Imagine you own a brick-and-mortar shop. You sell craft supplies and you’ve spent a good deal of time carefully selecting your inventory and arranging the shelves. Your shop looks great and you’re really proud of it.
It’s a Saturday afternoon and there’s a good crowd browsing and shopping. A woman comes up to the register and asks you,
“Which of your patterns would you say is for a beginner? I have some sewing skills, not much, but I'm very interested in sewing softies.”
Right at that same time another customer comes over with a pattern in her hand and says,
“This may seem like an odd question, but are the arms and legs on this bear made from the same piece of fabric as the body? I ask because I want to make a bear with all different colored legs and arms than the body. I guess another way to put it is: Are the legs and arms different pattern pieces than the body pattern piece?”
What should you do right now? Answer their questions, of course! Both of these customers should get polite, encouraging, honest responses and they should get those responses right away. By offering your expert help you’re building a trusting relationship with these two women. They might buy something now, or later, or refer a friend to your store. And frankly it’s your job to help them because you own the shop.
Photo by Kevin McCarthy on Flickr.
But let me guess…you don’t own a brick-and-mortar craft supply store, right? I don’t either, but I do own an online shop - my Etsy shop. And those two questions? They’re both Etsy convos I got recently. Here are a few more:
“Is this bird available in yellows like those shown in the photo with the multiples?”
“I would like to purchase a total of 4 of these sets of rattles. Will postage be less than the $8.75 shown at checkout?”
“I saw the Animal Neck Pillows you had in the Sew It Today magazine. I was wondering if you have the pattern for sale?”
“I have a friend that would LOVE a pigeon from the old Warner series ‘Good Feathers.’ I can't find one anywhere! I was wondering if you would be willing to help me with that? Could you possibly make one for me?”
“I just purchased a pattern, but did not receive an e-mail giving me the exact pattern. My daughter desperately needs to make these dolls for a colonial project at school and we need to get started ASAP!!! Can you please let me know how to get the pattern?”
Each one of these convos was written by someone who looked interacted with items in my shop and had a question. Each of these people is a potential customer or repeat customer. As a shop owner it’s my job to respond to each one promptly, professionally, and with an encouraging word. I need to clarify, reassure, and advise. I need to say thank you for your interest in what I have to offer. I need to be helpful.
Photo by Mike Wade on Flickr.
Okay, now let’s go back for a second to your brick-and-mortar shop. A line has formed at the register and you’re ringing people up. You wrap the merchandise in tissue and put it into a bag that has your shop’s logo on the front. You might ask if they’d like to sign up for your newsletter to find out about future sales. Then, with a smile on your face and direct eye contact with the customer, you hand them their bag, say thank you, and wish them a great weekend. Why? Because they’ll smile back and walk out of the store feeling good. This is how you build a reputation and create lasting relationships with customers. Word of mouth recommendations from each of them is your absolute best form of advertising.Apply this same approach to your online shop. Promptly send an email to every customer saying “thank you” and “come back soon.” This is the equivalent of making eye contact. A follow up email that is pre-formatted with the look and feel of your brand is the equivalent of a nice shopping bag with your store logo on it. In the email provide links to your Facebook page and blog and an opt-in link to sign up for your newsletter. If the customer has a question, they can email you directly instead of having to log back into Etsy. You’re providing customers with ways to get closer to your brand. Brick-and-mortar shops do the same thing, and for good reason. Once a customer is following you in whatever social media format they prefer you can interact with them, provide them with additional value, and remind them of what you have to offer.
Every time a customer reaches out to you should reach back swiftly, politely, and professionally. Each person who gets in touch with you has the potential to become a customer. Treat them with the same friendly positivity you would if they walked into your store.