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Store Entrances

Store Entrances | FAD Equipment

There are a number of ways to get into, and there should be many entranceways to your business too, says David Ayling.

Long gone is the time where a potential customer would arrive at a shop and welcome a sales pitch. These days, they’ve made a buying decision before they speak to a ‘salesperson’. They’ve conducted research and read reviews. It’s likely that they’ve only arrived at the store—physical or online—to complete a purchasing transaction.

This represents a wholesale shift away from sales towards marketing. It means that the future of most businesses now rests in its ability to engage, entertain and deliver to an audience, rather than it being in the hands of a team of sharp-witted salespeople. Marketing has gone from an expense to a driving force. The best companies listen more than they talk and when they do communicate, they do so with their target market in mind—no… at heart.

This trend was already changing the world, and then a global pandemic struck, driving even more buyers online and limiting the ability of businesses to sell to audiences on their terms. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Business-to-Consumer (B2C) or Business-to-Business (B2B), nor is it relevant if you’re in material handling, construction, power, or renewables; Covid has finished what the digital age started.

Rules of engagement

The rules of the game have been drastically altered and smart businesses have accepted that it’s a new world. Dumb businesses are hoping everything will blow over and we’ll go back to old ways of doing things.

Think about it: would you buy curtains from a door-to-door salesperson or would you rather research suppliers and their products online, find out what other consumers say about them, and make an informed buying decision that way?

Would you take someone’s word for it that a product does something or would you rather work with a trusted, proven brand that has positioned themselves in a place that makes buying from them relevant and easy?

‘Content’ now comes before ‘marketing’ in many instances. Define it how you want but Marcus Sheridan does so best in his book, ‘They Ask You Answer’. What he spends over 200 pages brilliantly explaining, is that audiences have questions—lots of ‘em—and they’ll gravitate to the businesses with the answers. Don’t sell a hoist (or swimming pool in Marcus’s case), explain how the hoist works and how it helps in specific applications. Better still, tell people about safe installation, use, storage and service. If you really want to wow the crowd, let them in on the secrets nobody else has the courage to share. Marcus’s most famous content marketing case study explored the industry’s taboo subject: How Much Does a Fiberglass Pool Cost?

While these trends will shape the content of this blog page moving forward, I want to return to the subject of this one, which is essentially about being crystal clear on what your business is and giving audiences as many places to research it, and visit it, as possible. In our case, we’re a store, and we want doorways to it… big ones… all located on the streets where people walk. We know we’re looking for the corporate buyer with a credit card on their desk who’s been given a list of products to purchase when an immediate material handling-related requirement for them has arisen. They’ll likely know the SKU (stock keeping unit) and want to find the item—quickly.

Open door policy

We use a number of strategies (doorways) to attract people to our shop, whether they’re looking for a Crosby shackle or a Caldwell lifting attachment. When they’re in the store, ‘Damn’, they say, ‘These guys are easy to buy from’. And they come back. We’ve got to make memorable, much like you should be doing with your brand. What sets it apart? There’s no point telling (selling) people stuff; it’s got to actually look and feel like the stuff that excites them.

Another door to your company might be email marketing. We’ll certainly be using our quality database to tell relevant people what they need to know. Be careful, though. Data is a minefield and we’re gravitating more towards ‘opt-in’, so don’t spam people with nonsense. Don’t make your mail-outs smell like a salesperson; make them authentic, relevant and helpful. If they’ve bought a product before, tell them when there’s a special offer on another. Or, here’s a product specifically for your use, Mr. or Mrs. Valued Customer. Another newsletter might include a user guide.

Social media is a popular doorway to a modern business. However, it’s important to put the audience first, not second. By that I mean it’s easy (and free!) to setup social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) but they’re pointless in two common scenarios: one, when the audience doesn’t hang out on the platform; and, two, when there isn’t enough quality content being posted to generate engagement. We have a number of social media accounts but we don’t have a presence on certain platforms where we don’t believe an existing or prospective audience is spending their time.

Stop press: print lives

While digital and social are resounding buzzwords today, it is true that some marketplaces are at different stages of their migration. In the material handling sector, for example, many manufacturers, dealers, installers and users, still like to receive information in print. Again, it’s important to be where the audience is. If that means reserving budget for print advertising and cultivating contacts in the publishing world, that’s fine. There’s no point taking an entire marketing program online if the key decision makers are getting their information on paper.

It’s a sore subject in the Covid era, but trade shows, conferences and events provide another entrance to a business. Rest assured, we’ll take our brand back to the booths and aisles of exhibitions, when the pandemic eases sufficiently. In the meantime, it’s worth looking out for virtual events that might be replacing in-person shows, or even standing alone in the digital space. April’s ProMat, held on alternate years in Chicago, has been replaced by the ProMat Digital Experience (ProMatDX), for example. It’s easy to scoff at such virtual alternatives but if the audience is there, you need to be too.

I know we questioned the future role of the salesperson earlier, but really the point is that the position must be adapted to suit the current climate. There is still a need for person-to-person interaction and company representatives are gatekeepers themselves. Each member of the team has their own contacts book and uses their profile to promote our store. Some company owners are nervous about elevating their staff to brand ambassadorial roles, fearing that they’ll take the contacts away to their own or a competing venture, but this is short-sighted.

Expect to see blogs from all of our staff over the coming months; they’ve all got expertise to share with different audiences and we intend to leverage that diversity.

How easy is your business to find?

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