Retail Giving

The title of this post may seem a contradiction, but it is not. If you deal with customers or clients, you are probably very excited/happy every time you make a sale. It is the natural reaction; however, do you go the extra mile to deliver the same happiness and excitement to your customer/client? I hope you do. Once it is time to deliver the goods, do you take care of the presentation? Do you give something extra to the customer/client or do you deliver just what he/she paid for when the order was placed?

Going the extra mile for a client/customer is important to your business/brand whether you sell products, services, or entertainment. It is what the client perceives at the other end when he/she receives the goods that will determine repeat sales, and “word of mouth.” One of my retail customers emailed with this comment – “Love it! Just opening the package was a fun experience. Thank you!”  I don’t have to tell you that this made my day, because having that praise from a customer meant that my efforts to show that I care, were perceived.  It was perceived in the delivery of the goods, the product, and even in the package presentation.

What things can you do to wow your customers/clients?  There are a few that I practice all the time.

  • Answer emails promptly.
  • Ship/deliver the goods as soon as possible.
  • Never overcharge a client (including the shipping charges).
  • If shipping happens to be a bit less than quoted, refund the difference.
  • Present your brand in a consistent manner.
  • Wrap the item in an attractive and safe way.
  • Presentation of the goods should be beautiful and neat.
  • Include a little extra as a thank you gift or a coupon for next purchase or both.
  • Always thank the customer, whether with a thank you note or a quick email.  I prefer a pretty thank you note.
  • Let the customer know that you have shipped the goods and provide a tracking number or any other pertinent information.
  • Follow up with the customer/client when he/she emails you back.

These things are simple to do and tell the customer/client that he/she is appreciated and in good hands in the future.  They should become second nature to you as you keep practicing them.  There are many other ways in which you can give to your clients.  It is a matter of using your imagination and enjoying the process.

I hope this post was of help whether you sell goods, services, or words.

Building Your Brand – the Rewards

Line art representation of a Quill

Line art representation of a Quill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a follow-up to the previous post, I thought that I would mention the benefits or rewards of building your brand.  The rewards go beyond the monetary gratification, as brand building touches the entrepreneur’s “soul” (for lack of a better word).  When you set out to build your brand, you are strenghtening the process of reaffirming your commitment to your business or craft.  To outsiders, it serves as mere recognition of a brand, to the entrepreneur/artist/writer it plays an important part in building not only the business, but the perception in which the endeavor is seen from the entrepreneur’s side, deepening the commitment, inspiration, and serving as a refreshing fountain of energy (fuel) to keep it going.

Branding builds in professionalism, setting you apart from many other similar endeavors, for example, the author that just produces the book, lists it for sale, but never worries about building a brand around it – an author’s website, page, networking, and plenty of marketing, among other things.  It doesn’t matter if you self-publish or go the traditional way, brand building is important if you are planning to become a lifetime writer.

The financial rewards will eventually increase with brand recognition, if done right, but it should never be the main goal of building your brand.  It goes deeper than that, and if you are serious about your product (whatever that may be), you will understand that while everyone needs to make a living (preferably doing something that you love), it is when you give something back to the reader/customer/client that your brand will become stronger and your endeavor/business will grow.  This principle is old and you may have heard of it in the scriptures, popular wisdom … “What goes around comes around,” “You get what you give,” “Give and you shall receive,” and many other variations of it.

If you become serious about building your brand, do it with love, passion, and generosity and the rewards will eventually show up.

 

Building Your Brand – The Challenges

This post is a follow-up to the earlier – Building Your Brand.  It is a challenging task that never ceases; however, most difficulties are encountered at the beginning.  These challenges may be concrete or emotional, but they are present during the process of discovery and even after you had set out to build your brand.  The more you ignore dealing with these challenges, the slower the process will become, and it may even affect your own “emotional branding” – the way you perceive your brand.

YOU – The Biggest Challenge

The biggest challenge that you may meet building your brand is YOU.  Even after you have figured out where you are headed, your belief system (in yourself) may be shaken after the journey of self-discovery.  There will be the moment when you might say “nonsense” and doubt the entire process.  In addition, there is always the negative little voice that tells you to “be careful,” “wait,” “can’t,” “too difficult,” “too expensive,” … you know it.  Training yourself to bypass YOU (your fears and doubts) will take some effort, but will make you stronger and give you clarity of perception.

Emotional Challenge

This challenge is tied to YOU, as depending on the process of self-discovery, which is different for everyone, the array of emotions/feelings set free are the challenge in itself.  Dealing with those is important to continue building your brand.

