Marketing & The Art of Being A Smooth Operator.

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Marketing savvy, sales intuition and the ability to run an efficient business are all cornerstones of success.

The knowledge that you build from learning more about your customers, observing what affects their purchasing habits and from making bold and effective branding decisions can unlock business potential and make future marketing a breeze. Taking the steps towards building a successful business isn’t complete without taking the time to evaluate your own skills as a business operator. The best products, marketing, and brand recognition can’t escape the failure caused by inefficiency, ill-preparedness, and poor practices when it comes to running a business. In this installment of  The Labs Marketing Principles for a Successful Business, the focus will be on you and how your business is run.

It sounds cliché, but you don’t get a second chance at a first impression and being a smooth operator is an art form even if it doesn’t come naturally. I’m going to try and save you from yourself with some of the best tips for delighting customers.

The first point of contact with a customer is the most important way to set the tone for your relationship with them in the future. It may seem obvious, but the way a customer is approached (IRL or online) and the attention they receive as they browse can make or break their experience. Whether you are brick-and-mortar, online or service based you need to put aside your ego, or mood and greet the customer in the most positive way possible. From there, try to learn a little about why they have stopped by or what their needs are. If you’re in person, you may offer some direction towards a hot product or even serve up some light conversation. If you’re online, make sure your site is easy to navigate, search and browse. But either way, engagement is the key and its effect is often underestimated. Always be cautious to keep things simple, to the point and to be aware of when to tone down the banter (or pop-ups) and let them shop; this is especially important online, there is a fine line between an underwhelming home page and overwhelming amounts  of pop-ups and newsletter sign-up windows.

The next step in being a smooth operator is another basic principle, it’s a little clerical, but it will save you time and headache in the long run. Make sure your terms or policies are outlined clearly. Nothing sours an experience like a client finding out important information about their purchase after a sale is made. Whether it’s sales terms, return policies, warranty details, delivery expectations or special care instructions, to ensure satisfaction make sure you have the details outlined in signage or on an invoice/receipt at the point of sale and above all, adhere to those policies always, not just when it’s convenient.

Moving beyond the basics, I want to address some miscues that can happen surrounding ease of shopping. It may not initially seem to fall under the guise of business operations, but inefficient retail or website design can derail a sale before it even starts. Ease of shopping can affect your sales, customer acquisition, retention, and especially satisfaction. However, some simple changes can ensure ease is never an issue again. The easier it is for a consumer to move through your business, navigate your online store or learn more about specific products the simpler the sale can become. Make sure that just the same as your aisles are clear and clutter free and your signage properly marked in-store, that an online shopper has easy to read menus and links that navigate to the correct page on-line. Keep the shelves stocked, organized, and have your staff properly educated in your products, and in the case of online provide detailed FAQ as required. Never make it difficult to complete a sale or receive payment; don’t delay a customer because you’re slow to open the till, process their credit card or package their goods. If you make it simple for customers to make decisions and spend money you’re more likely to generate greater sales and customer satisfaction.

After a few minor adjustments to your operation, you’ll end up with a wealth of success and an abundance of delighted consumers, this is where the added benefits of being a smooth operator can go beyond initial sales and customer experiences. A happy customer is more likely to disclose contact information, join newsletters, or sign up for special incentive programs and is also more inclined to share their experience with others. Capitalize on a great customer experience when the opportunity is right (usually during the process of accepting payment). This is when you should prompt the customer to disclose contact information or sign up for an incentive program. Try and get their email address at minimum, plus name, location and phone number if possible. Always explain clearly what you will be using their information for and make sure to have a benefit rich explanation of why they should trust you with it. With this information, you will be able to connect, update and target your clients with speed and simplicity. The other benefit of a happy customer is word-of-mouth advertising, it travels fast, has no overhead and is user-generated; this means no muss, no fuss on your end. Unfortunately, the same goes for a bad experience, so make the best of any negative situations; offer fair and complete solutions to any problems a customer has and always make sure to resolve disputes fast and efficiently. 

Looking inward can offer just as much insight into running a successful business as being observant of your customers and sales environment. It offers the opportunity to evaluate, grow and tune your practices in business to make you more efficient and satisfied at the end of the day. If you are operating at a high level of efficiency, your time spent marketing, selling and organizing are minimized and you’ll often make better decisions as a result. Better decisions lead to happy customers and are ultimately what make you a smooth operator; maintaining consistency and avoiding simple mistakes will guide to joy and success at the end of any day.

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