I want to start out today by thanking everyone who sent input regarding sales and advertising on places like Ebay, Etsy and Amazon. It really helps the rest of us to hear from other people’s experiences and hear what works best for then.
While I don’t feel that there is a ‘magic formula’ that dictates whether a venue is successful or not, certainly assessing the information that others offer from their experiences helps us make our own decisions as to what may be the most helpful to our own business.
Something that I am seeing as even more important than advertising your small business is how you treat your customers once they arrive on your site or make a purchase. While getting people to your site or store is the first step, once they are there and how you treat them is definitely going to dictate whether or not they will become a regular customer and return.
From the beginning, I have run my business from the standpoint that I wanted to treat my customers how I would like to be treated. While that sounds like a simple philosophy, there are many (many) places of business that have lost that way of thinking and no longer practice that philosophy.
There are many reasons that I see this occurring. While it is easy to offer good service when your business is small and you are dealing with customers on a one to one basis, as the business grows and the customer base and sales grow, it gets increasingly difficult to spend the amount of time on each and every sale. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. It takes a conscious effort and a great deal of thought to keep things running smoothly when things are going well. And while anyone who is in business for themselves will welcome growth, they need to take the necessary steps to prepare for it and keep things running smoothly and quality levels high as their business expands. It doesn’t just happen.
A year or so ago I wrote about my bank in Chicago being taken over by one of the “big banks.” I had been a customer of the smaller neighborhood bank for over ten years and I was very happy with their personal attention and customer service. Whenever I needed anything, I was able to talk to people whom I had personally met and had developed a business relationship with, and I felt as if as a customer, no matter how small, I mattered.
Now though, whenever I have a question or if anything is amiss, I have to call a main phone number and I am thrown into a web of choices, rerouting and menus. There is no way that I can even talk to a real person without being on the phone probably anywhere from five to ten minutes and going through several choice menus. When I finally do reach a customer service representative, it is only at times when they are able to help me, and many times they send me back into the ‘system’ to be helped by another department. It is quite frustrating.
In the mean time, the bank fees continue to rise, for services that we never realized that we had or used or needed. It is a good example of where getting ‘too big’ and business growth is not a good thing. It may be good for the company, but it leaves the customers out in the cold.
I suppose that the moral of this post is that we need to be aware of our growth as a business, and take the necessary precautions to ensure that no matter how much we expand, we still offer excellent services to our customers as well as excellent products. For that reason, I think that growing slowly is far preferable to being an ‘overnight success’, as it allows us to really adjust with the changes that growth brings and learn from our experiences. I know for myself that some days I feel a bit ‘frazzled’ because there are many things that need my attention and only so many hours in the day (and I am only one person!) I try my best to give personal service to everyone, but some days it takes a bit longer to get back to people than others. And it doesn’t leave a lot of time for the other parts of the business, like designing new patterns.
I am not complaining, mind you. I truly enjoy my interactions with my customers. There are just some days when I don’t feel that my own goals here have advanced as much as I would have liked. But then I look at the big picture and I don’t think I would do things any other way.
It is going to be an interesting year ahead for our company. As we watch our company grow, I am sure that there will be many new challenges that we have to face as a result of that growth. But going slow and taking our time to make the best decisions we can, as well as listening to others around us who have successful businesses and offer advice will be an important part of our own success. And that is where places such as this are invaluable.
Thank you all for your comments and input. I am sure that not only Keith and I appreciate your thoughts, but also the many others who have their own businesses who read here as well. Together we can all help each other grow.
Have a great Saturday.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"