MSQC Series: 2. Unified Business Practice
It has to be one business
Jackie looks forward every day to her online notice about the Missouri Star Quilt Company’s (MSQC) “Deal of the Day.” It is usually an item like a discounted cutting mat or a lower price charm pack (don’t worry, the quilters will know what these mean). Her very favorite, though, is free shipping. All orders below $100 are always shipped free, but my wife rarely spends that much at once, so it is a plus to not pay $5 shipping on a $20 order, for example.
As we drove to Hamilton, we were speculating on what the deal for our first day of the visit to MSQC would be. My wife said, “I sure hope it’s not free shipping.” After all, we were right there, no need to ship.
I said, “Surely they would not have that as the deal at their retail store. That’s an online perk.” Guess what? Yep, the deal was free shipping.
Let me add another story to the experience. When we got to town and parked I asked Jackie, “Where to first?”
We parked right in front of a store called “Missouri Star Quilt Co.” So she said, “Let’s go here.”
We were greeted by a pleasant young woman who told us that this was their main store and the place to start. She pointed out that there were displays with samples of the wares for sale at all of the other stores in the group, highlighting the differences between each of them. Then she told Jackie to be sure to log in and get her printed “ticket” which would let them keep track of her purchases for rewards. So Jackie went to one of the convenient iPad stations and entered her information. Jackie is already a customer, so the system picked her right up and added this registration to her history.
Only a very few minutes after she signed up, while we were browsing, another woman called Jackie’s name, and brought her the barcoded ticket that would record her purchases.
As we continued to browse, my mind was ticking over, wondering about stuff. So, while Jackie was busy, I went back to the front of the store. There was no crowd at this point, so I asked the pleasant young woman who greeted us if I could ask some questions. Oh, I should apologize, I have forgotten her name, so if she sees this and remembers our encounter, I can only say I have slept since we talked.
“I notice that you give people the summary of what’s going on in the store. If a customer comes into one of the other stores, do they get the same treatment?
“We don’t have someone to greet them at the other stores,” she said. “But when the customer makes a purchase we have them register right there. Then we tell them that the only place their ticket is available is here at this store. When they come to pick it up, then they get the greeting that tells them what’s up.”
Finally, one more story. As we were heading home after making some last minute purchases, Jackie was reviewing her receipt and noticed a charge she didn’t recognize. After some discussion to confirm it was an error, we made a u-turn and went back to the store.
Another clerk came up, but I saw the clerk who had waited on us on the other side of the store. Jackie explained the situation, the clerk pulled the transaction up on the sale terminal and quickly found that there were items in Jackie’s online cart that had been picked up on this purchase. By this time the original clerk had come over to see what had happened, and apologized. She said that she failed to notice the cart items so she did not remove them from the current sale. No problem. Question answered, and sale price lowered to exclude those items. No refund, just an immediate reduction in the amount of the charge.
Two of these facts will come back later in this series, so don’t forget them.
These three stories tell one thing. The Missouri Star Quilt Company knows that it is one business. It focuses on that one business. It organizes everything to highlight that focus. One daily deal across the board. Just like emails, blogs and other online publications should point back to the company website (which MSQC also does), the store experience points customers back to the main store. And the main store is also the “base camp” that the customer can begin their journey from. Customer identification allows for quick and easy rewards and equally easy correction of errors.
One of the reasons that niches (see last week) work so well is that they encourage focus. By focusing on one kind of customer, you can provide what those customers want quicker and easier. Similarly, by providing a unified business practice you streamline the way your customer interacts with you. But equally important, it streamlines how you interact with the customer.
While greeting at the main store, the woman I mentioned earlier is able to direct customers to find exactly what they want. Even if the purpose of the shopping trip is just to browse, every browser has things that fundamentally attract them. Then, when they start there, they find new paths and new ideas to pursue. That’s the nature of browsing. The greeter enhances the shoppers experience by directing their attention, but this direction also makes the greeter more efficient because she doesn’t have to follow the customer around to find what they want.
So how do you implement this unified approach in your business? Here are three things that will get you started:
- Create and maintain a list. Just like MSQC’s registration and customer ticket, creating a list provides you with a self-nominating group of interested people. You can then use that list to find your best customers, to engage all the people on the list regularly, and so much more. Many business guru’s express the same idea: your list is your most valuable asset.
- Make sure everything you do relates to your one business, your focus. Just like MSQC sells sewing machines, presser feet, and other tech items, these are only available to enhance the quilter’s experience. You will not confuse MSQC, either online or in store, with a Singer outlet. Rather, you will find ways to make quilting easier and more fun by upgrading your equipment.
- Finally, always point back to your base camp, whether it is your store or your web site. If a customer finds you at your base camp, be sure they get pointed to all the ways they can interact with you. If they find your blog online, make sure they can sign up for more information like newsletters or blog subscription. Make sure if a customer finds you from some other point of contact that they get pointed back to the center of all the goodness that is your business. Every business card, pen or coffee mug you pass out should contain you web address. MSQC does that, and does it well.
If you feel that you have more than one business, think hard. If your second business is just to support the main one, then reorganize your operations to make that clear. If you truly have more than one unrelated business, then create a firewall between them. Treat them as truly separate businesses. (There are some tax questions at this point, but that’s another article.) Then focus on each one individually. Sort of like switching from your reading glasses to your sunglasses–different focus.
Before you do anything else, today, find a way to start a list. Use MailChimp to start–it’s free and it’s easy to use. Or choose some other list program. But whatever you use, get a form on your next email or blog post, or a widget on your website asking people to sign up for your list. Offer them something to do so. A free report, a free coffee mug, a free mini-consultation. Whatever it is, offer something.
Don’t over think this. Don’t worry about how popular what you offer is, just do this now. You can refine it later, make it better later. The point is to start.
Then add a comment to let me know what happened–problems, successes, it doesn’t matter. Just do it.