you have to think about serving the needs of your customers, not actually selling your products or services.
Make sure the aisles are clear and easy to walk around. If you have too much product on your shelves, you may need to refigure your inventory – if it’s something that isn’t a good seller, you’re ordering too much! Get rid of anything behind the registers that don’t belong there – if it’s a box of shopping bags, take some out and store away the rest! And as for what’s on the sales counter, make sure it’s a popular item that sells well, not something taking up prime real estate and collecting dust!
It can be overwhelming to work in a cluttered environment, and it’s not a pleasant customer experience.
It irks me when there’s a bunch of stuff or boxes are piled up in the middle of the sales floor, and the shop owner tells me, “But I just got a delivery!” Who really knows how long that delivery has been there? As a customer, all I know is it’s there right NOW, and I have to see it – that’s a turn off!
Also, try to keep everything up, off of the floor. Even if it’s intended to be a display, it’s good to have some sort of base. Things can otherwise get kicked, wet, and damaged, and you can’t clean under something sitting on the floor.
It takes about 7 seconds for a customer to form an opinion about your business starting from the second they open your door. What is something your customers hear when they step inside? A friendly greeting from you or your staff should be at the top of the list!
Don’t wait for your customers to approach you – they are your customer, visiting you, so it’s up to you and your staff to welcome them!
What your employees wear also has an impact on your business. Make sure they are well groomed, they smell good (yes, some employees have issues!), and their clothes are clean. If you or your staff don’t wear a uniform, it’s in your best interest everyone at least wears a nametag to distinguish themselves from customers – and feel free to get creative! A name tag with a bit of flair can be a great conversation piece.
There’s a psychology to all those corporate stores that require a uniform. It gives an employee a sense of community with other associates, helps make it easier for customers to identify who works there, strengthens your brand (colors, logo), and may also have an impact on employee performance. A uniform can simply be everyone wear the same color – you’ve probably noticed, many boutiques have their employees dress in all black to give a more sophisticated feel to the business… plus it’s a very flattering neutral 😉
A positive attitude can definitely be a game changer. You can have the best looking employee, but the sour look on their face can destroy everything. If this makes you think of someone in particular, this may be a good time to think how they fit-in your plans and if they really are an asset or a hinderance to your business.
This is by far one of the most important investments to help grow your small business, and it does not cost a dime!
It takes just a moment to greet your customer when they first enter your business, it’s free to smile and make customers feel welcomed, and it takes minimal effort to show your customer you’re thankful for their business.
I want you to understand you have the control to give your customers a great experience they will remember. You can make them want to come back, or you can give them an ‘okay’ experience that won’t help you stand out from all your competition.
You might be thinking, “Yep, I do that.”
Ok, and what about your employees? It takes a little bit of effort, but you have to train your employees about giving good customer service. Tell your employees what your expectations are – you’re paying them to help you, right? So don’t feel like you’re putting too much on your shoulders. You may have hired them to help in the back room, but that shouldn’t keep them from saying “hello” when they walk past a customer.
There are several business owners I have worked with who seem to take it for granted they even have customers. It’s like they don’t understand their customers choose to shop there. Then, there are the business owners who know that without their customers, they don’t have a business. Those are the businesses that usually thrive and grow. It’s not just an exchange of product or service for money, it’s a relationship –albeit a short one- to communicate and listen and learn from your customers’ needs and wants.
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So before you spend money on your next ad or marketing plan, give your shop a mini makeover to impress your current clientele. You’ll also be prepared to give your new customers an experience they will enjoy and want to tell others about!