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In the Insanity, An Opportunity?
August 8, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
In the heat of this insanity known as the summer tourism trade - stop, take a breath and ask yourself a question.
Actually, ask your customer a question. It does not matter if you are a business owner, a community official or with a not-for-profit, you will never get another opportunity like this.
What is it, you are asking, am I crazy? I can see your face already: “I don't have time to ask questions! Heck, I don't even have time for lunch. I can't even remember my kids’ names and when did I see them last anyways?!”
Now vs. Tomorrow
Yes, the dog days of summer.
But let the cooler weather remind you that fall is coming. Right behind the turning of the leaves is the shoulder season and a winter economy based on the Dr. Jekyll and Hyde of snowfall. Remember now those long moments when you wondered when the next sale will happen. Think now about the long winter nights when you are pondering your next business or leadership move, looking for any kind of reassurance or proof that might validate your thoughts.
Take a breath; you know the off-season is already coolly winking at you with our 40° nights.
Are You Kidding?
It is hard, I know, to even complete a sentence, let alone ask a question. But you have an unparalleled opportunity now to gather marketing information that would envy many Fortune 500 companies. They spend millions to talk to their customers, to ask them questions, to get inside their heads so that they can figure out what to sell them or how.
You can do it for virtually free. It is the unparalleled power of small business and community not-for-profit's to be able to go directly to your source – the bearer of your cash - your customer.
Now, almost unlike any other time of the year, you have the opportunity to meet virtually every customer segment of your business. Visitors, second-home owners, residents and athletes are all potentially crossing your door.
Keep it Simple
Don't have the time? Then gather an e-mail or hand them a quick 3 to 5 question survey. They are in a hurry too, so you may need to provide them with an incentive such as a raffle for a gift or a discount.
“What kind of questions should I ask?” you may query, your brain fried already so it is hard to think about these kinds of things.
The Winter Feeling
Picture yourself again in the middle of winter. In a time when the snow has not yet come. The air is cold, the heating dollars going out the window while your inventory and employees are not moving. A time when you are looking at your cash flow more than your daily customers.
What questions did you ask yourself that about your organization? What ideas did you ponder? What information did you wish you had about your business or customer?
For those of you frenzied like a Ping-Pong ball in a world championship match here are 10 suggestions to find out about your business today for planning in those cold months:
1. New Product or Service. Wondering if you should develop a new product or service? Ask the question! Put out samples, give them information, have a demo.
2. Customer Profile While you are in the store know who is buying what. You can do a clipboard chart of your major products. Put them on the left and across the top put characteristics of the customer: young, old, local, visitor etc. and find out where they are from. This will help in understanding who and where is your customer.
3. What Marketing is Working While you are it, find out how they heard about you. Sometimes it is tough because they don’t even know but keep after it. Some information is better than totally guessing.
4. Get an E-mail Put a sign up that asks for an e-mail or try to get one when they pay.
5. What Caused You to Stop in? Finding why they came to you is helpful in understanding what a customer perceives as your brand and is that consistent with the image you think your business is. It is also helpful in determining what you may be missing.
6. Ask the Community Question Why did they choose to visit the community? This will be helpful as potential key words for your own marketing.
7. Where Does Your Customer Go First? We have all heard about tracking the most visited pages on your web site and to watch out for those where they “click out.” Watching foot traffic in your store and where they go first, stop or walk past can be very telling.
8. Keep an Eye on the Competition While you are out getting lunch or for that summer stroll, check out the competition and see if you notice any patterns in terms of who their customers are, items that seem to be selling and what they are doing this summer to promote themselves.
9. Work with Your Competition This may not be always appropriate but, in general, our small communities are not competing against each other. Never before have there been so many opportunities to network, link and combine resources.
10. Include Your Staff Get your staff involved in market research. Have them understand why it is so important. Be sure they record the info.
You may not be able to do all of these things all of the time.
Much of this can be done with a simple clipboard or check-list.
The summer is the height of customer interaction –and a great time for you to understand your customer. It’s a great opportunity for you to do customer research, collect data and then, in the shoulder season, analyze it and put a strategy together for 2014.
Fall is on its way.
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