Motivation

At one point or another, motivation may get stale, especially when instant gratification is nowhere to be found.  In an instant society like ours, we are cued to get results and get them fast.  In most cases, building your brand will not yield instant results.  So patience and perseverance most be found inside your motivational briefcase.

Family, Friends, and Critics

This is a huge challenge, second to the YOU challenge.  Most of us pay great attention to the opinion of our closed circle first, and to the outside circle later.  Wether we want to admit it or not, their opinion has an effect in our emotions.  This is why it is so important to take a hold of YOU and understand that for them, a process of self-discovery may have not happened yet, and most likely, they may not be able to understand where you are coming from or your perception.  I have found that entrepreneurs are more likely to cheer you up, because at some point, they have gone through the process, than people with a job/paycheck mentality.  The later group will not be able to understand what you are doing or where you are headed, least how you are doing it.  They have not learned the value of a true dollar (or your country’s currency) and they may not understand your true efforts.  For this group, time spent = money in the strict sense of the phrase.  For you, payment for your efforts have come in many other ways.  A healthy dose of criticism is good, but beware of where it comes from and how YOU deal with it.

Time

This is a personal issue and everyone must work with time differently to build a brand.  This applies to anything in life, as your perception of time may be different to mine.  Timing and time to work on something must be understood separately.  Emotional time spent is also important when building your brand.

Money and Knowledge

I linked these two challenges because many times, if you don’t have money to hire someone to do something you don’t know how to do yet, you can always spend time learning it and do it yourself.  It is a personal issue, sometimes tied to physical time, but not let lack of finances stop you in building your brand.  Today, there are many free social networks, platforms, and online features which are of help when money is tight.  Learning is a process that takes time.

Change and Setbacks

This is something that you must be able to accept as part of growing your endeavor and building your brand.  Things move different for everyone; it is the cycle of living, and part of the decision-making (past, present, future); however, don’t let that stop your progress.  Change may be positive or carry some setbacks with it.  It may speed the process or slow you down.  It can come in the form of total devastation as in a natural disaster, financial loss, divorce, moving to another state or country, illness …  It is up to you to set the emotional pace for dealing with change/setbacks.

These are a few challenges, which may be present when building your brand; however, it is your journey, and your own challenges will appear along the way, of course.  There is no growth without challenge; so welcome these.

 

Building Your Brand

When you are self-employed, you become your business and vice versa.  It is very easy to get tangled in your work, and become one with the brand.  At the same time, it is easy to absorb your brand, and under develop it, as it happens when there is lack of discipline and personal issues absorb valuable work time – your efforts may get lost.  Balance is key; however, it is important to develop your brand, and keep evolving with it.

Developing and building your brand starts as soon as you get in business for yourself, and it continues throughout ( I think it never stops); however, branding your business whether it is a shop or your writing career, will help you stand apart, and create visual impact with your customers – or be remembered/associated with something.  Large companies do it all the time, so why not develop your own brand?

If you want to do it right, you must spend time and effort (lots of it) as well as be willing to tweak and change things around as needed, or evolve keeping the integrity of your brand – the essence of it.  For some people, depending on the line of work and resources (time – physical and emotional – and money), it will take less time than for others, especially if you are doing everything yourself.  Of course, you can always hire someone to do it for you, if you have the financial resources.

Over the past couple of years, I left my job, starting a soul-searching journey, with the support of my angel husband (thank the heavens for him), and came across the realization of the things I truly love – Real Estate (which sucks right now), writing, and creating with my hands, whether art or handcrafted pieces.  Slowly (more due to the morass in my heart and slow self rescue and discovery) a brand started to emerge, which I called THE OWL, BOOK & CANDLE.

I am by nature a do-it-yourselfer, so I started thinking about it and creating a business and slowly working the details.  Still, there is much work to be done, as well as evolution.  The purpose of this post is not to promote my brand, but to make you think about your own branding and how you can work towards its development/growth, even when resources are low, even when you can only take small steps.

What I don’t know, I try to learn; that has always been my motto.  The first thing I did, once I was sure of where I was headed, was to make my business a legal entity by registering it and taking all the necessary steps.  To me, that step made the commitment more real.  To give you an idea of the things that I did to grow my brand, here are a few pictures.  The entire process continues to be an affirmation to my commitment, as well as self-focus.

I learned to design my logo and business cards.  In addition, I learned to create my business flyers and promotional materials.  I could have hired someone or use an online service, which is not expensive at all; however, from beginning to end, I needed to do it all, as it was about finding my true call, and about self-rescue.  If in the midst of it all, something did not sound quite right, I would change it or redirect my efforts.

