https://www.jeffharbaugh.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/logo_color_640.gif 0 0 jeff https://www.jeffharbaugh.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/logo_color_640.gif jeff1995-02-22 01:28:112014-09-28 11:36:45Who Are Your Customers? And Why Are They Buying From You?
As a snowboard retailer, you have a position in your market. You own it, and it’s yours to loose. The best way to loose it is to forget who your customers are and what they want.
The other day I was in one of these warehouse stores. There was a snowboard with bindings for, I think, $299.00. The board had a full metal edge, the inserts and finish looked fine and the bindings, while nothing to write home about, seemed perfectly functional. The description said it had a full wood core, and most of the other statements about it could have been out of an ad for a leading brand. The brand? At about the point where the number of brands passed 150 the part of my brain that could remember them all atrophied.
It’s enough to strike terror into the heart of a shop owner. If you end up competing on price…. Well, you can’t.
But there’s hope. Recently, a competing publication (I don’t think they’ll let me say Transworld Snowboard Business here) did a survey of 100 snowboard shops. It indicated that brand name and the sales person were the two most important factors determining a purchase. On a local level, how can you get that kind of information; the kind you can act on?
Rush to your local library or town hall, or log onto the Internet. Dig up the census data for your county or SMSA (standard metropolitan statistical area). What are the incomes levels? Average age? Population density? Where are most of the people you believe are your likely customers?
Are they your customers? Ask questions of every customer that comes in your store whether they buy or not. Get their address, school they attend if appropriate, where they work, what mountains they ride, whatever will help you figure out what they want. This doesn’t mean locking them in a room until they fill in a three page questionnaire. It can be part of an informal conversation between the sales person and customer. The trick is getting it consistently written down immediately after the conversation.
One side benefit is that showing that kind of personal interest in a potential customer may actually increase your chance to make a sale. Listen to your customer. Easier said than done.
Get a map of the area and tape it to the wall. Put a pin in to show the home and/or job and/or school of each person. Is there a pattern to where your customers are coming from? Is it what you thought it was? Does this tell you anything about how to reach them and where you should be advertising?
Pay for gas, food and list tickets for a couple of shop employees on the condition that they come back with information on 50 snowboarders. What kind of riding do they do, how often, where did they buy their gear, and why? Offer to share your data with the mountain if they’ll do the same with you.
It isn’t enough to collect this information on slips of paper or three by five cards, read through it, think to yourself, “Isn’t that interesting” and then forget it. Organize it to see the patterns. On a computer, or on some big pieces of paper taped to a wall. The more data you collect and the more ways you look at it, the more you learn. The magic of being this rigorous is that some of your cherished and unquestioned assumptions about who your customers are and why they buy will turn out to be a bunch of fatuous blather (i.e., wrong).
Assuming that you go through the procedure I’ve described (or a similar one you believe is more appropriate to your market) what’s in it for you? Now you have some harder data on what kind of people are buying from you, what they are buying and why. Tape some more big pieces of paper on the wall with information about your inventory at different times of the year. Given the kind of people buying from you and their reason for buying at your store, should your product mix be different? Are you carrying too much of some items and not enough of another?
How many dollars is it worth to you to have the right inventory at the right time and have as little as possible left over at the end of the year?
If you are a little better able to anticipate your customers’ needs, what kind of return and add on sales does that generate? The process is cumulative and never ending. The better you do, the better you do.
Scurry to the book store and buy a paperback called Customers For Life, by Carl Sewell. Mr. Sewell is the most successful luxury car dealer in the country. The book is about how he gets and keeps his customers. Before you laugh about using the ideas of a car dealer in a shop that sells snowboards, you might take a look at the consolidation going on in that industry. Price competition is intense, the number of dealers has declined rapidly, the survivors are tending to be much larger, and the customers aren’t as willing to be convinced that there’s a significant difference between brands . Recognize any trends you’re worried about?
Your shop is unique. My questions and sources of information may not be the right ones for you, but the concept is right; whether you’re selling cars or snowboards. There’s no more important information than who are your customers and why are they buying from you. In the snowboard industry’s competitive environment, you have to take the time to find out.