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Communicating with Customers

Communicating with Customers

In my last marketing post, I asked “what makes you a loyal customer?”  The reason I asked is that it helps you get into the customer mindset when you can understand what your own buying habits are and why.

I answered my own question in a discussion of customer benefits about ebooks on the forum.  I consider myself a loyal customer of Lyn and Zed’s ebooks because the books are well written, have easy to understand instructions, a lot of good pictures And the fact I can work at my own pace. When they produce new books, I would likely buy them because I know the quality is good,  the price was reasonable, purchase was convenient — immediate download and I was able to contact the seller with questions.  All of these things are key benefits to me especially since I’ve purchased ebooks more expensive and less user friendly.

groceryMy buying loyalties for groceries are different.  I like a good bargain and am loyal to retailers who are conveniently located, offer sales, discounts and coupons, good customer service with liberal return policies.

When buying art, fibers or art supplies, I have an impulse buyers addictionmindset. Although I won’t turn down a coupon, discount or sale. I love this, I have to have it! I’m sure you all know what that is like.

As a business person, you want to cultivate loyal customers.  How? It’s all about understanding buying habits, mindsets, benefits and problems.  The best way to keep on top of trends is to do a little market research and communicate with your customers and get to know them.

Ask customers why they like the specific product they are buying.  Is it for themselves or someone else?  If for someone else, who?  Starting this conversation will bring more detail because most people love to talk when they like something or someone.  Of course, this is easier to do if you are selling face to face at a craft fair or to friends and family.

women shoppingBut if you are selling through a third party like a gift shop or an art gallery, the people who procure your products know this information and will share it with you since it is a benefit to them to keep customers satisfied and popular products coming in.  They can also give you an idea why something isn’t selling.  It’s not necessarily negative feedback; you may find this is just not the right market for that product.

On the forum discussion, Ruth mentioned all the things she does at her store to keep loyal customers  Basically, great customer service was at the heart of it.  A few of them —

  • Shipping at cost
  • Free gift wrapping
  • Keeping the inventory fresh and unique
  • Custom orders
  • Creating customer oriented events.

She said, “go a little beyond the normal service, people are wowed because the norm is pretty low.”

When communicating with people, don’t underestimate your enthusiasm.  When you do what you love it shows through in the attention given to making the item, but your enthusiasm for what you do is contagious!  So, is your loyal customers.

excited womanIf you’re selling online and don’t have the opportunity to communicate face-to-face, keep an email list and follow up after the sale.  Asking a customer if they are satisfied or if the gift was well received can help reveal trends and keep your customers coming back. Most people will respond to one or two questions.  It tells them you value their opinion and want to guarantee their satisfaction. Many retailers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble follow up with an email after the sale to ask you to rate the product and make comments.  Take the marketing hint from companies who spend a lot of money researching these things!

Emails can be used to communicate news about introducing a new product or line, exhibit emailor fair dates.  Email marketing is inexpensive and can result in repeat sales. Of course, e-newsletters and blogs also provide the same benefits.

Posting news and pictures of works in progress also works using social media like Facebook.  If I see an item I know one of my friends would like, I can share it on my news feed or send it to that persons news feed.  Again word of mouth in the digital age!

Remember less can be more.  I say this because if people are busy too much information becomes background noise.  So, be selective about what and how often you post or email.  Make it newsworthy and friendly.

You may be saying, but I do all this or I’ve tried that and it’s not working.  Again, knowing your customer will help you determine where to sell and the best strategies to use. If normal outlets aren’t working, it’s  time to get creative to develop better strategies and or find new markets.

Food for thought:  Where do my customers go?  What do they do?

 

 

Identifying Customer Problems and Product Benefits

Identifying Customer Problems and Product Benefits

In my previous marketing post, I asked, “Who Are Your customers?”  We had a nice discussion on the forum about customers and how some of the members found their markets.  Some of the members who are selling products that responded had to think hard about it.  But once they did give it some thought, they had a good idea of who their customers are.  Of course, those people selling multiple types of products had a broader range of customers depending on the product.gift giver

As a summary, I’ve compiled a very general profile:

  • Women were the primary market
  • Ages 25-65
  • Who have disposable income
  • Who value handmade goods and specialized services

There were several common threads in the development of an art business, whether it was intended to start a business or not.

  • Product appeal and uniqueness
  • Seeing the product as a gift for oneself or someone else
  • Word of mouth

Leonor (Felt Buddies) and Carole aka craftywoman each experienced the building of a potential or actual business through word of mouth.  It doesn’t just happen to artists. It can happen on a major scale in the corporate world as well.

word of mouthI worked for one company that did not have a sales force, did no advertising and at the time were in 18 states with their own warehousing and distribution systems.  All of the growth was due to word of mouth.  What they had was a unique concept that was appealing to parents at schools who did fundraising to help the school support special programs.  No door to door selling required!  Products were ordered ahead of time and delivered once a month to the school.  Volunteers ran the sale. This all evolved because one woman provided something other than baked goods for her child’s fundraising program at school.  Word spread quickly and a business was born!

The customers (parents who convinced school officials to use the program) were the company’s best salespeople!  But that doesn’t mean a business can always depend on that.  It’s up to the business owner to know their customers, the problem being solved and the benefit to the customer.  For this company, it was parents and administrators who needed to raise funds.  The benefit was the school being able to raise funds without sending children door to door and excellent products being delivered to the school.  Parents and teachers felt good to help out, keep the programs running and still benefit by obtaining excellent and unique products for their families.  Win, win for everyone.

For your business, it may mean a customer needing to find a unique gift (problem).  When they purchase one of your items, they feel good about finding something meaningful and/or unique (benefit.)

Let’s look at a few examples from my perspective:

Ann (Shepardess) makes fingerless mitts that are popular with young women.  Problem:  The women like to text, but find it too hard to do with traditional gloves.  Benefit:  They can keep their hands warm and text to their hearts content while making a fashion statement.

Ann's fingerless mitts
Ann’s fingerless mitts

Leonor makes custom felted animals.  Problem:  Pet owners want a remembrance of their beloved animals or a unique gift resembling a favorite pet for a family member or friend.   Benefit: The lifelike miniature brings joy and sometimes comfort to the recipient. The gift giver feels good about giving a special gift.

Worrying about capturing this pet's personality
Worrying about capturing this pet’s personality

Carole has been making flower brooches and hair clips for her friend’s craft fair this summer.  Problem:  Her friend needed inexpensive items to sell.  Benefit:  Fun, bright, inexpensive items customers will feel good about purchasing and using and will help fair sales.

Carole's Flower Pins
Carole’s Flower Pins

What problems can you solve for your customers and what benefits can you provide for them?  You may be thinking  “problem,” my customers don’t have problems to solve.  Maybe they just like to buy pretty, artsy things, then switch the word problem to goal if that helps you to understand your buyers needs better.

Food for thought:  Are you a loyal customer?  What are the attributes about those businesses you frequent that makes it appealing for you to keep going back? What are the benefits you get from shopping there?  How can you use this information to understand your buyers better?

photo 1

Thank you to everyone who shared their experience with me on the forum and gave me permission to use that information and pictures.

Watch the Marketing section on the forum for more discussion.

 

 

 

 

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