 I took my logo/brand to my everyday life by placing it on my car – wherever I go, so does my brand.  It is about advertising, however at this stage, it is more about brand recognition and self-commitment.  This was not an expensive process neither.  An online presence was very important, as this would become my modus operandi.  I decided to create and umbrella corporation that would house the writing and e-commerce parts of my endeavor, instead of building separate entities.  Part of the reason, you guessed it – the need for reaffirmation and self-focus at this stage (scattering efforts was counterproductive).

THE CUSTOMER/CLIENT

This is the most important part of any business as without it, a business cannot exist, and this is where I try to focus my best effort – offering top customer service, communication, and excellent work performance.  Branding without top customer service is useless.  Branding translates to the e-commerce area on developing a packaging that is cohesive so when the customer receives the product, it associates your brand with it.  From wrapping, labeling, packaging, flyers, stationery (electronic or hardcopy), and free tokens of appreciation, your efforts should mirror your brand.

There are many other steps and things to do to build your brand, but in keeping with my usual way of not making posts too long, I will leave you to ponder this – how can you make your brand a bit stronger and how does it play into your true passion?  Do you need to redirect your efforts?

How to Wow your Customers/Clients

The busy Holiday Season has ended and a new year is here.  For those who are independent contractors it means a fresh new start and the continuation of past business.  Keeping clients isn’t easy, whether you do retail or offer a service.  You have to find that balance that makes clients happy as well as yourself.  But what are the things that make your clients/customers go Wow?

  1. Attention to detail – I have found that this is very important in keeping your customer happy.  It goes beyond good and basic customer service.  You can be polite and go thru the motions of the sale, but when you take a good look at what your customer likes and strive to magnify that a bit, you are putting some love into the sale or service.  It is popularly called “going the extra mile;” however, you can go the extra mile out of duty or you can walk it loving it – there is a difference – and there is the balance.  To put it into perspective, when you give attention to detail, your packages are neat, extra well-packed, beautifully wrapped, and you include a little something special inside for your customer – they will remember you for that.  The online world has open many retail opportunities for online shops, and this is good.  However, I have seen many things that I don’t consider desirable; for example, receiving an item packed in a cereal box without any lining in it or any extra layers of protection.  I am all for recycling and saving the planet, but if you need to use a cereal box, you can pretty it up by wrapping/camouflaging it with some nice paper, putting some tissue inside to protect the item … and so on.  Recycle but also Upcycle.
  2. Being honest – Honesty in business goes far, and customers/clients notice.  Maybe for you, the extra dollar in shipping doesn’t make much difference, but it does to a customer.  These days, shipping packages is expensive, online sellers know that, and many times, they cannot compete with the free shipping or low shipping deals that other large companies offer.  The way I see it, it is not about competing but about being different, and you do that by refunding the difference if shipping was less and eating up the cost if it was more than you quoted.  Customers will notice and they will thank you for that, usually.
  3.  Giving the Royal Treatment – Even if you operate a very small online store, you can treat your customers as royalty.  Strive for an excellent shopping experience in all levels – communication, delivery of the product, and resolving any issues that may arise.  From offering tracking numbers, returns, and striving for making your customer happy at the end, there are many ways to wow your customers.  If you offer a service, excellent communication practices and prompt delivery, as well as following up are key.
  4. Saying Thank You – This is one of the most important things that you can do, whether you work an online business, brick and mortar store, or are an independent contractor.  It says to the  customers/clients that you value and appreciate their business – in other words, you don’t take them for granted.  You are stepping away from the “clerk treatment” so common at the street and letting your customers know that they are appreciated and that you would like to continue serving their needs in the future.  You do this by thanking them verbally, sending an email or a personalized card, including an appreciation gift or a discount coupon, and most important, following up with them briefly.  There are as many ways as far as your imagination can go.
  5. Personalizing the sale – This is of most importance, at least in my eyes.  Treating customers as people and not as dollar signs is what it means.  You can chat up a storm with a client and ask many questions to find common ground, but if you still see that person as a dollar sign, you will give that vibe back to him/her – everything is energy and energy passes thru.  Instead, think of a way in which you can truly help that customer with his/her need.  If a customer/client came to you, it is because there is a need and it is up to you to find a way to please that customer.  Next time, he/she can go somewhere else.  These days, there is a whole worldwide of choices out there in the concrete world and in cyberspace.  So, when a customer visits your online site or your brick and mortar store, be honored that they have seen your tiny dot shining in this huge retail universe.