Online Marketing Blog

Web design resources and news for small business owners in Snohomish and around the world.


Building Brand Loyalty

- Monday, December 09, 2019

For hobbyist shops and other local retailers

Our success is determined by the growth of the businesses we work with. As such, sharing the things that have challenged the way we think about business is simply good business. As marketing folks, our journey is one of constantly exploring and redefining our perception of what ismarketable, and how exactly we can market that. One thing we always come back to is the importance of developing and communicating unique selling proposition

Hobbyist shops are a great example of the power of unique selling proposition. By examining the natural advantages they have, and what can be done to leverage those advantages, local retailers can develop a better sense of what they can do to improve the loyalty of their customers.

How loyal are your customers?

Customers purchasing from a business is not necessarily an indicator of brand loyalty, especially when the decisions is purely economical, IE based on cost, convenience or and/or quality.

These areas are hard to truly excel at, and when you can, they’re hard to sustain, especially when cost of goods dictates what a competitive price will be. If there is only one manufacturer for a certain product, and they only sell it to merchants at a certain cost, everybody who sells it has a bottom dollar they can sell it for and still be profitable.

Customers are going to get it where it’s cheapest. Then again, if the price difference is only a dollar and they’re only buying one unit, they’re not going to cross town for it. Economic sense would weigh their own time and the cost of gas against the savings, so they’re going to go where its most convenient. Suppliers competing on cost and convenience is something customers take for granted --- and they should. You ought not to be in business if you can’t compete.

The mistake we want local retailers to avoid making is in thinking that their customers are loyal because they offer a slightly lower price or small convenience. This in important because customer loyalty is crucial to business growth, and cost and convenience are only the very beginning of the battle.

Win in ways your competition can’t

Unless a business gives us a reason to care about them beyond the cost and convenience they provide, we simply won’t. We’ll base our decisions on who’s close by, who’s reasonably priced, who is open, etc.

Luckily, there are manageable ways to strengthen your unique selling proposition without revamping your entire business to become highly specialized. Such strategies are marked by gradual improvement over time.

Finding new and novel ways to give customers a better price or greater convenience can work, but how well do they work? Consider, for instance: staying open later than the competition, or buying bulk and offering a high volume item at a lower price/unit. Strategies like these are quite literally nickle-and-diming for your customer’s approval, if they’re all you have to offer as to why customers should choose you.

While these efforts are necessary and appreciated in principle --- when the customer even notices them --- the return they offer you and your customers is minimal. How many customers are you getting late at night? And are they choosing you during regular hours, simply because they (might) know you stay open an hour later? When all else is equal, maybe. But when the other folks are 5 minutes closer, and the customer is in a hurry…?

Worse, in the blink of an eye, somebody can under cut your price, or match the conveniences you offer. Suddenly, your efforts no longer set you apart, and now you have to keep it up, even though it offers you no competitive advantage.

The key is to give your customers something they appreciate, that is difficult or impossible to replicate.Even small things can be enough to distinguish you, and make customers willing to come to you whenever possible --- even when cost and convenience tip the scales in another direction.

Being a locally owned and operated business is one example. Its a way to forge a connection to your community, as well as to offer convenience. As long as you’re the only seller in town, your unique selling proposition is strong, but being there first doesn’t stop a competitor from opening up and stealing all your business from the other side of town.

In this case, while you’ll lose some, many customers will stick by you just for familiarity and tradition. This goes to show that customers value familiarity. Compare the general feelings toward a chain of big box stores --- that has no community ties --- to a local store that is essentially a part of the community’s identity.

What can you do to increase familiarity? In the world of local business, how much do you think the effort itself is appreciated?

Taking a page or two out of the hobbyist book

One thing we see with local hobbyist shops is they tend to have a tribe of devoted followers. This not only means that your customers are willing to come to you, always you, and only to you --- it also means they’re willing to give their personal endorsement of a brand to people who value their opinion, like family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc.

Even better, if they’re willing to wear branded apparel, they’re endorsing you to everybody they come across, without even opening their mouth. If they’re willing to pay for the privilege, you have the ultimate marketing engine --- not only is it financed by your customers, you can mark up the materials for a modest secondary profit stream.

So what do advantages do hobbyist shops have, that other retailers can work to strengthen?

People connect to people

We connect to people more than brands, because we can share experiences and emotions. There’s a possibility that a brand can see its customers as dollar signs. But people have empathy. People want people to come into the store and leave in a good mood.

With hobbyist shops, the people behind the counter are as much of a resource as the product. They have unique insight into the products and their applications, and that info can often help the customer get more value out of the product.

Basic human interactions go a long ways in making your brand feel “real.” That’s why greeting the customer is so important, and is also why things like a bio, and videos of experts talking, are so important online --- they give us a chance to connect to a flesh-and-blood human being.

Expertise

What better way to connect than through learning something useful? Your expertise is the most powerful tool you have in setting yourself apart. You’ve spent years, presumably, building your specialized body of knowledge. For every useful bit that forever changes how the customer looks at their world, how many books would they have to sift through? Never mind the fact that they don’t even know what they don’t know, why they ought to know it, or where to start looking.

By positioning you and your people as credible and helpful experts, you offer something hard to replicate.

Common interests and Lifestyle choices

Hobbyist shops have it made in this regard. When a brand helps to advance a lifestyle choice, customers are more likely to accept that brand as a part of their identity. This is where you get customers clamoring to pay money to wear a brand. Branded apparel, stickers, etc go a long ways. This is the area that hobbyist shops ought to be, at the very least, experimenting with.

Is there a hobbyist element to your retail store? Do you offer hard-to-find products that could help people to identify with your brand? One basic example of this would be a strong selection of produce that is organic/locally sourced/free trade etc.

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Examine the experience your customer is having. How can you impact it? In what ways can you strengthen your unique selling proposition, using elements you already have in place?

Holistic solutions

To extend your expertise, make your brand more personable, and improve your accessibility, consider the internet. An effective website with content that captures everything lovable about your business will help customers connect to you, and improve their sense of familiarity. Your story is unique, as is the wealth of knowledge you have. A website and blog emphasize your unique selling proposition.

You’ll still need to compete on cost, quality and convenience. Its hard to convince the customer that you have their best interests in mind if your competitor consistently beats you by 40% on price. Another advantage to being connected to your customers is that you can offer transparency. I’m usually okay with paying a premium if I know why a business can’t compete. Familiarity will open the door to questions like these.

If you do offer something that is truly hard-to-find, E-commerce is a way to make your merchandise accessible to an unprecedented number of people. To learn about how E-commerce solutions can put your products in the hands of more people while providing a greater return to you, click this.

To learn what can be done to emphasize and extend the best parts of your brand via the world wide web, contact Inquisitek by filling out this quick contact form or call Todd Huotari at (425) 327 6099.


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